Posts in Inverse Condemnation & Regulatory Takings.
COVID-19 Update: Courts Rule Limitations on Evictions Not a Taking

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic a number of local jurisdictions throughout the country adopted ordinances freezing rents and prohibiting or limiting evictions. Not surprisingly, some landlords were not particularly pleased with these enactments, as they saw their properties occupied without the associated rental stream and still all the related carrying costs. In response, lawsuits were filed in federal and state court alleging that these enactments violated the federal and state constitution, including the takings clause. However, so far these arguments don’t ...

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California Supreme Court Determines That Legal Issues Motions Cannot Be Made in Inverse Condemnation Actions

It is Christmas in July for eminent domain practitioners! We have a California Supreme Court opinion on a condemnation case, which is rare. The case, Weiss v. People ex rel. Department of Transportation (2020 Cal. LEXIS 4357), is an inverse condemnation action where the main question is this: Can you make a Code of Civil Procedure Section 1260.040 motion, also known as a Legal Issues Motion, in an inverse condemnation action? According to the Supreme Court, the answer is no, these motions are meant to address valuation issues in eminent domain actions -- not determine liability in an ...

Update on COVID-19 Takings Cases

As you may recall, it wasn’t too long after Governor Newsom issued his executive order mandating the closure of certain businesses in California that the first takings lawsuit was filed. (See our coverage of Gondola Adventures, Inc. v. Gavin Newsom, U.S.D.C. Case No. 2:20-cv-03789 here.) That lawsuit alleged that the response by the state and county agencies to the COVID-19 situation violated the state and federal constitutions, and resulted in a partial or complete taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Notably, the case was voluntarily dismissed ...

Inverse Condemnation Exposure and Management for the Energy Industry

Our presentation on "Inverse Condemnation Exposure and Management for the Energy Industry" will be available for viewing during the 2020 American Association of Professional Landmen's (AAPL) Annual Meeting. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this event will be held virtually and presentations will be prerecorded and available to view on demand after the scheduled live run time on June 18th. Registration is required, but access will be available as a complimentary benefit for all AAPL members.

The 2020 event still promises to be a professional development and land conference ...

Can’t Sue Here – Federal Court Closed to Takings Claim

Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Knick v. Township of Scott (2019) 139 S.Ct. 2162 eliminated the requirement for a plaintiff to exhaust state court remedies before pursuing a takings challenge in federal court, there has been a significant uptick in federal lawsuits alleging a Fifth Amendment takings claim. For example, as we recently reported, a federal lawsuit was filed earlier this month alleging that the response by California agencies to the COVID-19 situation violated the state and federal Constitutions, and resulted in a partial or complete taking in violation ...

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COVID-19 Takings Lawsuit Filed in California

As first reported by our good friends at inversecondemnation.com, a lawsuit has been filed in California alleging that the response by state and county agencies to the COVID-19 situation violates the state and federal Constitutions, and results in a partial or complete taking in violation of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The named defendants include Governor Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, the State Public Health Officer, county Public Health Officers, and county representatives throughout Southern California. The complaint alleges ...

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Amendments to Proposed Legislation Would Change Municipalization / Eminent Domain Takeovers of Electric, Gas and Water Utilities

We’ve previously reported on Senate Bill 917, which was introduced on February 3, 2020, by Senator Wiener (D-San Francisco) to establish a process for a potential government takeover of investor-owned electrical, gas and water corporations.  While the stated intention of the bill was to facilitate an eminent domain acquisition of PG&E by the state government, its wording goes much further.  Additionally, on April 3, a series of amendments were introduced that would potentially significantly change the burden of proof on a municipalization takeover effort. 

Specifically, the ...

