Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n,
483 U.S. 825 (1987)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Nollan v. California Coastal Comm'n, 483 U.S. 825 (1987)

Nollan v. California Coastal Commission

No. 86-133

Argued March 30, 1987

Decided June 26, 1987

483 U.S. 825


The California Coastal Commission granted a permit to appellants to replace a small bungalow on their beachfront lot with a larger house upon the condition that they allow the public an easement to pass across their beach, which was located between two public beaches. The County Superior Court granted appellants a writ of administrative mandamus and directed that the permit condition be struck. However, the State Court of Appeal reversed, ruling that imposition of the condition did not violate the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment, as incorporated against the States by the Fourteenth Amendment.


1. Although the outright taking of an uncompensated, permanent, public access easement would violate the Takings Clause, conditioning appellants' rebuilding permit on their granting such an easement would be lawful land use regulation if it substantially furthered governmental purposes that would justify denial of the permit. The government's power to forbid particular land uses in order to advance some legitimate police power purpose includes the power to condition such use upon some concession by the owner, even a concession of property rights, so long as the condition furthers the same governmental purpose advanced as justification for prohibiting the use. Pp. 483 U. S. 831-837.

2. Here, the Commission's imposition of the access easement condition cannot be treated as an exercise of land use regulation power, since the condition does not serve public purposes related to the permit requirement. Of those put forth to justify it -- protecting the public's ability to see the beach, assisting the public in overcoming a perceived "psychological" barrier to using the beach, and preventing beach congestion -- none is plausible. Moreover, the Commission's justification for the access requirement unrelated to land use regulation -- that it is part of a comprehensive program to provide beach access arising from prior coastal permit decisions -- is simply an expression of the belief that the public interest will be served by a continuous strip of publicly accessible beach. Although the State is free to advance its "comprehensive program" by exercising its eminent domain power and paying for access easements, it

Page 483 U. S. 826

cannot compel coastal residents alone to contribute to the realization of that goal. Pp. 483 U. S. 838-842.

177 Cal.App.3d 719, 223 Cal.Rptr. 28, reversed.

SCALIA, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which REHNQUIST, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post p. 483 U. S. 842. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post p. 483 U. S. 865. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BLACKMUN, J., joined, post p. 483 U. S. 866.

Page 483 U. S. 827

Primary Holding

A government agency cannot impose a condition when approving a private property owner's permit unless it has an essential nexus connecting it to a legitimate state interest.


The Nollans sought a permit to build a home on their beachfront property, but the California Coastal Commission was concerned that their home would impede the public view of the beach. As a result, the Commission imposed certain conditions on the Nollans, including the granting of an easement to the public that would allow others to move along their property to public beaches in the vicinity. The Nollans argued that this condition violated their Fifth Amendment rights by depriving them of property without due process. While they succeeded in obtaining an injunction against the condition in the lower court, the appeals court reinstated it.



  • Antonin Scalia (Author)
  • William Hubbs Rehnquist
  • Byron Raymond White
  • Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr.
  • Sandra Day O'Connor

The only ways in which a land-use regulation constitutes a government taking are if it does not advance a legitimate government interest or if it removes all economically viable use of the land from an owner. If the condition is connected to an interest other than the reason for denying the permit without the condition, there is no legitimate interest being advanced. The government cannot be allowed to use conditions as a means of extortion from owners for state interests unrelated to those affected by the permit. Scalia felt that blocking the public view was different from interfering with public access to the beach, so the condition was arbitrary and constituted a taking because it did not advance a legitimate state interest related to the permit.


  • William Joseph Brennan, Jr. (Author)
  • Thurgood Marshall


  • Harry Andrew Blackmun (Author)


  • John Paul Stevens (Author)
  • Harry Andrew Blackmun

Case Commentary

This decision produced the essential nexus standard that later was combined with a rough proportionality requirement in evaluating whether a permit condition is valid.

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