PLF Scores an Important Property Rights Win at the California Supreme Court
Continued from page 3
argued that under the Porterville rule, it only had to pay for the undeveloped value (approximately $50,000) of the land rather than its value if it was developed light industrial (approximately $1,000,000). The trial court agreed with the city and awarded a pittance as “just compensation.”
PLF’s amicus brief argued that the Porterville rule was too broad and allowed for the very type of extortionate exactions that Nollan/Dolan prohibited. Indeed, one of the key protections guaranteed by Nollan/Dolan is that government must prove that the need for the dedication arises from an impact of the proposed land use. That guarantee is undermined if government can determine what land it wants to advance a public project, then can offer some hypothetical justification for why it could have taken the land as a permit condition at some point in the future (and upon the actual filing of the hypothetical permit application).
By a 6-1 margin, the Supreme Court agreed with PLF on this issue, adding a threshold inquiry to the Porterville rule that requires the court to determine whether the government had targeted the property as a probable part of a public project prior to condemnation. If so, the government must pay full compensation for the land, rather than the bargain-basement amount allowed by Porterville. In limiting the Porterville ’s applicability, the Court recognized the potential injustice allowed by allowing government to both target and circumvent the compensation requirement.
The Perris case is still ongoing. The Supreme Court remanded the matter to the trial court to enter factual findings on the new threshold Porterville inquiry. And, if Porterville is determined to apply, the lower court must determine whether the city’s demand for the 1.66-acre strip of land would have violated Nollan/Dolan .
Brian T. Hodges is Managing Attorney of PLF’s Northwest center. A donor-supported, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) non-profit, public interest legal organization based in Sacramento, Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF) is the nation’s leading litigator for property rights and represents all clients free of charge, thanks to the generosity of mainstream Americans. If you think PLF can help you or for more information, or to make a tax-deductible gift, go to www.pacificlegal.org or contact Robert Dean at (916) 503-9030.