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First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glandale v. County of Los Angeles

    Brief Fact Summary. The Appellant, First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glandale (Appellant), purchased land in 1957 where it operated a campground as a retreat for handicapped children. A 1977 forest fire created a flooding hazard and a flood destroyed the camp buildings. Subsequently, an ordinance was passed that prohibited building in the area.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The just compensation clause requires the government to pay for temporary taking during the effective period of a regulation before it is ultimately found invalid as a taking.

    Facts. Since 1957, the church had operated a camp ground for handicapped children on the flat area on either side of Mill Creek. The lower court deemed the allegation that the ordinance denied all use of the camp to be irrelevant since the church claim was for damages and not for declaratory or mandamus relief. The ordinance had been passed in January 1979. The Appellant filed a complaint a little more than a month after but did not use or build on the property during the interim period before the appellate court declared the ordinance had caused a taking.

    Issue. Whether landowner who challenges that his property has been taken by a land use regulation may recover damages for time period before it is finally determined that a regulation does constitute a taking.

    Held. Subsequent invalidation of the ordinance is not enough to justly compensate the property owner for the temporary taking. Where the government’s activities have worked a taking, no subsequent withdrawal of the regulation can relieve the government of the duty to pay for the period during which the taking was effective.

    Dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens (J. Stevens) stressed that the Court did not find there was a taking based on the flood protection regulation, which he thought was a valid health and safety measure. J. Stevens also thought it was irrational that a proportional reduction of the economic value was not compensated, but that a delay in time for all value was compensable, both were fractions of the overall economic value. Stevens also thought the litigants should have to exhaust state remedies to seek monetary relief before raising the question of a taking.

    Discussion. The church was compensated for the extensive litigation period wherein all use of the property was denied. Prior decisions relied upon by the government only stood for the proposition that value of property must be calculated at the time of the taking, but did not need to be extended to say that no taking can occur until the ordinance is ultimately held invalid.

    Property Law Keyed to Singer (Third Edition)

    CHAPTER I.


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