Posts in Inverse Condemnation & Regulatory Takings.

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Earlier this week, an unpublished California Court of Appeal decision, Dryden Oaks v. San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, grappled with both issues.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

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

Twitter Facebook LinkedIn

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 ...

In a published decision, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District rejected the California Coastal Commission's ("Commission") collateral estoppel argument and found that there is no rational nexus or rough proportionality between the work proposed by an applicant on a private residence a mile from the coast and a lateral public access easement imposed by the Commission as a condition of approval.  Accordingly, the easement condition amounted to an unconstitutional taking.  (Bowman v. Cal. Coastal Com. (Oct. 23, 2014).)

In 2002, the property owner of ...

During a windstorm, a tree owned by the City of Pasadena fell on Mr. O’Halloran’s residence, causing damage to his home. Mercury Casualty Company paid Mr. O’Halloran for the damage pursuant to his homeowner’s insurance policy, and then sued the City for inverse condemnation and nuisance based on the damages caused by the City’s tree.

Inverse Condemnation

To state a cause of action for inverse condemnation, the plaintiff must allege that defendant substantially participated in the planning, approval, construction or operation of a public project or improvement which ...

Downzoning property is always a thorny issue:  on the one hand, zoning changes are typical, "police power"-type governmental activities; on the other hand, they can significantly impact property values, and in some cases can result in governmental takings liability.  When a property owner experiences a change in zoning, there are typically two theories that can be pursued:  one is so-called "spot zoning," and the other is a regulatory taking.  

Under the first theory, "spot zoning," a property owner can have a zoning designation invalidated if it can prove the government targeted the ...

I'll give you a hint, this is a bit of a trick question.  Give up?  Okay.  Whenever you name a State agency, of course. 

In Lavine v. State of California (pdf), a property owner filed a lawsuit after the Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted, and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved, a ban on on-site septic systems in Malibu.  (Case No. B238030, Aug. 20, 2013, Unpublished.)  The plaintiff owned a single-family residence in Malibu that utilized an on-site septic system; no public sewer system was available to residences in the area.  Although the ...

It appears the raisin handlers' luck in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Horne v. US Department of Agriculture has spawned a new federal takings challenge by another group of fruit growers.  This time it's a group of tomato growers asserting a takings challenge against the federal government, with a bit of a twist.  (And yes, I had to check, but both raisins and tomatoes are technically fruits -- see the things you learn?)

According to an article in the Packer, Tomato growers say eminent domain applies to 2008 crop, tomato growers are suing the federal government for $40 million in ...

As an eminent domain lawyer, I sometimes feel about takings claims like Justice Potter Stewart felt about obscenity:  I know it when I see it.  But every so often, a case comes along that reminds us that we might need to dig just a little bit deeper. 

In TrinCo Investment Co. v. United States, No. 2012-5130 (July 18, 2013), it all starts out seeming so simple.  The government comes onto private property without permission, takes $6.6 million worth of timber without asking, and then wanders off without offering so much as a dime in just compensation.  Hard to miss this one:  it's an obvious taking. 

This week, the Supreme Court issued the second of its three takings decision for this term.  In Horne v. Department of Agriculture, No. 12-123 (June 10, 2013), the Court reversed an earlier decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, holding that California raisin handlers could assert a takings claim as a defense to an enforcement action over alleged non-compliance with a raisin regulatory scheme.  

At first glance, the case appears to be of little consquence.  The factual background is quite unique, and the holding is pretty narrowly drawn to those specific ...

We have two big IRWA events coming up. 

IRWA Annual Education Conference

The biggest conference of the year, the IRWA Education Conference, starts June 23 in Charleston, West Virginia.  As always, there will be many great education sessions with strong panels of speakers.  There are also some fun social events and -- on Sunday and Monday -- an exhibition hall. 

Nossaman will be holding down the fort in Booth 305A, trying to keep the troublemakers next to us in line.  Yes, OPC, I'm talking about you

I will be there with my colleagues Ben Rubin, the incoming President for Chapter 67 in Orange ...

We've talked in the past about just how hard it is to state a regulatory takings claim under the Supreme Court's decision in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104.  I'd go through the test and how hard it is again, but it's complicated, a lot of work and, quite frankly, I'm a bit tired today.  So here's my lazy approach.  Read one of our earlier posts on the subject: 

The bottom line is that the courts have ...

As we previewed in our recent "year in review" piece, the U.S. Supreme Court has some takings issues before it this term.  One case, Koontz v. St. John's River Water Management District, took center stage yesterday. 

