San Francisco, CA August 26, 2013
On August 21, 2013 the California Supreme Court let stand a precedent setting, landmark property rights decision issued by the Court of Appeal which has changed property rights law. Business and property owners now have added Constitutional protection from project development delays and overzealous government regulation, signaling a new judicial shift.
The Court of Appeal in Lockaway v. County of Alameda changed California law by holding that the government has no immunity for erroneous decisions and must pay for delays or bans on economic use of property, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. The Court of Appeal decision overturned a California Supreme Court case from 1998, Landgate v. California Coastal Commission, which previously granted regulatory agencies immunity for delays during the development process. Since Landgate, the agencies tasked with serving Californians were given free rein to delay and outright ban development projects with little if any consequence.
The California Coastal Commission, California State Lands Commission, League of California Cities, and California State Association of Counties joined the County of Alameda in seeking to overturn the Court of Appeal decision. In denying review, the judiciary has sent a message that public agencies will be held accountable and responsible to the public.
Lockaway, an independent Bay Area business, had been at odds with the County of Alameda for ten years over its permit to build a storage facility. Delays resulting from the County’s erroneous application of a growth control initiative precluded the business from generating a return on its investment for several years.
In a scathing decision the Court of Appeal chastised the County for ignoring law which would have allowed Lockaway’s facility to be built without delays. Characterizing the County’s arguments as convoluted “nonsense” the Court upheld all damages and attorney’s fees.
Lockaway’s attorney Timothy Kassouni is quoted as saying: “Lockaway owners Michael Shaw and Michael Garrity never wavered in their commitment to seek just compensation for the County’s conduct, and sought this precedent to give fellow Californians a safeguard against government abuse in the development process. We are pleased that the California Supreme Court has let stand this important decision.”
Read the Court’s opinion in Lockaway v. Alameda by clicking on the following link: Lockaway v. Alameda.