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Up Next: Condemnation Action Against California Coastal Commission?

You may not have known it, but the reach of the California Coastal Commission goes inland four-and-one-half miles (maybe even five) from the ocean and it can unilaterally designate environmentally sensitive habitat areas and prevent development. 

Since no one else knew it before either, let's get to the why.

Milos and Trisha Douda filed with the CCC for a coastal development permit to build their home.  Instead, they found their property contained an environmentally sensitive habitat area not previously designated and their proposed home would impair scenic and visual resources.

It was a tough day in Santa Monica. 

Up in the hills above Mulholland drive, some four years ago, the Doudas originally wanted to build and applied in 2003 for a two-story, 7,258 sq.ft. single-family home, three-car garage & studio, pool, driveway, septic system, and landscaping, with 12,000 cu.yds. of grading and 800 cu.yds. of export.  That application was postponed, according to CCC records.

A month later, the Doudas came back to the CCC with a scaled-back 5,804 square foot, 35-foot high, two-story single family residence, a 1,092 square foot garage, a septic system, and a pool and spa.

They needed a permit from the CCC.  Unfortunately for the Doudas, the CCC staff  recommended denial of their second permit application.  The Coastal Commission staff believed the permit was inconsistent with the local coastal plan and since the property had coastal sage scrub and chaparral and was, therefore, an environmentally sensitive habitat, and not conducive to such invasive development. 

The Commissioners voted 8-0 against approval of the second application.

When they were before the CCC, the Doudas did not object to the Commission's authority to protect scenic and visual resources in the coastal zone.  Consequently, the Doudas failed to exhaust their administrative remedies and lost that point. 

Finally, since the Los Angeles County land use plan originally did not designate the Doudas' property as environmentally sensitive, but the Commission still had the authority to make the designation under the LA plan. 

The Commission made the designation of the Doudas' property as environmentally sensitive.

The long and short of this case is a bit hard to predict.  Since the Doudas did not raise objections at the hearing, then they may still have the ability to get a permit, but six years later you have to wonder why they just didn't reapply.  If the CCC denies the Doudas' permit application in its entirety, then the CCC has to buy the property because it will have been inversely condemned.  Inverse condemnation occurs when a government agency prohibits development of a property. 

When the government allows a reasonable use of the land, say in this instance a 2,500 square foot, 15-foot high, one-story single family residence, a 500 square foot garage, a septic system, and a small pool and spa on a portion of the property not visible from the road and on a portion of the property where there's no coastal sage scrub or chaparral, then there's no inverse condemnation.

The facts reported in the appellate court decision are insufficient to tell whether my wild guess is even accurate, but the CCC likely doesn't want to buy a multi-million dollar property and then designate it as open space.  We haven't seen the last of this case, but it's certainly a conundrum at this point.

Printer friendly page Permalink Email to a friend Posted by J. Craig Williams on Monday, February 11, 2008 at 23:17 Comments Closed (0) |
 
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