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Avco Community Developers, Inc. v. South Coast Regional Commission

Supreme Court of California
553 P.2d 546 (Cal. 1976)


The California Coastal Zone Conservation Act of 1972 (the Act) required that on or after February 1, 1973, anyone desiring to perform any development within a designated coastal zone obtain a permit from the California Coastal Zone Commission (the Commission). The Act provided an exemption by allowing a developer to proceed after February 1, 1973 if the developer had gained a vested right to do so by obtaining a building permit, commencing construction, and performing substantial work in reliance on the permit before that date. Avco Community Developers, Inc. (Avco) (plaintiff) owned land in Orange County, California, including a tract within the coastal zone, which had been zoned in 1971 for a community development to be built by Avco. In 1972, a subdivision map was approved for the tract, and a permit was issued that did not refer to any specific building or building site. Avco performed studies for the development of the tract but did not begin construction prior to February 1, 1973. Avco applied to the South Coast Regional Commission (defendant) for an exemption to the building-permit requirement but was denied. Avco unsuccessfully sought a writ of mandate from the trial court to compel the exemption. Avco appealed, arguing it had obtained a vested right under the Act and therefore could continue with development. Avco further argued it should have been entitled to a building permit upon application, so long as the physical requirements of the building code were met, because the subdivision itself had already been approved. Finally, Avco argued that it had a vested right, because the planned subdivision served the public interest and Orange County was estopped from enforcing the Act against Avco due to the terms of a prior contract between Avco and Orange County for the sale of beach property.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Mosk, J.)

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