Right of Way Professionals Opine on COVID-19 Impacts to the Profession

On April 1, Nossaman’s Eminent Domain Group hosted a webinar to discuss the impacts COVID-19 is having on the Right of Way industry.  First, I’d like to thank the people who attended, many of whom added thoughtful questions to the discussion.  It’s clear a lot of people are giving these issues a lot of thought.  Second, obviously things continue to evolve at a breathtaking pace, and even by the time this post goes from being drafted to appearing on the blog, things are likely to change. 

Note that this post is not meant to recap the things we discussed at the webinar.  If you weren’t able to join us and want to review what we covered, feel free to download the COVID-19 PowerPoint we used, or watch the entire recorded webinar.  No, the purpose of this post is to provide some insights as to what other right of way professionals are thinking about a few of these issues.  During the webinar, we asked several poll questions, and since the Nossaman team found the results interesting, I’m hoping some of you will as well ...

Does the Coronavirus Shutdown Trigger a Regulatory Taking?

With the recent government mandates surrounding COVID-19, many businesses are completely shut down and are legally unable to open their doors to the public.  Are those businesses -- movie theaters, gyms, retail stores, etc. -- entitled to compensation for a regulatory taking?  Similarly, landlords are experiencing massive losses as those tenants are unable to make rental payments; are those losses compensable?  Should governments worry about liability when issuing orders requiring the closure of businesses? 

While compensation arguably should be paid from a decency and “good ...

“Public Improvement” Narrowly Defined to Limit Inverse Condemnation Liability

Since the California Supreme Court’s 2019 Oroville decision, which narrowed inverse condemnation liability for public agencies, several court decisions have followed suit.  This week, the California Court of Appeal issued a published decision in Ruiz v. County of San Diego (2020 Cal. App. LEXIS 282), which further clarified and limited what constitutes a “public improvement” for purposes of inverse liability ...

Governor’s Use of Emergency Power to Commandeer Property Requires Payment of “Reasonable Value”

As COVID-19 spreads throughout the globe and the United States, our national, state and local governments are taking wide-reaching but necessary actions to respond to this novel coronavirus.

On March 4, 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a State of Emergency and on March 12 issued Executive Order N-25-20, which, in part, allows the California Health and Human Services Agency and the Offices of Emergency Services to enter into contracts or, if agreements cannot be reached, “commandeer” property, such as hotels, medical facilities and other facilities that are needed “for ...

While inverse condemnation liability in California originates from the California Constitution, determining when it applies -- and under what circumstances -- is based on a lengthy morass of case law that has been described by one court as “seemingly inconsistent and irreconcilable.”  If you’re interested in learning more about the subject ...

Is California Coming for Your Beach House?

Yes, but the sea might beat them to it. In 2015, the California Coastal Commission adopted the Sea Level Rise Policy Guidance. This Guidance document discusses a number of potential measures for responding to sea level rise, including "managed retreat." As explained in the Guidance document, "[r]etreat strategies are those strategies that relocate or remove existing development out of hazard areas and limit the construction of new development in vulnerable areas." Examples of retreat strategies include the acquisition and buy-out of "threatened" properties. While many ...

Governor’s 2020 Budget Signals State’s Willingness to Takeover PG&E

Welcome to 2020! It is a new year and with every new year, comes a lot of new: new goals, new diet, new workout routines that leave every part of you sore...  In the professional setting, a new year brings a lot of “chores,” like closing out the financials for the previous year, perhaps completing year-end reviews, and on and on, and you are left asking, “We do this every year…??”  One of those chores is almost sure to be budgeting, which is universally considered to be unpleasant. Well, imagine having to kick off the year by preparing a budget for the entire state of California, the 5th largest economy in the world

Luckily, that chore was left to Governor Newsom and last week, he released his 2020 budget proposal. The proposed $222 billion dollar state budget ...

Last year, the United States Supreme Court made headlines (at least in our eminent domain world) by issuing a ruling in Knick v. Township of Scott that property owners can bypass the state courts and directly file a Fifth Amendment takings claim in federal court (you can find our write-up on Knick here).  This was a stark shift from prior law, which held that a property owner had to first finalize their pursuit of compensation through any applicable state procedures.  We are still feeling the effects from the Supreme Court's holding, but one question that has been raised is how does the ...

