447 U.S. 255 (1980), 79-602, Agins v. City of Tiburon

Docket Nº:No. 79-602
Citation:447 U.S. 255, 100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106
Party Name:Agins v. City of Tiburon
Case Date:June 10, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 255

447 U.S. 255 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106

Agins

v.

City of Tiburon

No. 79-602

United States Supreme Court

June 10, 1980

Argued April 15, 1980

APPEAL FROM THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

After appellants had acquired five acres of unimproved land in appellee city for residential development, the city was required by California law to prepare a general plan governing land use and the development of open-space land. In response, the city adopted zoning ordinances that placed appellants' property in a zone in which property may be devoted to one-family dwellings, accessory buildings, and open-space uses, with density restrictions permitting appellants to build between one and five single-family residences on their tract. Without having sought approval for development of their tract under the ordinances, appellants brought suit against the city in state court, alleging that the city had taken their property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the zoning ordinances were facially unconstitutional. The city's demurrer claiming that the complaint failed to state a cause of action was sustained by the trial court, and the California Supreme Court affirmed.

Held: The zoning ordinances, on their face, do not take appellants' property without just compensation. Pp. 260-263.

(a) The ordinances substantially advance the legitimate governmental goal of discouraging premature and unnecessary conversion of open-space land to urban uses and are proper exercises of the city's police power to protect its residents from the ill effects of urbanization. Pp. 261-262.

(b) Appellants will share with other owners the benefits and burdens of the city's exercise of such police power, and, in assessing the fairness of the ordinances, these benefits must be considered along with any diminution in market value that appellants might suffer. P. 262.

(c) Although the ordinances limit development, they neither prevent the best use of appellants' land nor extinguish a fundamental attribute of ownership. Since, at this juncture, appellants are free to pursue their reasonable investment expectations by submitting a development plan to the city, it cannot be said that the impact of the ordinances has denied them the "justice and fairness" guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 262-263.

24 Cal.3d 266, 598 P.2d 25, affirmed.

POWELL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

Page 257

POWELL, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question in this case is whether municipal zoning ordinances took.appellants' property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.

I

After the appellants acquired five acres of unimproved land in the city of Tiburon, Cal., for residential development, the city was required by state law to prepare a general plan governing both land use and the development of open-space land. Cal.Govt.Code Ann. §§ 65302(a) and (e) (West Supp. 1979); see § 65563. In response, the city adopted two ordinances that modified existing zoning requirements. Tiburon, Cal., Ordinances Nos. 123 N.S. and 124 N.S. (June 28, 1973). The zoning ordinances placed the appellants' property in "RPD-1," a Residential Planned Development and Open Space Zone. RPD-1 property may be devoted to one-family dwellings, accessory buildings, and open-space uses. Density restrictions permit the appellants to build between one and five single-family residences on their 5-acre tract. The appellants never have sought approval for development of their land under the zoning ordinances.1

Page 258

The appellants filed a two-part complaint against the city in State Superior Court. The first cause of action sought $2 million in damages for inverse condemnation.2 The second cause of action requested a declaration that the zoning ordinances were facially unconstitutional. The gravamen of both claims was the appellants' assertion that the city had taken their property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The complaint alleged that land in Tiburon has greater value than any other suburban property in the State of California. App. 3. The ridgelands that appellants own "possess magnificent views of San Francisco Bay and the scenic surrounding areas, [and] have the highest market values of all lands" in Tiburon. Id. at 4. Rezoning of the land "forever prevented [its] development for residential use. . . ." Id. at 5. Therefore, the appellants contended, the city had "completely destroyed the value of [appellants'] property for any purpose or use whatsoever. . . ." Id. at 7.3

The city demurred, claiming that the complaint failed to state a cause of action. The Superior Court sustained the demurrer,4 and the California Supreme Court affirmed. 24 Cal.3d 266, 598 P.2d 25 (1979). The State Supreme Court

Page 259

first considered the inverse condemnation claim. It held that a landowner who challenges the constitutionality of a zoning ordinance may not

sue in inverse condemnation, and thereby transmute an excessive use of the police power into a lawful taking for which compensation in eminent domain must be paid.

Id. at 273, 598 P.2d at 28. The sole remedies for such a taking, the court concluded, are mandamus and declaratory judgment. Turning therefore to the appellants' claim for declaratory relief, the California Supreme Court held that the zoning ordinances had not deprived the appellants of their property [100 S.Ct. 2141] without compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment.5

We noted probable jurisdiction. 444 U.S. 1011 (1980). We now affirm the holding that the zoning ordinances, on their face, do not take the appellants' property without just compensation.6

Page 260

II

The Fifth Amendment guarantees that private property shall not "be taken for public use, without just compensation." The appellants' complaint framed the question as whether a zoning ordinance that prohibits all development of their land effects a taking under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. The California Supreme Court rejected the appellants' characterization of the issue by holding, as a matter of state law, that the terms of the challenged ordinances allow the appellants to construct between one and five residences on their property. The court did not consider whether the zoning ordinances would be unconstitutional if applied to prevent appellants from building five homes. Because the appellants have not submitted a plan for development of their property as the ordinances permit, there is, as yet, no concrete controversy regarding the application of the specific zoning provisions. See Socialist Labor Party v. Gilligan, 406 U.S. 583, 588 (1972). See also Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996, 997 (1979) (POWELL, J., concurring). Thus, the only question properly before us is whether the mere enactment of the zoning ordinances constitutes a taking.

The application of a general zoning law to particular property effects a taking if the ordinance does not substantially advance legitimate state interests, see Nectow v. Cambridge, 277 U.S. 183, 188 (1928), or denies an owner economically viable use of his land, see Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 138, n. 36 (1978). The determination that governmental action constitutes a taking is, in essence, a determination that the public at large, rather than a single owner, must bear the burden of an exercise of state power in the public...

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