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City of Palm Springs v. Living Desert Reserve

California Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 2
82 Cal. Rptr. 2d 859 (Ct. App.), review denied (1999)


In 1986, a will was executed conveying 30 acres of land to the City of Palm Springs (plaintiff) on the express condition that it be forever used as “a public park for the exposition of desert fauna and flora.” The deed provided that if this condition were breached, the land would pass to the Living Desert Reserve (defendant) and the City would forfeit all rights to it. In 1989, the City determined it would rather use the land for a golf course, and attempted to purchase Living Desert’s reversionary interest. These negotiations failed. In March 1993 the City filed a complaint in eminent domain to gain possession of the land, and applied for immediate possession of the reversionary interest. The trial court granted immediate possession. In October 1993, Living Desert cross-complained against the City, alleging that the condition had been breached and the City’s interest in the land had reverted to Living Desert. The trial court held that Living Desert’s reversionary interest was not compensable. Living Desert appealed, and the state Attorney General joined as amicus curiae. Living Desert argued that the normal rules governing compensation of reversionary interests do not apply when a condemnor uses eminent domain to avoid complying with conditions attached to a gift of property. The Attorney General argued that the land was given to the city in trust, not in fee simple subject to a condition subsequent.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (McKinster, J.)

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