Law School Case Brief
Agins v. Tiburon - 447 U.S. 255, 100 S. Ct. 2138 (1980)
The application of a general zoning law to particular property effects a taking if the ordinance does not substantially advance legitimate state interests or denies an owner economically viable use of his land. The determination that governmental action constitutes a taking is, in essence, a determination that the public at large, rather than a single owner, must bear the burden of an exercise of state power in the public interest. Although no precise rule determines when property has been taken, the question necessarily requires a weighing of private and public interests.
After landowners had acquired five acres of unimproved land in City of Tiburton for residential development, the city was required by California law to prepare a general plan governing land use and the development of open-space land. In response, the city adopted zoning ordinances that placed landowners’ property in a zone in which property may be devoted to one-family dwellings, accessory buildings, and open-space uses, with density restrictions permitting landowners to build between one and five single-family residences on their tract. Without having sought approval for development of their tract under the ordinances, landowners brought suit against the city in state court, alleging that the city had taken their property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments, and seeking, inter alia, a declaration that the zoning ordinances were facially unconstitutional. The city's demurrer claiming that the complaint failed to state a cause of action was sustained by the trial court, and the California Supreme Court affirmed.
Did the City take the landowners’ property without just compensation in violation of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments?
The U.S. Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the city's zoning ordinances on their face did not take the landowners' property without just compensation, the zoning ordinances substantially advanced legitimate governmental goals, and the zoning ordinances did not prevent the best use of the landowners' property even though they limited development. The Courrt further held that the city's institution and abandonment of eminent domain proceedings did not constitute a taking.
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