The California Coastal Commission is set to empower local government to take thousands of properties through eminent domain along 1,100 miles of coastline to prepare for sea level rise.
Despite California being battered by 4-8 inches of torrential rain and flooding from an El Niño weather cycle, E&E News reported that the State of California in late January will authorize eminent domain authority for local jurisdictions to implement a "managed retreat" policy that will allow taking and demolishing coastal homes and businesses.
The California Coastal Commission circulated an 87-page "Draft Residential Adaptation Guidance" in March regarding how communities could proactively address sea level rise impacts through Local Coastal Programs (LCPs). Although the CCC draft did not adopt specific retreat guidance, the California Special Districts magazine expects that the CCC will predict a sea level rise of 2.5-5.5 feet and the elimination of 31-67 percent of Southern California beaches by the year 2100.
CCC retreat guidance is expected to also entail dismantling and relocating of dozens of wastewater treatment and power plants; 250 miles of highway; 1,500 miles of roads; and 110 miles of railways, according to the latest California Special Districts magazine.
The CCC does not have the direct power to condemn properties, but under the California Coastal Act, it can task the local cities and counties with coastal zone land use rules for maintaining minimum beach width. The CCC has enormous practical power, since directive language must be recorded in property deeds and disclosed to future buyers.
CCC proposed guidance for the first time would prioritize local entities condemning and taking private homes and businesses to protect shoreline wildlife from "coastal squeeze" caused by retaining walls and other fixed development preventing "landward migration of the beach that would have otherwise occurred."
Nossaman's Eminent Domain and Valuation Group, which provides lawyers for valuation disputes between public agencies, landowners, and businesses, stated that California eminent domain "regulatory taking" requires paying owners fair compensation based on:
(1) the economic impact of the regulation on the claimant; (2) the extent to which the regulation has interfered with the claimant's reasonable, distinct investment-backed expectations; and (3) the character of the government action.
But Nossaman warned that CCC issuing retreat guidance has the potential to negatively impact coastal property values due to "precondemnation damages" associated with the risk that properties could be taken through eminent domain any time over the next 80 years.
Many coastal homeowners have scoffed at the idea that California's cities that suffer from huge indebtedness and underfunded pension liabilities will have the financial capability to pay the big bucks to take many coastal properties under eminent domain.
But Nossaman expects that the California Coastal Commission's guidance will allow local jurisdictions to fund the cost of using eminent domain to manage their retreat by "buying the homes and then renting them out until they're damaged."
The supposedly settled science that climate change is melting the poles and causing massive sea level rise has come under severe scientific scrutiny over the last few years. The doomsday models of climate change scientists are having a difficult time explaining why the European Alps are currently experiencing the heaviest snowfall in 100 years, the Arctic polar bear population is increasing, and the Greenland ice sheet just grew to its sixth highest surface mass on record.
California's politics has been dominated by what the Public Policy Institute of California coined as the coastal-inland divide, with the coastal elites voting Democratic and the inland lower-middle-class areas voting Republican.
It will be interesting to see how coastal progressive elites respond to having their beachfront homes taken through eminent domain, to be then profitably rented out for big bucks by their local government.