June 6, 2018

PLF supports challenge to Coastal Commission unconstitutional condition

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Today, we submitted an amicus brief in the California court of appeal in San Diego Unified Port District v. California Coastal Commission. The case concerns the Port’s attempts to modify its land-use plan for Harbor Island, a popular tourist spot in San Diego Bay. The Commission denied the Port’s requested modification (which would facilitate the construction of market-rate hotel rooms on Harbor Island) because the Port would not promise to reserve a large portion of Harbor Island for “lower cost visitor accommodations,” such as hostels and “yurts.” Our amicus brief argues that the Commission’s de facto condition on the Port’s land-use plan modification violates the Port’s (and its private-party lessees’) constitutional right to be free from uncompensated takings of their property. The Commission’s condition runs afoul of that right because it bears no nexus to the impacts of the proposed land-use change. Building market-rate hotel rooms on vacant land does not create or exacerbate the need for lower-cost accommodations. If anything, it reduces that need by increasing the supply of accommodations generally. The Commission’s action here is especially questionable given that the Coastal Act expressly forbids the Commission from setting hotel room rates, which, given the market for tourist accommodations, the Commission’s “yurt” condition effectively does.

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