Thursday, April 26, 2007

Land use - abusive and perverted?

Now that I hopefully have your attention, take a look at the SIU Law Library Law Dawg Blawg selecting a book on the Kelo case from multiple perspectives. I'm going to try and find this one and read it, because I was just...well...ummm...not a happy camper about it. (This is a family-friendly blog, I had to grasp for some non-obscene words.) I used to work at a law firm in San Diego where a good portion of its business came from representing developers in inverse condemnation proceedings or entitlement actions. Sometimes we had to fight against the anti-development folks over vernal pools and endangered species (some of which often questionably existed at a site, to put it kindly).

But I always saved my most vitriol for the California Coastal Commission, which, along with local coastal commissions, tries to make to make it next to impossible to build anything near the ocean. I sometimes appreciate the end result of their goals, but not the means by which they are accomplished. Recent case in point: Feduniak v. Coastal Commission, where a very rich guy bought a house on 17 Mile Drive near Monterey and built a three hole pitch and putt golf course. Apparently this was done in violation of a 1983 coastal permit.

The Sixth District appellate court ruled that had to require the owner to take out the course and restore the land to its natural condition. As the California Appellate Report Blog states, it looks like a lot of people are going to get sued, though there may be some SOL issues to consider (and keeping with a family blog, SOL means statute of limitations, though I guess it also means the other thing too in the same context.)

This case also gives me an excuse to quote one of my favorite California land use cases, Healing v. California Coastal Commission (1994) 22 Cal.App.4th 1158. Poor Healing tried for a decade to get a coastal permit to build a house and was, in short, given the runaround between the local government, which hadn't adopted a coastal plan, and the Commission, which refused to grant a permit because a local coastal plan was pending, thus apparently preventing any development at all. The court stated:

"It is in the nature of our work that we see many virtuoso performances in the theatres of bureaucracy but we confess a sort of perverse admiration for the Commission's role in this case. It has soared beyond both the ridiculous and the sublime and presented a scenario sufficiently extraordinary to relieve us of any obligation to explain why we are reversing the judgment on Healing's mandate petition."