Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley, No. 86-6425

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore BRUNETTI, KOZINSKI and THOMPSON; KOZINSKI
Citation882 F.2d 1398
PartiesSINALOA LAKE OWNERS ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellants, v. CITY OF SIMI VALLEY, Defendant/Appellee, James Doody, et al., Defendants-cross-defendants/Appellees. v. Donald G. TUDOR; Jennie P. Tudor, et al., Third-party-defendants/Appellees, County of Ventura, Defendant-third-party-plaintiff/cross-claimant.
Decision Date09 August 1989
Docket NumberNo. 86-6425

Page 1398

882 F.2d 1398
SINALOA LAKE OWNERS ASSOCIATION, et al., Plaintiffs/Appellants,
v.
CITY OF SIMI VALLEY, Defendant/Appellee,
James Doody, et al., Defendants-cross-defendants/Appellees.
v.
Donald G. TUDOR; Jennie P. Tudor, et al.,
Third-party-defendants/Appellees,
County of Ventura, Defendant-third-party-plaintiff/cross-claimant.
No. 86-6425.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted April 5, 1988.
Decided Jan. 6, 1989.
As Amended March 23, 1989.
As Amended on Denial of Rehearing and
Rehearing En Banc Aug. 9, 1989.

Page 1400

Michael M. Berger and M. Reed Hunter, Fadem, Berger & Norton, Los Angeles, Cal., for plaintiffs-appellants.

Walter G. Mortensen, Spray, Gould & Bowers, Ventura, Cal., for defendant-third-party-plaintiff-cross-claimant County of Ventura.

Henry J. Walsh and Carol A. Woo, Lawler, Bonham & Walsh, Ventura, Cal., for defendant-appellee City of Simi Valley.

Joel A. Davis, Deputy Atty. Gen., Los Angeles, Cal., for defendants-cross-defendants-appellees Doody, Persson, Jacinto, Ley, Stephenson and McEwan.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California.

Before BRUNETTI, KOZINSKI and THOMPSON, Circuit Judges.

KOZINSKI, Circuit Judge:

We consider whether plaintiffs' fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendment claims are ripe for adjudication in federal court despite failure to exhaust state judicial remedies.

Facts

The complaint and stipulations of the parties set forth the following scenario: 1 Plaintiff Sinaloa Lake Owners Association owns Sinaloa Dam and Sinaloa Lake, the lake behind the dam. The individual plaintiffs own property surrounding the lake. The lake and the dam are located within the County of Ventura, outside the City of Simi Valley.

The California Division of Safety of Dams (DSOD), a division of the California Department of Water Resources, is responsible for inspecting non-federally owned dams in California. On February 11, 1983, after conducting an inspection of Sinaloa Dam, DSOD sent a letter to James Stutzman, former president of the Association, directing the Association to take certain corrective actions and report back to DSOD no later than March 15, 1983.

Between February 25 and March 3, heavy rains raised the water level of Sinaloa Lake. On March 2, there were two slides on the face of the dam. Plaintiffs allege that these slides were caused by (1) a leak in a city-owned high-pressure water

Page 1401

pipe running through the dam; (2) the county's actions in raising the dam's spillway, which allowed more water to accumulate behind the dam; and (3) the heavy rains. City officials immediately evacuated residents living below the dam and began pumping water out of the lake.

On March 3, defendant David Jacinto, a DSOD Associate Field Engineer, arrived at the dam and assumed control of the situation. He took additional steps to reduce the water level behind the dam. The Army Corps of Engineers inspected the dam and concluded it was stable.

On March 4, without advising plaintiffs, DSOD officials decided to breach the dam in order to drain the lake; this decision was not implemented immediately. By the next day, the water level was 10 to 12 feet below the high water mark. The city decided that the emergency was over, and advised evacuated residents to return to their homes.

On March 6, defendant James Doody, Division Chief of DSOD, countermanded the decision to breach the dam, and instead ordered workers to proceed with plans to lower the spillway. By March 8 the emergency was over: The water level was down 22 feet and DSOD promised to maintain that level to enable the Association to maintain fish in the lake.

