December 2005

by Sophie Rowlands

Many property owners are loathe to allow the public onto their land for any reason at all. That being said, many cities and counties routinely impose as a condition of approval a requirement that the project include publically accessible trails, maintained by the underlying property owner or homeowners’ association. The California legislature recognizes the potential hardship resulting from this situation, and has crafted special liability protections. Pursuant to Civil Code section 846, any landowner who permits the public to enter and use his land without charging a fee is completely absolved of all liability and responsibility when, as inevitably happens, a litigious member of the public gets injured for whatever reason on the property and decides to sue. Provided the owner didn’t willfully or maliciously fail to disclose some dangerous condition on the property, the statute is quite broad in its powers and has been interpreted to protect property owners from liability for injuries stemming from a wide range of activities, from spelunking to hunting to hang gliding. Continue Reading They Sue Horses, Don’t They?

by William W. Abbott Although never verified as the source, Mark Twain is considered the originator of the quote “whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” Had he lived until the enactment of CEQA, perhaps he would have added something to his saying. As land use practitioners know, the water supply/CEQA/Subdivision Map Act interface has raised the bar in terms of what it takes for large development projects to move forward. A repeated challenge in this area is the dichotomy between theoretical water deliveries by the state and federal water contractors and actual deliveries, the difference commonly referred to as “paper water.” As readers of this newsletter may remember, a development project EIR analysis of water supply which concludes that adequate water exists based upon paper water is likely to be set aside by a reviewing court (see the March 2003 Abbott & Kindermann article on Santa Clarita Organization for Planning the Environment v. County of Los Angeles). This has been the trend in a number of court decisions going back to at least the year 2000. Jump forward to 2005, and the water supply challenge is neither fixed nor improving, and EIRs are still being successfully challenged. Continue Reading Paper Water and Project Approval