To access this feature, please Log In or Register for your Casebriefs Account.

Add to Library




Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

Todd Berman

InstructorTodd Berman

CaseCast "What you need to know"

CaseCast –  "What you need to know"

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

Citation. 22 Ill.483 U.S. 825, 107 S. Ct. 3141, 97 L. Ed. 2d 677, 26 ERC 1073 (1987)
Law Students: Don’t know your Studybuddy Pro login? Register here

Brief Fact Summary.

The Nollans (Appellants) have appealed from a decision of the California Court of Appeal, which ruled that the California Coastal Commission could condition its grant of permission to rebuild their house on the transfer to the public of an easement across their beachfront property.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Land use regulation does not constitute a taking if it substantially advances legitimate state interests and does not deny an owner economically viable use of his land.


The Appellants own a beachfront lot in Ventura County, California. Nearby there is an oceanside public park and a public beach. A concrete seawall separates the beach portion of the Nollans’ property from the rest of the lot. Originally, the Nollans leased their lot with an option to buy. There was a small bungalow on the lot, which after many years of renting out to vacationers, had fallen into disrepair. The Nollans’ option to purchase was conditioned on their promise to demolish the bungalow and replace it. Under the California Public Resources Code, the Nollans were required to obtain a coastal development permit from the California Coastal Commission. In 1982, the Nollans submitted a permit application to the Commission, which proposed to demolish their bungalow and replace it with a three-bedroom home, which was in keeping with the rest of the neighborhood. The Commission granted the application, but placed a condition on the approval, which was that the Nollans were req
uired to grant to the public an easement across their property, which would make it easier for people to get to the public beaches. The Nollans protested, but to no avail. The Nollans then filed for a writ of administrative mandamus asking the state court to invalidate the condition. The Nollans argued that the condition could not be imposed absent evidence that their proposed development would have a direct adverse impact on public access to the beach. The state court remanded the case to the Commission for an evidentiary hearing. The Commission upheld the condition, finding that the proposed house would block the view of the ocean and set up a psychological barrier to the public. The Nollans then argued that the imposition of the condition constituted a “taking” within the meaning of the Fifth Amendment, and as such was unconstitutional. The California Court of Appeal ruled that the condition did not violate the constitution. The Nollans appealed to the United States Supreme Court.


Does the requirement of the easement to be conveyed as a condition for issuing a land use permit constitute a taking?


Yes. Reversed.
First the Court noted that if California had simply required the Nollans to make an easement across their property available to the public on a permanent basis in order to increase public access to the beach, rather than conditioning their permit to rebuild their house on their agreeing to do so, the Court has no doubt that there would have been a taking.
Land use regulation does not constitute a taking if it substantially advances legitimate state interests and does not deny an owner economically viable use of his land.
The Court agrees with the Commission that where a permit condition serves the same legitimate police power as a refusal to issue the permit, then the condition would not be a taking. However, where the condition utterly fails to further the end advanced as the justification for the prohibition, the constitutionality disappears.
Unless the permit condition serves the same governmental purpose as the development ban, the building restriction is not valid regulation of land use but an out and out plan of extortion.


The dissent holds that the condition does not amount to a taking because the Nollans’ proposed building blocks visual access, while the Commission seeks to preserve lateral access, and those two concerns are closely enough related to be rational.


The dissent points out the narrowness of the majority opinion. However, the majority opinion’s rule seems to have the beneficial effect of ensuring governmental agencies act within their narrow grants of power.

Create New Group

Casebriefs is concerned with your security, please complete the following