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.
Issue. Does the requirement of the easement to be conveyed as a condition for issuing a land use permit constitute a taking?
Held. 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.
Dissent. 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.
Discussion. 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.