At issue in the case is whether the the "nexus" and "proportionality" tests that we have all come to know in the context of real property dedications also apply to other efforts to impose exactions relative to property-development efforts. 

The case presents a new branch on the tree that arises from cases such as 1987's Nollan v. California Coastal Commission, in which ...

Earlier this week, I spent a day in Los Angeles at a seminar involving regulatory takings issues.  It featured a great panel of speakers on a variety of takings, eminent domain, and land use issues.  (In fairness, you should view my characterization of the panel's quality with some skepticism; I was Co-Chair of the seminar and therefore played a large role in assembling the panel.)

There were a number of quality take-aways from the day, but a few stood out for me. 

  1. Mark Alpert of Hart, King & Coldren spoke on a number of regulatory takings issues, focusing in particular on the ...

A new Court of Federal Claims opinion was handed down this month coming right out of our own Southern California backyard.  The case, Stueve Bros. Farms, LLC v. the United States, deals with whether a "physical taking of title" has occurred when a government agency's activities create a risk of flooding.  The answer, according to the Court, is no.

Stueve Bros. Farms owns property in San Bernardino County within the Prado Dam Flood Control Basin.  In the 1940's, the federal government condemned flowage easements over the property to an elevation of 556 feet above sea ...

The California Court of Appeal recently issued an unpublished decision, Ridge Properties v. County of Riverside Flood Control and Water Conservation District, which addresses whether a government agency's failure to pay an agreed amount of compensation gives rise to a claim for inverse condemnation.  The answer is "no."

In Ridge Properties, a property owner planned to develop an industrial park in Riverside County.  The conditions of approval for the project required the owner to dedicate some of its property and construct a drainage or flood control facility to protect ...

Last April, we reported on a bizarre case arising out of the City of San Clemente's attempt to down zone a piece of property.  The trial court had concluded that the down zoning constituted a taking and ordered the City to rescind a decision supported by that down zoning.  The City had denied an application to develop the property because the application did not conform to the current general plan and zoning ordinance (the City seems to have sidestepped the fact that the development applications included applications to amend the general plan and zoning). 

In addition to a writ of mandate ...

"Downzoning" describes a government agency's rezoning a parcel of land once previously zoned for a more intense use to a more restrictive use (e.g., changing the commercial  zoning designation of an undeveloped parcel of land to agricultural or open space).  Those who purchase an undeveloped property zoned for commercial, industrial, or residential uses, only to later have that property rezoned for agricultural or open space uses unquestionably suffer a loss.  But when is it compensable?

There's an interesting news article on the Daily Zilla about an alleged downzoning case ...

The use of eminent domain in a declining real estate market presents a number of unique issues.  I often receive calls from property owners who are frustrated with the government's timing of condemnation proceedings, and want to know how they can get market-peak-values for their property. 

This issue was the hot topic of a previous IRWA seminar I chaired, Property Acquisition, Appraisal, and Relocation in an Upside Down Market.  And a recent blog post by the Weiss Serota Helfman law firm, Eminent Domain Valuation in a Falling Market Poses Questions for ...

We've covered in the past regulatory takings claims and the benchmark three-prong Penn Central test for analyzing potential liability.  We've also noted the issues involved in consistently applying those factors, and the resulting unpredictibility in evaluating the merits of potential regulatory takings claims.  

William Wade, Ph.D., a resource economist with the firm Energy and Water Economics, often writes about these issues, offering clearly articulated potential solutions to dealing with these Penn Central issues.  And Mr. Wade has done it again, as his recent ...

It is common practice for government agencies to condition approval of large developments on providing off-site public improvements.  Road widenings, park dedications, etc., are all too familiar for California developers.  When those improvements require others' property, many times the government agency utilizes eminent domain on the developer's behalf (with the developer footing the bill).  But what if the agency refuses?

According to an Inside Self-Storage article, "Derrel’s Mini Storage Owner Battles City, Homeowner in CA Self-Storage Eminent Domain Case," a ...

Anyone who's ever been involved in real estate development knows that as part of the permit approval process, developers are routinely required to make concessions to the government in order to move forward with proposed development plans.  And, if you're building near the coast, you usually need to jump through even more hoops (sometimes backwards and through fire) to please the Coastal Commission.  But when do the demanded concessions go too far?

We've covered in the past the "rough proportionality" and "nexus" requirements that development conditions must ...

Access impairment disputes must be the hot topic.  I just wrote about the Wardany access impairment case, and now another similar dispute is brewing in the City of Temecula.  This one may be a bit more interesting.