On March 10, at the direction of DSOD, workers began lowering the spillway in order to reduce the risk of future problems. By that time, however, defendant Doody and other senior officials of DSOD had once again decided to breach the dam. The plaintiffs were not advised of the latest decision until a few hours before DSOD contractors were scheduled to begin breaching the dam at 4:00 p.m. on Friday, March 11.

In an attempt to obtain a temporary restraining order, plaintiffs secured an informal hearing before a Superior Court Judge that afternoon. The judge refused to act, however, because plaintiffs were unable to produce a completed engineering study or testimony from an engineer showing that the dam was safe. DSOD produced no evidence indicating that the dam was unsafe. No order was entered and no record was made of the in-camera proceedings; apparently the matter was not even assigned a case number. Immediately after the hearing, DSOD's contractors breached the dam, lowered the water level 25 feet from the high water mark, and drained 90 percent of the water from Sinaloa Lake.

Plaintiffs filed suit under 42 U.S.C. Sec. 1983 on December 16, 1983, alleging deprivation of their fourth, fifth and fourteenth amendment rights. Their second amended complaint was filed on July 2, 1984. On May 15, 1986, a month before the case was scheduled to go to trial, defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings, claiming that the case was not ripe for decision. The district court granted the motion as to all defendants. After their motion to amend the judgment was denied, plaintiffs timely appealed.

Discussion

We review the district court's grant of judgment on the pleadings de novo, taking all material allegations of the non-moving party as true and construing them in the light most favorable to that party. Judgment on the pleadings will not be granted unless "the allegations of the complaint itself clearly demonstrate that plaintiff does not have a claim." 5 C. Wright & A. Miller, Federal Practice & Procedure Sec. 1357, at 604 (1969). Motions for judgment on the pleadings, like motions to dismiss for failure to state a claim, must be viewed with particular skepticism in cases involving claims of inverse condemnation. See Hall v. City of Santa Barbara, 833 F.2d 1270, 1274 (9th Cir.1986), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 108 S.Ct. 1120, 99 L.Ed.2d 28188034 (1988).

I

Plaintiffs claim that defendants' actions in breaching the dam and destroying the lake amounted to a taking of their property without just compensation, in violation of the fifth amendment. Defendants argue, and the district court held, that this

Page 1402

claim is not ripe because plaintiffs have failed to exhaust their state remedies.

Defendants rely on Williamson County Regional Planning Comm'n v. Hamilton Bank, 473 U.S. 172, 105 S.Ct. 3108, 87 L.Ed.2d 126 (1985), which places two hurdles in the way of a taking claim brought in federal court against states and their political subdivisions. First, Williamson County affirmed the principle that "a claim that the application of government regulations effects a taking of a property interest is not ripe until the government entity charged with implementing the regulations has reached a final decision regarding the application of the regulations to the property at issue." Id. at 186, 105 S.Ct. at 3116. As we held in Hall, however, Williamson County 's final decision requirement is inapplicable in cases of physical invasion. 833 F.2d at 1282 n. 28. A physical taking, such as the one at issue here, is by definition a final decision, and thereby satisfies Williamson County 's first exhaustion requirement.

The second, and independent, hurdle established by Williamson County requires plaintiffs to "seek compensation through the procedures the State has provided for doing so" before turning to the federal courts. Id. at 194-95, 105 S.Ct. at 3120-21. The Court reasoned that "[t]he Fifth Amendment does not proscribe the taking of property; it proscribes taking without just compensation." Id. So long as the state provides "an adequate process for obtaining compensation," no constitutional violation can occur until the state denies just compensation. Id.

Plaintiffs, citing footnote 28 of Hall, contend that the second requirement of Williamson County is also inapplicable to physical invasion cases. That footnote, however, only relieves plaintiffs of the obligation to exhaust administrative remedies in physical taking cases--it does not excuse them from seeking just compensation through state procedures. Even in physical taking cases, compensation must first be sought from the state if adequate procedures are available.

