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Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd. v. Monterey, City of

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20139
Nos. 94-16248, -16313, 95 F.3d 1422/(9th Cir., 09/13/1996)

The court holds that a city's denial of a developer's permit application to develop 37.6 acres of oceanfront property did not substantially advance a legitimate public purpose and denied the developer all economically viable use of its property. The developer brought a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. §1983. A jury found that the city's actions denied the developer equal protection and resulted in an unconstitutional taking. The court first holds that the city was not entitled to a new trial because the developer's inverse condemnation action under §1983 was tried by a jury. The court holds that §1983 provides a jury trial for actions at law. When Congress enacted that section, it mirrored the split between courts of law providing a jury trial, and courts of equity providing a bench trial. The court holds that because legal relief is available and legal rights are asserted, the inverse condemnation is an action at law. The court next holds that because the question of whether the city's actions denied the developer economically viable use of its property falls within the category of essentially factual questions, the district court did not err by submitting that issue to the jury. The court holds that the issue of whether the permit denial advanced a legitimate state interest is the type of issue that can be put to a jury. The issue was largely a reasonableness inquiry, which in this case, is essentially fact-bound in nature. The court holds that the city was also not entitled to a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. The developer presented sufficient evidence to support its claim that the city's actions were disproportional to both the nature and extent of the proposed development's environmental impact. Moreover, the jury was not compelled to find that the city's action left the developer with an economically viable use of its property. The mere fact that the developer sold the property to the state at an $800,000 profit did not as a matter of law defeat a takings claim. Last, the court holds that the city was not entitled to a new trial on damages, because it failed to show that the damage award was excessive, clearly not supported by the evidence, or speculative.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Frederik A. Jacobsen
One Embarcadero Ctr., San Francisco CA 94111
(415) 393-1000

Counsel for Defendant
George A. Yuhas
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe
Old Federal Reserve Bank Bldg.
400 Sansome St., San Francisco CA 94111
(415) 392-1122

Before: WALLACE and LEAVY, Circuit Judges, and BAIRD,* District Judge.