Federal Bankruptcy Court Denies PG&E’s Attempt to Set Aside Inverse Condemnation Liability

On November 27, 2019, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali issued a Memorandum Decision on Inverse Condemnation (“Memorandum Decision”) in PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas & Electric’s (together, “PG&E”) Chapter 11 Bankruptcy proceeding in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California (Case No. 19-30088).  PG&E challenged the application of the doctrine of inverse condemnation in connection with the 2015, 2017, and 2018 California wildfires.  In the Memorandum Decision, Judge Montali ruled against PG&E and instead concluded that the doctrine ...

As we have written about in past posts, the issue of inverse condemnation remains on the forefront in the state given the continuing, severe wildfire risks and other climate change impacts.  Brad Kuhn was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal in “PG&E Isn’t Alone in Facing Liability Risk Over California Fires,” addressing liability associated with inverse condemnation.  Willis Hon also commented on the current legislative situation in an E&E News EnergyWire article:  “Legal 'whipsaw' threatens PG&E's future.”  If you’re interested in potential legislative ...

Get Geared Up for 2020 Eminent Domain & Inverse Condemnation Projects with Nossaman

As we all get into the holiday spirit, don’t forget to keep your skills and knowledge sharp for what is looking to shape up as a very active 2020 in the projects arena.  Join our Nossaman Partners for the following year-end conferences before settling in for your long winter’s nap! ...

Government’s Property Regulation Terminating Cannabis License is Not a Taking

It is commonplace for a local government agency to require a property or business owner to secure a license or permit for a particular type of operation (such as a liquor license, medical marijuana license, etc.).  If the property owner expends substantial funds developing the business or property in reliance on that license or permit, and a government regulation thereafter prohibits that use, does it trigger a taking entitling the property or business owner to just compensation?  According to a recent California district court decision, the answer is no.  In ...

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We recently reported on the California Supreme Court’s decision in Oroville which provided a relaxed standard for public agencies facing inverse condemnation claims.  Since that decision, a new unpublished Court of Appeal decision provides further guidance and supports the “reasonableness” analysis considered in Oroville, although in this case the decision was not as favorable to public entities with respect to determining whether the damage is caused by a public or private improvement ...

On August 15, 2019, the California Supreme Court issued its first inverse condemnation opinion in more than 22 years in the case City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County, Case No. S243247.  The Court held that to succeed on an inverse condemnation claim, a property owner must show more than just a causal link between the existence of a public improvement and damage to private property:  it must demonstrate that “the property damage was the probable result or necessary effect of an inherent risk associated with the design, construction, or maintenance of the relevant ...

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Will California's Sea-Level Rise Trigger Use of Eminent Domain?

We've been tracking the impacts of sea-level rise in California, and previously reported on a potential recommendation by the California Coastal Commission to utilize eminent domain for "managed retreat" -- buying or condemning threatened homes and relocating them or tearing them down, which would thereafter free the coastline and preserve the beaches.  That recommendation has been met with widespread opposition.  According to an article in the San Diego Reader, "Don't say retreat when talking about sea rise in California," some local cities in San Diego are taking that option off ...

Lessons in Litigating Inverse Condemnation Claims

Inverse condemnation litigation and liability has become a particularly hot topic in California over the last several years.  Not many attorneys specialize in this area, and there are a number of traps for the unwary lawyers, public agencies, and property owners involved in such litigation.  A recent Court of Appeal decision provides some important lessons for all parties involved, including the risks of settling inverse condemnation claims with insurance companies, and pitfalls in recovering attorneys' fees ...

On June 5, 2019, the California Supreme Court (Court) heard oral argument in the case City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County, Case No. S243247 (Oroville Case). This case is notable because it is the first time that the Court is weighing in on a significant case concerning the doctrine of inverse condemnation since Bunch v. Coachella Valley Water District ...

