Forgive us, dear readers, but your faithful servant has to lie down for a bit to recover from the shock. None other than the Los Angeles Times, the usual haven of NIMBYism, has come out editorially in favor of — dare we say it? — private property rights. And not just any ol’ property rights, but property rights in what is usually referred to around here as “unspoiled” land.
It seems that a fellow named Mohamed Hadid acquired some land near the picturesque Franklin Canyon Park in the mountains near — where else? — Beverly Hills, and evidently being a rational sort, wants to build some homes there, for which this land is zoned. Ah, but this displeases local NIMBYs who over the years have been using it for hiking and other recreational activities. So the NIMBYs feel that by their use of Hadid’s land over the years a trail easement has been established by prescription. But wait. There is a moral dimension to this. Quoth the Times: “Even though that may be true, we don’t think it’s right. This is Hadid’s land; his and the previous owners’ generosity in allowing others to use it up to this point shouldn’t be repaid by lawsuits or by requiring him to give up or sell his land.” Editorial, Franklin Canyon Hikers: Treading on Private Property, L.A. Times, April 27, 2011. Go to here.
Wow! What will they think of next down at Times-Mirror Square?
You don’t suppose the Times will now further develop its newfound respect for private property rights outside of Beverly Hills, like in the context of, say, the doings of the California Coastal Commission, those wonderful folks who at times tend to confuse the regulatoty state police power with the power of a police state, do you? Or with regard to the California courts that were aptly characterized by the dean of the nation’s land-use bar, the late Richard Babcock, when he observed that “In California, the courts have elevated government arrogance to an art form.” We may be wrong on that, but we don’t recall the Times ever railing against regulatory abuses of property rights before. Is the Times being born again?
So stay tuned and see how Hadid’s saga turns out. In the meantime, you may gain a more realistic idea of what California land-use law is like with regard to nice guys who let others use their land, by perusing Michael M. Berger’s, Nice Guys Finish Last — At Least They Lose Their Property, 8 Cal. West. L. Rev. 75 (1975).