Q: If someone filed a complaint with the county zoning office about my property can I obtain a copy of the complaint to determine who filed this complaint?
A: Yes – the document is public record subject to the California Public Records Act (the “CPRA”). In addition, the CPRA applies to all local agencies, including school districts and any board or commission of a city, county or other political subdivision. See Gov’t Code section 6252(b).
We typically recommend submitting a written request to the agency from which you are seeking records, as this will compel a written response. Written CPRA requests are fairly straightforward but typically ask for categories of records that include, but are not limited to, correspondence, emails, notes, memorandums, electronic records, etc. After the request is received, the agency will have 10 days to respond to the request, though it may claim an additional 14 days under certain circumstances (but they’ll need to write to you and let you know they’re taking the additional time). The agency must disclose the records “promptly” after identifying whether it does indeed have records responsive to the request. Gov’t Code § 6253(c).
If you want to make a CPRA request, I would recommend directing your request to the county department that is likely to possess the records you seek. For these types of requests, I would recommend submitting both electronically (via the city’s website, or by email) as well as by some other method, e.g., US mail or hand delivery. You can read more about the CPRA in FAC’s Public Records Primer.
Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.