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San Diego Gas & Elec. Co. v. San Diego, City of

Citation: 11 ELR 20345
No. No. 79-678, 450 U.S. 621/(U.S., 03/24/1981)

The Supreme Court dismisses an appeal from a California decision regarding municipal liability for inverse condemnation by means of a zoning ordinance because there was no final judgment from the court below. Appellant's nuclear power plant site was zoned by appellee city for industrial or agricultural use. A subsequent rezoning placed the property in an open-space area with which the proposed power plant would not necessarily be compatible. Appellant, alleging that the city had deprived it of the entire beneficial use of its property, sought damages in inverse condemnation as well as mandamus and declaratory relief. The trial court, dismissing the mandamus claim, awarded damages as just compensation for a taking, pursuant to the United States and California Constitutions. The state court of appeal affirmed, but the California Supreme Court remanded the decision for reconsideration in light of its opinion in Agins v. City of Tiburon, 9 ELR 20260. The court of appeal reversed the award of damages but declined to invalidate either the zoning ordinance or the openspace plan because of factual disputes on the record that needed to be retried. The California Supreme Court denied further review. Dismissing the appeal because the lower court did not render a final judgment, the United States Supreme Court rules that although the court of appeal found that monetary compensation is not an appropriate remedy, the state court did not decide whether any other remedy is available because it did not decide whether any taking in fact had occurred. Therefore, the appeal court's decision necessarily contemplates further proceedings in the trial court.

Although he would agree with much of the dissent on the merits of whether there has been a compensable taking, Justice Rehnquist concurs with the majority on the ground that there has been no final judgment.

In dissent, Justice Brennan, joined by three justices, concludes that the court of appeal had in fact reached a final judgment, finding that a Fifth Amendment taking had not occurred and that no compensation was required. On the merits, Justice Brennan would hod that as a matter of federal constitutional law, the city's exercise of its police power can constitute a Fifth Amendment taking if it completely deprives an owner of all or most of his interest in property. Where an excessive regulatory measure is rescinded, compensation is appropriate for losses sustained while the regulation is in effect.

Counsel for Appellant
Louis E. Goebel
1200 Third Ave., San Diego CA 92101
(714) 231-0059

Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps
110 W. A St., San Diego CA 92101
(714) 236-1414

Counsel for Appellees
C. Alan Sumption, Deputy City Attorney; John W. Witt, City Attorney
233 A St., Suite 300, San Diego CA 92101
(714) 236-6220