Autopsy/Post Services Inc. (APS) purchased a building in a commercial zone where at least 70 percent of the first floor area must be used for retail stores, restaurants or offices. Shortly after buying the building, APS obtained a city building permit to remodel the building for a “medical laboratory.”

But when owner Vidal Herrera later applied for a city permit for an exterior sign showing the name of his business “1-800-AUTOPSY,” the city informed Herrera his application was rejected.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

City officials then discovered the real purpose of the building permit was for a business that intended to perform autopsies at the site. Upon the revocation of the APS building permit, Herrera claimed he had a vested right to that permit and it could not be revoked.

At a hearing of the city’s Building and Safety Commission, the commissioners affirmed the building permit revocation based on a misleading permit application. Herrera then sued the city to have his building permit reinstated.

If you were the judge, would you rule the city was justified for revoking the building permit?

The judge in this case said yes!

APS did not have a vested right in its building permit because the application was misleading, the judge said. There was no indication on the permit application of intent to perform to perform autopsies at the site, he noted.

“A medical laboratory, in common understanding, does examine and test tissue and bodily fluids, but it’s delivered to them in a little bottle, you know, not inside a corpse,” the judge explained.

Essentially, APS will be operating a morgue or mortuary, which city zoning does not allow under this zoning. Also, since there is no off-street parking, the bodies would be transported on the public sidewalk into and out of the building, the judge said.

This is not a use compatible with a vibrant commercial zone, the judge emphasized. Therefore, the city was justified in revoking the building permit due to failure to disclose on the permit application the real intended use as an autopsy facility, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2005 California Court of Appeal decision in Autopsy/Post Services Inc. v. City of Los Angeles, 28 Cal.Rptr.3d 303.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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