California to Finally Tackle Inverse Condemnation Reform for Wildfires?

In Governor Gavin Newsom’s first State of the State address, he called for the creation of a strike force charged with developing a comprehensive strategy to address the destabilizing effect of catastrophic wildfires on the State.  On April 12, 2019, Governor Newsom announced the results of that dedicated effort, in the form of a report titled Wildfires and Climate Change: California’s Energy Future (Strike Force Report).  Governor Newsom also summarized the findings of the Strike Force Report in a press conference that can be viewed here.

The Strike Force Report first sets out ...

With the recent widespread reports of sea-level rise triggered by global warming, the California Coastal Commission -- a state agency which regulates coastal development -- plans to release a proposal in early-2019 which provides guidelines to local jurisdictions on how to combat the potential impacts.  The stakes are enormous, as the Commission believes many homes along California's 1,100 miles of coastline will inevitably be wiped out by a rising ocean.  According to an article by Anne Mulkern in E&E News, Calif. prepares policy for coastal 'retreat', the suggested ...

When the government physically takes or occupies property without first going through the rigorous procedural requirements under California eminent domain law, usually it's a clear-cut case of inverse condemnation liability.  But a recent California Court of Appeal case provides a unique exception involving property subject to dedication.

In Prout v. California Department of Transportation (Dec. 18, 2018, 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8523),  Caltrans sought to use a 1.3-acre strip of land to make improvements to Highway 12 in Calveras ...

In a recent unpublished Court of Appeal decision, Downs v. City of Redding (October 30, 2018), the Court took up two distinct issues: (a) whether a contractor’s use of property for construction staging constitutes a taking when such use is not authorized by the agency, and (b) whether "just compensation" requires payment of damages for the taking of a tree.  Both of these issues are common occurrences in many of the projects we work on and while the Court’s holdings may not come as a surprise, they are a good reminder of the fairness and equity courts apply to such issues ...

The California Coastal Act establishes another layer of regulation governing development in the Coastal Zone. Development under the Coastal Act is defined to encompass essentially everything and anything.  For example, under the Coastal Act development includes such things as a lot line adjustment, releasing fireworks on the 4th of July, or putting up a No Trespassing sign.  While there are certain limited exemptions, in most cases individuals undertaking any development in the Coastal Zone must obtain a Coastal Development Permit.  In certain instances, the local agency’s ...

When a governmental agency improperly denies a permit application for a new development, and the proposed development is thereby delayed, does this result in a regulatory taking?  As we've seen in some prior cases, such improper governmental actions can trigger liability, but it is uncommon.  A recent Court of Appeal decision, Bottini v. City of San Diego (Sept. 18, 2018), highlights just how difficult it is for a property owner to pursue a regulatory taking due to a delay caused by a city's improper denial of a development application.

Background

Bottini concerns the ...

When state and local governments impose unreasonable conditions or exactions on private property, owners pursuing a regulatory takings claim often face a maze of procedural obstacles just to have their case heard. I once described these procedural obstacles as resembling Alice's trip through Wonderland, with the parties falling in and out of state and then federal court (instead of a rabbit hole) based on procedural and substantive rules that often seem as logical as the Mad Hatter's recitals at the Tea Party. The reason for this maze stems from (i) a U.S. Supreme Court decision ...

As any experienced California eminent domain lawyer knows, there is a unique statutory mechanism that allows parties to bring a legal issues motion to secure a court’s ruling on a litany of issues that impact compensation. This statutory right is set forth in Code of Civil Procedure section 1260.040 and reads as follows:

"(a)          If there is a dispute between plaintiff and defendant over an evidentiary or other legal issue affecting the determination of compensation, either party may move the court for a ruling on the issue.  The motion shall be made not later than 60 days before ...

