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Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n

Citation: 17 ELR 20918
No. No. 86-133, 483 U.S. 825/26 ERC 1073/(U.S., 06/26/1987)

The Court holds that the California Coastal Commission's requirement for the grant of an easement from a beachfront landowner to allow the public access across the landowner's privately owned beach, which was located between two public beaches, as a condition of a building permit is an uncompensated taking of private property in violation of the Takings Clause. The Court first rules that although the outright taking of an uncompensated, permanent, public-access easement would clearly violate the Takings Clause, conditioning a building permit on the grant of such an easement would be a lawful land use regulation if the easement substantially furthered governmental purposes sufficient to justify denial of the permit altogether. The Court holds that requiring such a concession of property rights is within the government's police power to designate particular land uses, so long as the condition furthers the same governmental purpose advanced as the justification for the use. The Court holds that the easement condition is not a valid land use regulation since it does not plausibly serve the public purposes advanced for the permit requirement, which were to protect the public's ability to see the beach, to overcome the public's "psychological" barrier to using the beach, and to prevent beach congestion. The Court holds that the state is free to advance its interests in providing a continuous strip of publicly accessible beach by exercising its eminent domain power and paying for the access easements.

Four justices dissented. Justice Brennan, joined by Justice Marshall, would hold that the construction permit condition is a reasonable exercise of the police power, and that even under the Court's analysis the condition directly furthers the government's purposes in mitigating the effects of shorefront development, a quid pro quo of burdens and benefits. Justice Blackmun would hold that there is no taking on these facts since no investment-backed expectations were diminished by the permit condition. Justice Stevens, joined by Justice Blackmun, would hold that the condition is a reasonable exercise of the police power to govern the uses to which property may be put.

Counsel for Appellants
Robert K. Best, Deputy Dir.
Pacific Legal Foundation
555 Capitol Mall, Suite 350, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 444-0154

Counsel for Appellee
Andrea Sheridan Ordin, Chief Ass't Attorney General
Department of Justice
1515 K St., Suite 511, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 324-5437