\'Overview of Law\'

Environmental Law
Nollan vs. CCC

Abstract of:
483 U.S. 825, 97 L. Ed.2d 677

James Patrick Nollan, et
ux., Appellant
California Coastal

Case Definition:
The case is Nollan versus the California Coastal Commission. The
Nollans were the appellates against a decision made by the California
Coastal Commission (CCC).
The Nollans had been leasing a property on the California coast with
which they had an option to buy. The property lies directly at the foot
of the Pacific Ocean and is a prime piece of real estate on the
California Coast. The property had been used by the Nollans to rent out
during the summer months to vacationers. At the end of the Nollans’
lease they took the option to purchase the land and began preparing for
the terms of purchase by the previous land owner. Among those terms was
the demolishing of the small deteriorating bungalow that the Nollans had
been leasing. The Nollans had planned to expand the structure from the
small bungalow that it was to a three bedroom house more complimentary
to the surrounding homes and their needs. In order to begin destruction
of the property and begin rebuilding the site the Nollans had to secure
a permit from the California Coastal Commission. Upon submitting the
permit application, the CCC found that the permit should be granted on
the condition that the Nollans provide public access to the beach and to
the local county park, which lay adjacent to the property. This
provision called for the Nollans to use a portion of their land to be
used as a public walkway to the beach and park. The Nollans protested
to the condition, but the CCC overruled the objection and granted the
permit with the condition intact.

Case Decision:
The Nollans filed a petition to the Ventura County Superior Court
asking that the condition to supply easement be removed from their
permit. The Nollans’ argument was that there was not enough evidence to
support the developments limiting of public access to the beach. The
argument was agreed upon by the court and the case was remanded to the
California Coastal Commission for a full evidentiary hearing on the
issue of public access to the beach.
The CCC held a public hearing which led to further factual findings
which reaffirmed the need for the condition. The CCC’s argument was
that the building of the new structure would limit view of the ocean,
and therefore limit access to the public who had full rights to use the
beach. To compensate for the limitations on the public the Nollans
would have to provide access to the beach from their property. The CCC
also noted that all of the other developments on the same tract of land
had been conditioned similarly in having to provide public access to the
The Nollans filed a supplemental petition for a writ of administrative
mandamus (a writ that would order a public official or body to comply
with a specified duty issued by a superior court). The Nollans argument
was that the permit condition violated the Takings Clause in the V
Amendment, and also in the XIV Amendment of the Constitution.
The court agreed that the administrative record did not provide for in
showing the existence of adverse impact on the publics’ access to the
ocean. The court granted the writ of mandamus, and directed that the
public access condition be removed from the permit.
The CCC appealed the case in the California Court of Appeal and won the
decision. The Court of Appeal found an error in the Supreme Courts
interpretation of the Coastal Act which mandates public access to any
category of developments on the coast. The Court of Appeal also found
that the Takings claim was unsubstantiated by the Nollans. The permit
condition did take from the value of the land, but did not restrict them
of reasonable use of their property.
The Nollans then appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The
argument made by the Nollans continued to revolve around the Takings
Clause in the V Amendment. The Supreme Court found that the requirement
of the permit only put a restriction on the use of the property and not
a “taking” of the property. The Supreme Court also held the California
State Constitution to have standing, and upheld the ruling made by the
Court of Appeals.

Reasoning for Decision:
I believe that the reason the Supreme Court decided as it did was that
its interpretation of the California State Constitution provided for the
authority of the CCC’s permit regulation. The part within the states
constitution says that access to any