Lot Line Adjustment Application Jurisdiction In California

In Landgate, Inc. v. California Coastal Com. (1998) a landowner wanted to develop a parcel, the borders of which had been previously altered with the permission of the county. In fact, based on the lot line adjustment, the county had built a road along one side of the lot. However, the lot line adjustment had not been approved by the California Coastal Commission. The Coastal Commission refused to approve the development permit because it believed it had jurisdiction over the lot line adjustment and it was unwilling to approve it on the merits. The landowner then brought mandate action in which it successfully established that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the lot line adjustment. Following remand with directions not to question the validity of the lot line adjustment issue, the commission approved the developer's project. The developer then sued the commission, alleging that it had been subject to a two-year taking while it was compelled to defeat the commission's assertion of jurisdiction over the lot line adjustment. In finding that no temporary taking had occurred, the Supreme Court concluded that the plaintiff landowner "has not demonstrated that the development delay between February 1991 and February 1993 was due to anything other than a bona fide dispute over the legality of [plaintiff's] lot and the Commission's jurisdictional authority over the lot line adjustment. Such delay is an incident of property ownership and not a taking of property. Although [plaintiff] was in the unfortunate position of suffering from a delay not of its own making, the same can be said of any governmental mistake or, for that matter, any of a number of possible bottlenecks in the development process." ( Landgate, supra, 17 Cal. 4th at p. 1031.) In this regard we note the recent opinion in Mills Land & Water Co. v. City of Huntington Beach (Cal. App..) (Mills Land). In that case the plaintiff made repeated attempts over a lengthy period of time to obtain permission for specific development proposals which were denied because of delays in adopting a land use plan acceptable to the Coastal Commission. We agree with the Mills Land court that in light of the planning history any further development application would have been futile. However, the court in Mills Land did not consider whether, notwithstanding the futility of seeking an application while the city was processing a land use plan, the city could avoid liability by showing that the planning delay served a legitimate governmental purpose. (Cf. Landgate, supra, 17 Cal. 4th at pp. 1020-1022.)