June 7th, 2016 — By — In Articles

California Court Rules that Obstructing a Private View Does Not Amount to Inverse Condemnation

A recent case out of the California Court of Appeal illustrates two important aspects of the law of inverse condemnation in The Golden State. Inverse condemnation involves the government appropriating private property rights without adhering to the Constitutional and legal requirements for the exercise of eminent domain (including payment of just compensation). You can read more about the differences between eminent domain (also referred to as “condemnation”) and inverse condemnation here.

Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills

The case of Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills arose out of the City’s decision to plant a stand of coastal redwood trees in a public park. According to the official record, the City had promised to keep the trees trimmed, but it allegedly failed to do so. When the trees grew tall enough to block a group of homeowners’ views of the Beverly Hills, the Hollywood Hills, downtown Los Angeles, and other area landmarks, the homeowners sued the City for inverse condemnation.

The trial court denied the homeowners’ claims, and the Court of Appeal confirmed the denial, finding that the obstruction of the homeowners’ views did not constitute a “taking” for purposes of inverse condemnation. However, both courts referenced prior cases noting that obstruction of view may factor into the calculation of just compensation when an unlawful taking has occurred.

Obstruction of View Does Not Constitute a “Taking”

California law recognizes three types of takings that can give rise to a claim for just compensation. These are: (i) physical invasion of private property in a tangible manner; (ii) physical damage to private property without physical invasion; and (iii) an intangible intrusion that burdens private property in a way that is “direct, substantial, and peculiar to the property itself.”

In the case of the coastal redwood trees planted by the City of Beverly Hills, the California Court of Appeal ruled that none of these three tests were satisfied. The trees neither physically invaded the homeowners’ properties nor caused physical damage to their properties, so the only question was whether the obstruction of homeowners’ views constituted a sufficient “intangible intrusion.”

Noting that the consequences of an intangible intrusion must be, “‘not far removed’ from a direct physical intrusion,” in order to warrant a claim for inverse condemnation, the Court of Appeal ruled that the diminution in the value of the homeowners’ property did not, itself, constitute a compensable taking.

But, View Obstruction May Factor Into Just Compensation

While these homeowners lost their case, it is important to note that the obstruction of view can play a role in inverse condemnation claims under appropriate circumstances. Specifically, the California Court of Appeal noted that while diminution in value (due to a view obstruction) is not enough to support a claim for inverse condemnation on its own, when a property owner has a legitimate takings claim, the loss of a view can be “an element of the measure of just compensation.”

Contact Owners’ Counsel of America to Speak with an Inverse Condemnation Attorney in Your State

Owners’ Counsel of America (OCA) is a nationwide network of leading inverse condemnation attorneys who help private property owners fight to protect their rights. If the government is interfering with your property rights and you would like to speak with an attorney, call us at (877) 367-6963 or contact an OCA attorney in your state today.

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