COMMUNITY RIGHTS COUNSEL DEFENDS
CALIFORNIA FIRE SAFETY PROTECTIONS
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Doug Kendall or Tim Dowling, 202-296-6889
Community Rights Counsel (CRC) filed a detailed legal analysis
with the California Supreme Court this week defending the
right of local communities to protect their residents from
death or injury from raging fires and other natural disasters.
The case -- County of Riverside v.
Superior Court for the County of Riverside
--involves a 165-tract residential subdivision in the
County of Riverside, California. Both state and county
authorities have designated the location as a severely
hazardous fire area. In accordance with county and state
law, as well as the recommendations of the county fire
department and state Department of Forestry and Fire
Protection, the county issued a permit for the
development that requires the developer to provide for a
secondary access road. The road would ensure that
subdivision residents have an alternate escape route if a
fire or other natural disaster cuts off the existing
avenue of flight from the area. The access requirement
also would enhance accessibility for fire trucks,
ambulances, and other emergency vehicles.
The lower courts struck down this safety
access requirement under the Takings Clause of the Fifth
Amendment. Applying a 1994 U.S. Supreme Court case called
Dolan v. City of Tigard, they ruled that the
county failed to show that the access requirement is
"roughly proportional" to the risks posed by
the development. The lower court not only invalidated the
access requirement, but also allowed the subdivision to
go forward without it. As a result, the ruling prevents
the County from considering whether the homes should be
built at all in the absence of adequate secondary access.
CRC's submission to the California
Supreme Court shows that the safety access requirement is
both reasonable and lawful. The county's interest in
protecting the public from fires or other natural
disasters is one of the most compelling governmental
interests imaginable. Contrary to the lower court ruling,
neither Dolan nor the Takings Clause requires
the county to show how many lives might be saved by the
secondary access road, or to weigh the risk of injury or
death against the cost of providing for the road.
Moreover, the lower courts exceeded their authority under
the Takings Clause by usurping local land use planning
authority and precluding the county from denying the
development permit altogether.
To read The "Right"
to Build in Harm's Way
by Doug Kendall, published in The Press-Enterprise (Riverside,
CA), click here.
about other cases where CRC is defending community
protections, click here.