Friday, October 3, 2008

Court of Appeal Upholds Taking Claim Under Californa Constitution

In Monk v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes (here), the Court of Appeal forthe Second Appellate District, Division One, has upheld a landowner's taking claim under the California Constitution. In doing so, the court reminded us that the Takings Clause of the California Constitution has a broader scope than its federal counterpart. Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution provides: “Private property may be taken or damaged for public use only when just compensation . . . has first been paid to, or into the court for, the owner." In comparison, the Fifth Amendment of the federal Constitution states: “[N]or shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”

Because the California Constitution requires compensation for damage as well as a taking, the court held that the California clause "protects a somewhat broader range of property values” than does the corresponding federal provision." However, aside from that difference, California courts have construed the clauses congruently. The Monk case did not involve the "damaged property" portion of the California Takings Clause, so the court relied on both federal and California authority.

On the merits the court held that plaintiff's property had been "taken" by a moratorium on development in a landslide area because it deprived the plaintiff of all economic use of his property. As a result the City had to show that developing plaintiff's property would cause "a reasonable probability of significant harm" that would justify that moratorium under nuisance law. The court held that the City had failed to make this showing where the record indicated merely that the stability of plaintiff's property was uncertain and there was no risk that development of plaintiff's property would cause harm to others.

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