Dropping the Other Shoe in Half Moon Bay

Following up on its November 28th decision in Yamagiwa v. City of Half Moon Bay, awarding $36,795,000 against the city for its taking of the plaintiffs’ 24.7-acre parcel by first flooding it and then refusing permission to develop it, asserting that it was now a “wetland,” the U.S. District Court issued an order directing the entry of judgment and awarding interest on the award at the rate of 9.62 %, which comes to over $5000 per day. The order rejects the city’s contention that the date of value should be March 2000, the date on which the city denied the owners a coastal development permit, a time when the value of the property was only $12,030,000. This, pointed out the court, would be inconsistent with California law that calls for valuation as of the date of trial (Pierpont Inn, Inc. v. State, 70 Cal.2d 282, 297-298 (1969)). Using the valuation date suggested by the city would deprive the owners of the substantial appreciation of the property that took place in the interim. How substantial? The city contended that the value as of 2000 would have been only $12,030,000, whereas its own appraiser testified at trial to a current value of $26,620,000.


Judgment was entered on December 19th.


Update: The city of Half Moon Bay has retained Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe of San Francisco to represent it on appeal. Orrick beat out the appellate powerhouse Horvitz & Levy and the pro-government true believers Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger. An interesting coincidence: Orrick’s George Yuhas represented the City of Monterey in the U.S. Supreme Court in City of Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes, 526 U.S. 687 (1999) against Michael Berger (now with Manatt, Phelps & Phillips), so it looks like this confrontation has the makings of a return match unseen since Abdul the Bulbul Emir confronted Ivan Skavinsky Skovar. Berger won in Del Monte Dunes on a record of conduct by Monterey that made the Justices recoil with indignation during oral argument. It remains to be seen if they will be similarly moved by Half Moon Bay’s display of chutzpa in first flooding the subject property and then arguing that it was an unusable “wetland” but nevertheless assessing a million dollars against it for sewers that by its lights could never be used.


Update 1/24/08: The City’s motion to amend court findings is now set for February 21st. The court has set April 24th to hear the plaintiffs’ motion for attorney fees and litigation expenses.


For another comment on this case see Ronald Zumbrun, The Cost of Wetlands in Half Moon Bay, [Sacramento] Daily Recorder, Jan. 14, 2008. See also Julia Scott, Half Moon Bay Explores Settlement, San Mateo Times, insideBayArea.com, 1/24/08.


Stay tuned.