Infrastructure projects take years to develop:  the environmental review, funding, design, procurement, and construction of a public project is time consuming in any state, but even more so in California given the strict regulations and oversight any public agency must comply with.  During that lengthy process, private properties situated in the proposed project alignment remain in a state of flux.  When those impacted properties are slated for development, what are the parties to do?

According to an article in the Morgan Hill Times, Council OKs new housing in one of two ...

Two of the more complicated issues eminent domain attorneys face are analyzing whether government conduct rises to the level of a taking, and whether the government engaged in precondemnation conduct that gives rise to damages apart from paying just compensation.

Earlier this week, an unpublished California Court of Appeal decision, Dryden Oaks v. San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, grappled with both issues. (See update below.)

In Dryden Oaks, a developer purchased property near the Palomar Airport in Carlsbad.  The property was in an area governed by the San Diego ...

Under inverse condemnation law in California, a public agency is generally strictly liable for physical damage to private property caused by a public improvement.  This means a public agency can be held liable even if the public improvement was properly designed, constructed and maintained.  Rarely is there a question of whether a project constitutes a "public improvement," but in Mercury Casualty Co. v. City of Pasadena (Aug. 24, 2017), the Court of Appeal recently addressed this issue and held that a tree constitutes a work of public improvement for purposes of inverse ...

The City of Oroville (City) has petitioned the California Supreme Court for review of an unpublished Court of Appeal decision, City of Oroville v. Superior Court (2017) 2017 WL 2554447 (Third District), finding the City liable in inverse condemnation for sewage backup into private property even though the owners failed to install and maintain backwater valves on their private property as required by state and local legal authority.  While no published decisions have been issued on this subject, four unpublished decisions in different jurisdictions throughout California over the ...

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The Martins Beach access dispute in San Mateo County continues to make headlines.  As a quick refresher, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla purchased 90 acres of beachfront property south of Half Moon Bay, and subsequently proceeded to lock the gated entry to Martins Beach, effectively preventing public access to the popular beach.  We've been covering the dispute for quite some time, including the recent introduction of legislation to potentially fund the State Lands Commission's use of eminent domain to acquire an easement for access to the popular beach.

While the ...

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Last week, the United States Supreme Court in Murr v. Wisconsin issued a key regulatory takings decision which creates a new multifactor balancing test to determine whether two adjacent properties with single ownership could be considered a larger parcel.  In a 5-3 decision, the Court found that the properties were a single parcel and because the owners were not deprived of all economically viable uses of their property they could not establish a compensable regulatory taking.

The Murr Family owned two lots adjacent to a river.  A cabin was built on one of the lots, while the other lot ...

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When public agencies analyze a potential public project, they often need to gain access to private property for surveys, testing, and to otherwise investigate whether a particular property is suitable for a planned project.  Often, agencies gain access by talking with the property’s owner and reaching agreement on a right of entry.  But where the owner refuses to allow access, the agency must resort to the courts.  For decades, agencies have followed a set of rules that allow them to obtain a court-ordered right of entry with minimal notice and without most of the formality of a ...

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Last year, my partner Ben Rubin reported on the California Supreme Court's decision in California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, which analyzed an inclusionary housing ordinance and held that such ordinances do not qualify as "exactions" and, consequently, are reviewed under a deferential standard that looked at whether the ordinance was "reasonably related" to the city’s interest in promoting the health, safety, and welfare of the community.

Last month, we saw the first published decision following last year's Supreme Court pronouncement ...

We don’t often see multiple takings-related cases in one week, but last week we saw three.  The California Supreme Court’s decision in Property Reserve was obviously the most important, but the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal in San Diego also issued two decisions in the same week.  Although both of these opinions are unpublished and cannot be cited, they act as a reminder for property owners to be mindful of some basic principles of eminent domain law.

The first case, SANDAG v. Vanta, addresses some of the limits on the principle of just compensation and, in particular ...