According to a North County Times article by Aaron Claverie, TEMECULA: City looks ready to fight eminent domain suit, Old Town property owners Charles and Sylvia Hargis have filed an inverse condemnation action against the City of Temecula due to the City's purportedly closing off access to the Hargis' coffee shop during construction of the City's $70 million ...

When analyzing potential liability for a regulatory takings claim, most land use and eminent domain attorneys immediately look to the three-prong test set forth by the U.S. Supreme Court in Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City (1978) 438 U.S. 104.  Those three factors include:

  • the economic impact of the regulation;
  • the extent to which the regulation has interfered with distinct investment-backed expectations; and
  • the character of the government's regulation.

Unfortunately, it's much easier said than done.  Practitioners and courts alike have struggled ...

We've been following the Guggenheim case for more than a year now, and in the last week or so, there have been a number of developments.  As a quick recap, this decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the City of Goleta's rent control ordinance - which had the effect of transferring the vast majority of a mobile home park's value from the park owner to the tenants - did not constitute a taking.  The decision followed an earlier decision by a different panel of the same court, in which the court held that the ordinance did qualify as a taking. 

Not surprisingly, the owner then sought ...

A new bill -- AB 238 -- is working its way through the State Assembly which would require a reduction in compensation payable to a successful plaintiff in an inverse condemnation action in direct proportion to the owner’s percentage of fault in causing damages to the owner’s property.  While the doctrine of comparative fault is one of the cornerstones of tort law, it is rarely applicable to inverse condemnation actions. 

Ever since the seminal decision in Albers v. County of Los Angeles (1965) 62 Cal.2d 250, there has been a more or less bright line distinction between the strict ...

We've reported on a number of rent control regulatory takings claims making their way through the court system, most notably the Guggenheim v. City of Goleta case.  Apparently, some cities and counties are fed up with the onslaught of challenges to their rent control ordinances, and they're looking for a way to recoup the attorneys' fees they expend in preserving the ordinances. 

According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, "Monning researching bill to address rent control lawsuits," Assemblyman Bill Monning looks to address this concern by considering a bill ...

In case you missed it, in the news last month was a big story about the San Diego County Sheriff's Department torching a residence in Escondido as the only safe way to destroy a giant cache of explosives found in the house.  The house was burned to ashes in an effort to destroy the extremely volatile chemical compounds which could detonate at any second.  The house has since been dubbed, simply, the "Bomb House."

So what does this have to do with eminent domain?  Interestingly, the individual responsible for the explosives was a renter (who is now in jail), and the property owner -- who had no idea ...

We've reported in the past about some of the regulatory takings issues created as a result of the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority's ("RCA") efforts to conserve property pursuant to the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan ("MSHCP").  It now appears that those conservation efforts have created quite the turmoil with citizens in the City of Murrieta.

According to a recent North County Times article, "MURRIETA: Landowners frustrated with conservation board, city leaders who refuse to meet," about 100 members have organized a group called the ...

An interesting battle is raging in the Santa Ynez Valley.  Mattei's Tavern, a "landmark" in Los Olivos for more than 100 years, is slated for a redevelopment plan by its owner.  A local activist group, known as the Valley Alliance, wants to stop the owner's plans.  And one arrow in their quiver has been to nominate the tavern for listing as a historical landmark. 

According to an April 29 article by Kathy Cleary in the Santa Ynez Valley Journal Valley Alliance Historic Landmark Nomination:  Eminent Domain Takeover?, the purpose of the nomination is to give the Historic Landmark Advisory ...

Earlier this month, I reported on a Florida case now pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, Stop the Beach Renourishment, Inc. v. Florida Department of Environmental ProtectionEarlier this week, I reported on some other property-rights issues currently in the news

Yesterday, one of my partners, Howard Coleman, took things a step further, attempting to tie recent property-rights issues into a big picture view of what it all may mean for California property owners.   

His piece, Sea Level Rise and Coastal Boundary Lines – Consequences of Climate Change, examines the Florida case ...

A year or so ago, I attended a three-day symposium on regulatory takings that was held at Stanford University. At the end of the symposium, the final panel of speakers was asked to predict what the United States Supreme Court might be doing in the area of takings over the next couple of years. The answer of at least one panelist was essentially nothing. In his view (at least as I understood it), the Supreme Court had been grappling with various takings issues for years without coming up with particularly workable formulas and was done trying.

Well, based on an article in the Los Angeles Times ...

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.

Stay Connected

RSS RSS Feed

Categories

Archives

View All Nossaman Blogs
Jump to Page

We use cookies on this website to improve functionality, enhance performance, analyze website traffic and to enable social media features. To learn more, please see our Privacy Policy and our Terms & Conditions for additional detail.