City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey

PETITIONER: City of Monterey
RESPONDENT: Del Monte Dunes at Monterey
LOCATION: Knowles' Car

DOCKET NO.: 97-1235
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-2005)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 526 US 687 (1998)
ARGUED: Oct 07, 1998
DECIDED: May 24, 1999

Edwin S. Kneedler - On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner
George A. Yuhas - Argued the cause for the petitioner
Michael M. Berger - Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

Del Monte Dunes sought to develop property it owned within the jurisdiction of the city of Monterey. Monterey continuously denied Del Monte Dunes' proposals to develop the property. Each rejection was followed by stricter and more rigorous demands for a smaller, less intrusive development. After years of rejection, Del Monte Dunes decided Monterey would not allow development under any circumstances. Del Monte Dunes sued the city in federal court under 42 USC Section 1983, alleging that the denial of their final proposal was a violation of the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Moreover, Del Monte Dunes claimed, the continuous demands constituted regulatory abuse. The District Court submitted Del Monte Dunes case to the jury. The judge instructed the jury to find for Del Monte Dunes if the jurors found Del Monte Dunes had been denied every economically viable use for its property or if the city's decision to reject the development did not directly advance a legitimate public purpose. The jury found for Del Monte Dunes on the equal protection and abuse claims, and it awarded monetary damages. The city prevailed on the due process claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed the rulings despite the city of Monterey's objection to the use of a jury in government land-use regulation cases. It found no errors in the use of the jury or the jury's decision.


Do plaintiffs have a right to a jury trial over land-use regulations when they allege constitutional violations under 42 USC Section 1983?

Media for City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 07, 1998 in City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - May 24, 1999 in City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 97-1235, the City of Monterey versus Del Monte Dunes of Monterey will be announced by Justice Kennedy.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

The respondents here were property owners, they owned parcel in excess of 37 acres of real estate within the city limits of Monterey, California.

Those who know Monterey will know the property is to the West as you enter the city from the North on Highway One.

The parcel therefore has some ocean frontage, but it is also the former site of an oil company terminal and a tank firm, and the property suffered from this industrial use.

The owners sought to restore the property to good condition as part of a proposed residential development.

Over the period of some five years the owner submitted repeated plans, each time trying to meet the conditions imposed by city planning officials.

These included restoring natural vegetation to save an endangered butterfly species, providing a public beach, providing view corridors and a buffer zone next to a state park.

With each submission however they were confronted with new demands by planning officials.

The Zoning Ordinance would have permitted the residential development of more than 1,000 units, but the initial proposal was for 344 units.

After the first plan was denied each later proposal proposed a reduced number of dwelling units, the last being for just 190 units, still the proposal was denied.

After five years 19 different site plans and five formal planning decisions all resulting in denials, then owner, respondent Del Monte Dunes, decided the city would not permit development under any circumstances.

Under California law as it then was, the party seemed to agree that the owners could not have sued the city for just compensation based on a regulatory takings theory, so they brought this suit under the Federal Civil Rights statute 42 U.S.C. 1983.

The suit alleged the violation of the Federal Constitution.

The theory of the suit was that the city had taken the property through his actions, and that Del Monte Dunes had neither paid for the taking nor provided a remedy for seeking just compensation.

Just as the planning and permit processes were protracted so too were the legal proceedings, and they’re described in the opinion, eventually, the case was tried to a jury in the United States District Court.

The verdict was returned in favor of the landowners and against the city and Court of Appeals affirmed.

We granted certiorari to determine three questions: The first is whether the Court of Appeals erred in assuming that the rough proportionality standard of our recent holding in Dolan versus City of Tigard applies to this case?

Although in a general sense concerns for proportionality animate the Takings Clause, the rough proportionality test of the Dolan case has not been applied except in the special context.

It has been applied to land use decisions which condition the approval of development on consent by the owners to dedicate part of the owner’s property to a public use.

That was not the essential objection the landowner made in this case.

For this reason we believe the test was not applicable here, there were other basis upon which to sustain the Trial Court’s instructions and the jury’s verdict however, so the Court of Appeals' discussion of rough proportionality is not ground either for reversal or for remand.

The second question was whether the Trial Court erred by using a standard that allowed the jury to reweigh the reasonableness of the city’s land use decision?

The standard or test to which the City objects was in effect contained in an instruction proposed by the City itself, and as to which there was no objection.

The jury was asked to decide in light of the history and context of this particular case whether the denial of the landowners’ development proposal was reasonably related to the City’s profit justification.

To the extent the City argues that its land use decisions are immune from judicial scrutiny under all circumstances, its position is contrary to settle regulatory takings principles.

So, we reject this claim of error.

The third question is the one to which the opinion for the Court and the other separate opinions devote most discussion.

That question is whether the issue of the City’s liability was properly submitted to the jury rather than to the trial judge?

On this ground too we affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

This was a suit as mentioned at the outset, under Section 1983.