In the last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals on two eminent domain-related cases.  The first case, California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, is one we discussed last year.  If you recall,  the California Supreme Court held that San Jose's inclusionary housing ordinance that required all new residential development projects of 20 or more units to sell at least 15 percent of the for-sale units at a price that is affordable to low or moderate income households did not impose an exaction on developers that constituted a taking.

The U.S ...

As an eminent domain attorney, when I think about a "takings" claim, I always think about a claim involving someone's real property.  Has the government trespassed onto private property, has it imposed regulations that deny the owner an economically viable use of the property, etc.?  But every once in a while, we get a reminder that "takings" do not always involve real property.  Rather, any private "property" may be taken.

Thus, we get cases like last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture.  There, the government sought to force raisin growers to turn over a ...

I wanted to provide a quick update on two recent cases from the California Court of Appeal.

The first, Golden State Water Company v. Casitas Municipal Water District (April 14, 2015), involves what appears to be an issue of first impression in California:  can Mello-Roos financing be used to fund an eminent domain action to acquire a utility company's assets?  In Golden State Water Company, the Casitas Municipal Water District wanted to acquire the assets of the Golden State Water Company for the purpose of taking over the provision of water to many residents in Ojai, California ...

It depends.  A recent decision out of the Federal Circuit tackled this very issue, and the court's decision strongly suggests that a taking could arise under the right circumstances.  (Filler v. U.S. (Fed. Cir. Mar. 10, 2015) Case No. 2014-5117.)  As you probably already guessed by my use of the phrase "strongly suggests," both the lower court and the Federal Circuit in this case found that the plaintiff's challenge did not present the "right circumstances."

After sustaining a work-related injury, an employee of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service visited the ...

California’s infrastructure is aging. There have been numerous reports of water line breaks and gas line leaks, and public agencies have been moving quickly to upgrade their utilities to minimize these risks and satisfy increasing demands. When incidents do occur, when do agencies face potential liability in inverse condemnation? A recent California Court of Appeal decision, Kelly v. Contra Costa Water District (Feb. 10, 2015) 2015 Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 924, while unpublished, provides some guidance.

In Kelly, the owners of a self-storage facility in Pittsburg, California ...

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The burning question, is why?  While this is not the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has ever granted a petition for review in the same case, it is certainly not common.  And, it is downright uncommon for the Supreme Court to grant a second petition for review when the central issue in the case is a takings issue.  So what is the Supreme Court planning to do?  Are they going to revisit their 2013 decision and find that they made a mistake, and that the Hornes are actually required to first bring their takings claim in the Court of Federal Claims?  Or, is the Supreme Court ...

When a public agency acquires a portion of property, under California law the property owner is entitled to "severance damages" -- or damages to the remainder portion of the property that was not acquired.  Usually, determining what constitutes the "remainder property" is relatively straight-forward.  But not always.  And, the determination could have a significant impact on the amount of compensation the public agency must pay, as a property owner is not entitled to compensation for damages to separate and independent parcels that are not touched by the condemnation.

So how is the ...

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In September 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District issued a surprising decision, finding that even if an applicant maintains that it is accepting imposed permit conditions "under protest" and expressly asserts that it plans to challenge those conditions in court, it waives any such challenge by building the approved project.  (Lynch v. California Coastal Commission (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 658.)  In reaching this conclusion, the majority found that the protest procedure provided in the Mitigation Fee Act was inapplicable because that Act does not ...

On November 4, 2014, San Benito County voters went to the poles to vote on Measure J, the measure designed to prohibit hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and related gas and oil extraction activities, as well as other "high-intensity petroleum operations," including acid well stimulation and cyclic steam injection. The measure also banned any new gas or oil drilling activity - even conventional, low-intensity activity - in areas the county zoned for residential or rural land use.

With 59% of the vote, supporters approved Measure J in an effort to protect the local environment ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain in California. We cover all aspects of eminent domain in California, including condemnation, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts, and report on all major California eminent domain conferences and seminars.

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