November 30, 2012

The Coastal Act trumps everything?

By Damien M. Schiff Senior Attorney

Earlier this week, the California Supreme Court ruled in Pacific Palisades Bowl Mobile Estates v. City of Los Angeles that a mobile home park owner must obtain a coastal development permit under the California Coastal Act if he wishes to convert his park from tenant occupancy to resident ownership.  Pacific Legal Foundation submitted an amicus brief in support of Pacific Palisades, arguing that such a conversion does not constitute a “development” under the Coastal Act.  Our brief also argued that allowing Coastal Act jurisdiction over an issue already thoroughly regulated under the Subdivision Map Act would create a “tragedy of the anti-commons,” i.e., “the underutilization of productive resources that results when multiple decision-making authorities can prevent a given use or change in use.”

No matter to the California Supreme Court, which held that the Coastal Act defines all subdivisions of land as “developments,” even those subdivisions that will have no effect on the intensity or density of use.  Further, the Court held that the Subdivision Map Act anticipates that applicants will have to comply with other laws to legalize their use of land, and that the Coastal Act embodies a strong legislative policy in favor of coastal area land use regulation, one that trumps any contrary policy arguably derivable from the Subdivision Map Act.

So, score a win for more government, score a loss for productive and efficient use of private property.

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