LAs palm trees rule over billboards
October 26, 2006
In June 2000, just in advance of the Democratic National Convention, the City of Los Angeles planted rows of palm trees along Century Boulevard. Century Boulevard is the primary access route to and from Los Angeles International Airport. Regency Outdoor Advertising owned numerous roadside billboards along Century Boulevard. Regency claimed that the palm trees made many of its roadside billboards less visible. Sounds like a good thing to me.
Regency sued the city for inverse condemnation, claiming that Los Angeles had taken its property without due process and payment of just compensation in violation of the California Constitution.Regency claimed the citys landscaping damaged its right of visibility, i.e., the right of the property owner to have the property seen from the adjacent public street.The citys expert testified that the billboards had a value of more than $4.5 million before the landscaping and slightly less than $4 million afterward. This gives some idea of the value of well-placed billboards (which may partially explain the debacle of billboards on Interstate 80 entering Reno from California).
The trial court ruled in favor of Los Angeles, stating, Planting of trees on Century Boulevard as part of the highway beautification project does not amount to taking of plaintiffs property. The Court of Appeal agreed.The California Supreme Court wrote that the palm trees may in fact enhance both the travel and commerce along the boulevard. The court added, Owners and occupiers of roadside property do not possess a right to be seen that requires the payment of compensation from municipal landscaping efforts having no injurious effect on any property rights other than the claimed right to visibility.Property owners along public roads may be compensated if portions of their physical property are taken or if their access rights to the public road are denied, but there is no independent Constitutional right to be seen from a public road.That makes sense in this case.Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon, with offices in Truckee, South Lake Tahoe and Reno. He is a mediator and was the Governor’s appointee to the Bipartisan McPherson Commission and the California Fair Political Practices Commission. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at the firms Web site: http://www.portersimon.com.