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1st Eng. Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Los Angeles County Case Brief

Summary of 1st Eng. Evangelical Lutheran Church v. Los Angeles County, 482 U S 304  [1987] 

Relevant Facts: Pl, 1st purchased land on which it operated a campground, known as “Lutherglen.” The land is located in a canyon along the banks of a creek that is the natural drainage channel for a watershed area, adjoined by the National Forest. In 1978, a flood destroyed Lutherglen’s buildings. In response to the flood, appellee Los Angeles County, in 1979, adopted an interim ordinance prohibiting the construction or reconstruction of any building or structure in an interim flood protection area that included the land on which Lutherglen had stood.

Legal Issue(s): Whether the Just Compensation Clause requires the Govt to pay for “temporary,” regulatory takings of private property?

Court’s Holding: Yes

Procedure: Pl sought reverse condemnation and tort damages from county, Df moved to strike, Super Ct struck the complaint; CA Ct of App Affirmed; CA S. Ct. denied review; U S S Ct Reversed and Remanded

Law or Rule(s): Nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.

Court Rationale:   “Results in an alteration in the property interest taken- from one of full ownership to one of temporary use and occupation . .” require that “compensation would be measured by the principles normally governing the taking of a right to use property temporarily.”  Though temporary compensation is required for the Govt’s interference w/ the use of the property.  Where the burden on the property owner in extinguishing a leasehold interest for a period of years results from govt action amting to a taking, the Just Comp Cl requires that the govt pay the landowner for the value of the use during that period. “It is the owner’s loss, not the taker’s gain, which is the measure of the value.”Where the govt’s activities have already worked a taking of all use of property, no subsequent action by the govt can relieve it of the duty to provide compensation for the period during the taking was effective.  Invalidation of the ordinance w/o fair compensation for the value of the use during the period would be constitutionally insufficient.

Plaintiff’s Argument: From 1978 until 1985 the ordinance effectively denied the Pl’s use of their property without compensation.

Defendant’s Argument: The ordinance was passed to protect the health and safety of the public and was later abandoned by the county.

DISSENT: If the sovereign chooses not to retain the regulation, repeal will, in virtually all cases, mitigate the overall effect of the regulation so substantially that the slight diminution in value cannot be classified as a taking of the property.  Regulatory takings and physical takings are very different.  A regulatory program that adversely affects property values does not constitute a taking unless it destroys a major portion of the property’s value.  Only the most extreme regulations can constitute takings.



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