CA Inverse Condemnation Case Is Affirmed Against Landowners

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on April 26, 2016 3:58 PM

A California appellate court case is illustrative of the state's rather rigid doctrines against compensation to landowners for alleged injury to their property. The City of Beverly Hills prevailed against in a demurrer involving homeowners who claimed injury against the city for planting some redwood trees in a park some ways from their home. The injury? Spoiling their lovely view.

Inverse Condemnation Versus Eminent Domain

Eminent domain and inverse condemnation are closely related theories but differ in who brings the suit. Rather than being brought by the government, inverse condemnation suits are brought by the landowner who alleges that the government has taken or injured land.

The Boxers are lucky landowners of a beautiful piece of property in California's Beverly Hills. They filed an inverse condemnation action against Beverly Hills for planting coastal redwoods in Roxbury Park, not too far from the Boxers' property. The Boxers complained and alleged that they "were accustomed to having an unobstructed view of the hills of Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, and the Los Angeles basin." Each year, the trees would grow higher and higher. The boxers first noted their concerns to the city in 2005 but their voices fell on deaf ears.

California Law

The Boxers would not enjoy relief at any level of court, owing mostly to California's doctrine on views and inverse condemnation. In the state of California, "as a matter of law, inverse condemnation provides no remedy for alleged impairment of view from private property."

But the circuit court entertained the Boxer's appeal. It cited half a dozen California cases that repeated a common theme for view blocking in California courts: alleged injury based on an impaired view alone is not enough to support an inverse condemnation claim against the government. There must be something more, such as a physical invasion or a noxious smell emanating from a governmental source. But it is black letter law in California that nobody has a right to a view.

Thus, if you want a beautiful unhindered view in California, sign an easement or covenant with your neighbors ... and pray the government doesn't plant any tall trees.

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