Contrary to plaintiffs' assertions, this interpretation of Hall does not conflict with Williamson County. Williamson County only requires exhaustion of state judicial remedies when the state provides "an adequate process for obtaining compensation." 473 U.S. at 194, 105 S.Ct. at 3120. Plaintiffs need not bring a state court action when it would be futile under existing state law. Williamson County, 473 U.S. at 196-97, 105 S.Ct. at 3121-22; Kinzli v. City of Santa Cruz, 818 F.2d 1449, 1455 (9th Cir.1987), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 108 S.Ct. 775, 98 L.Ed.2d 861 (1988); Furey v. City of Sacramento, 780 F.2d 1448, 1450 n. 1 (9th Cir.1986). Although the alleged taking in Hall amounted to a physical invasion, it was effected by a city ordinance. At the time the ordinance was passed, no action for inverse condemnation based on a regulatory taking could be brought under California law; the landowner's sole remedy was to seek invalidation of the offending statute. See Agins v. City of Tiburon, 24 Cal.3d 266, 274-77, 598 P.2d 25, 29-31, 157 Cal.Rptr. 372, 376-78 (1979), aff'd on other grounds, 447 U.S. 255, 100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106 (1980); see also Furey, 780 F.2d at 1450 n. 1. Although the Supreme Court later expressly disapproved this aspect of California law, see First English Evangelical Lutheran Church v. County of Los Angeles, 482 U.S. 304, 107 S.Ct. 2378, 2387, 96 L.Ed.2d 250 (1987), the appropriate point for determining the adequacy of state compensation procedures is at the time the alleged taking occurs. See Williamson, 473 U.S. at 194, 105 S.Ct. at 3120 ("all that is...

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208 practice notes
  • Koch v. Ahlin, 1:18-cv-00546-LJO-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 19, 2019
    ...F.3d 1257, 1261 (9th Cir. 1994), as amended on denial of reh'g (Feb. 9, 1995) (quoting Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley, 882 F.2d 1398, 1407 (9th Cir. 1989)). In determining whether conditions of confinement of civilly committed individuals violate the constitution, courts l......
  • Griffin Homes, Inc. v. Superior Court (City of Simi Valley)
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 29, 1990
    ...3141, 97 L.Ed.2d 677; Lockary v. Kayfetz (9th Cir.1990) 908 F.2d 543; Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1409; see also Frieden: The Environmental Protection Hustle (MIT Press 1979).) If proven, such conduct by government constitutes an incursion ......
  • Breneric Associates v. City of Del Mar, No. D024838
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 15, 1998
    ...is a section 1983 claim ripe for adjudication. (Cf. Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th [69 Cal.App.4th 189] Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1402-1403, overruled on other grounds in Armendariz v. Penman (9th Cir.1996) 75 F.3d 1311, 1326; Long Beach Equities, Inc. v. County of Ven......
  • Customer Co. v. City of Sacramento, No. S035410
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 12, 1995
    ...exists, or ... act with reckless disregard of the actual circumstances." (Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1406.) Substantive due process prohibits government officials, regardless of the procedural safeguards they employ, from taking or destroy......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
202 cases
  • Koch v. Ahlin, 1:18-cv-00546-LJO-GSA-PC
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Eastern District of California
    • December 19, 2019
    ...F.3d 1257, 1261 (9th Cir. 1994), as amended on denial of reh'g (Feb. 9, 1995) (quoting Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley, 882 F.2d 1398, 1407 (9th Cir. 1989)). In determining whether conditions of confinement of civilly committed individuals violate the constitution, courts l......
  • Griffin Homes, Inc. v. Superior Court (City of Simi Valley)
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • October 29, 1990
    ...3141, 97 L.Ed.2d 677; Lockary v. Kayfetz (9th Cir.1990) 908 F.2d 543; Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1409; see also Frieden: The Environmental Protection Hustle (MIT Press 1979).) If proven, such conduct by government constitutes an incursion ......
  • Breneric Associates v. City of Del Mar, No. D024838
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 15, 1998
    ...is a section 1983 claim ripe for adjudication. (Cf. Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th [69 Cal.App.4th 189] Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1402-1403, overruled on other grounds in Armendariz v. Penman (9th Cir.1996) 75 F.3d 1311, 1326; Long Beach Equities, Inc. v. County of Ven......
  • Customer Co. v. City of Sacramento, No. S035410
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 12, 1995
    ...exists, or ... act with reckless disregard of the actual circumstances." (Sinaloa Lake Owners Ass'n v. City of Simi Valley (9th Cir.1989) 882 F.2d 1398, 1406.) Substantive due process prohibits government officials, regardless of the procedural safeguards they employ, from taking or destroy......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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