Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

PETITIONER: Nollan
RESPONDENT: California Coastal Commission
LOCATION: Faria Beach

DOCKET NO.: 86-133
DECIDED BY:
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 483 US 825 (1987)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1987
DECIDED: Jun 26, 1987

ADVOCATES:
Andrea Sheridan Ordin - Argued the cause for the appellee
Robert K. Best - Argued the cause for the appellants

Facts of the case

The California Coastal Commission required owners of beachfront property wishing to obtain a building permit to maintain a pathway on their property open to the public.

Question

Did the requirement constitute a property taking in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?

Media for Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1987 in Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

It's between the high water mark and what?

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

Contrary to the argument, we do believe that this is another traditional regulatory taking case before this Court.

It is our position, of course, that that diminution would be minimal, and certainly, in no way, reduces their reasonable expectations.

Robert K. Best:

--And the seawall.

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

Before you is a fairly unremarkable condition which is allowed... which has been placed by the Coastal Commission on the granting of a permit for new development, granting really a sidewalk by the sea, allowing persons to pass and repass in that perhaps 10-foot area between the high mean tide and the tow of the seawall.

They have value given to them by this permit.

And how far is that?

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

The record is not entirely clear how tall that seawall is.

The ability to increase the value of their lot and their house by the structure; and whatever value might be put on it at some later time and some later place of this right to access, there is no showing that in any way they have been damaged financially.

Robert K. Best:

There's some dispute as to how far it is.

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

Eight feet appears in the Solicitor General's record.

William H. Rehnquist:

Thank you, Ms. Ordin.

Robert K. Best:

But according to the property records that exist at this time, we're talking about approximately 35 feet.

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

Different figures appear in declarations.

Thank you.

And that is... and you have title to that?

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

The pictures at the back of your Appendix, I think, make it very clear that in great part, all seawalls tend to be above the heads of all who walk along there.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Best, you have four minutes remaining.

Robert K. Best:

The Nollans have title to that.

Well, it has to depend on how much sand there happens to be in, doesn't it?

Robert K. Best:

I'll be brief, Your Honor.

And if... if... if you lose the case, then people may not only cross... cross that piece, but they could just use it?

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

That's exactly right, and how much water there happens to be, as you recognize from those pictures also.

Robert K. Best:

I'd like to address quickly two concessions made by counsel in her presentation, conceding that there must be the reasonable relationship test applied in this case, and also earlier, a concession that if the case is limited to an evaluation of the facts of the Nollans, she would concede that they were in trouble.

No.

Andrea Sheridan Ordin:

It is an inhospitable, rocky shore, much of the time, with the water lapping or crashing against that seawall.

Robert K. Best:

So in essence what their argument is is that there must be a reasonable relationship test, but the reasonable relationship is between their legislative findings, or their statewide program, and what they are doing, and not on the facts of the case.

The dedication provision is for pass and repass rights, which means the public can walk back and forth and use the beach for tide pooling, for getting... if they're surfing, to take their surfboards along, and so forth.

Where... is it Ventura County?

Robert K. Best:

And that's our fundamental concern here, is that this taking analysis should be performed on the facts of the case.