Regulatory Takings

Property owners often allege that land use and environmental regulations give rise to an unconstitutional “taking” of their property, requiring the regulating entity to pay monetary compensation. SMW is California’s premier firm in defending public entities in regulatory takings litigation. We have successfully litigated dozens of cases involving takings and related challenges, including equal protection and due process challenges. The firm also advises public entities on how to minimize takings exposure in regulatory and permitting decisions, and assists public entities with nexus studies to support proposed regulations and exactions. Sample matters include the following:

photo courtesy of Roger Hooper, Sr.
Secret Harbor, Lake Tahoe
  • Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA): The firm successfully defended TRPA in numerous takings challenges to its land use regulations, including the United States Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302 (2002), a suit brought by more than 400 Lake Tahoe property owners.
  • City and County of San Francisco: Prior to joining the firm, an attorney now partner with the firm successfully defended San Francisco’s Residential Hotel Ordinance before the California Supreme Court in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, 27 Cal.4th 643 (2002), which established standards for development impact fees in California. The firm then successfully defended the San Francisco ordinance in the United States Supreme Court in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, 545 U.S. 323 (2005), a landmark decision that preserves local control of land use regulation.
  • Town of Tiburon: The firm successfully defended Tiburon in a groundbreaking United States Supreme Court case upholding the Town's open space ordinance, Agins v. Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255 (1980).
  • In addition to its victories in the above regulatory takings cases, attorneys with the firm have won numerous regulatory takings cases in other courts, including Guggenheim v. City of Goleta, 638 F.3d 1111 (9th Cir. 2010) (en banc); Tahoe-Sierra Pres. Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Reg'l Planning Agency, 322 F.3d 1064 (9th Cir. 2003); Golden Gate Hotel Ass’n v. City & County of San Francisco, 18 F.3d 1482 (9th Cir. 1996), aff’d, 76 F.3d 386 (9th Cir. 1996); Commercial Builders v. City of Sacramento, 941 F.2d 872 (9th Cir. 1991); De Anza v. County of Santa Cruz, 936 F.2d 1084 (9th Cir. 1991); Barancik v. County of Marin, 872 F.2d 834 (9th Cir. 1988); Loewenstein v. City of Lafayette, 103 Cal.App.4th 718 (2002); Toigo v. Town of Ross, 70 Cal.App.4th 309 (1998); Guinnane v. San Francisco City Planning Comm., 209 Cal.App.3d 732 (1989); Terminals Equipment Co. v. City and County of San Francisco, 221 Cal.App.3d 234 (1990).

Learn more about regulatory takings cases handled by attorneys with the firm