Property Law Keyed to Cribbet
Nollan v. California Coastal Commission
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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.
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