By William W. Abbott

Coppinger v. Rawlins (August 14, 2015, E060664) ___ Cal.App.4th ___.

County acceptance of a roadway dedication on a map does not assure acceptance of the roadway into the County maintained highway system.

In 1980, Robinson filed a parcel map, creating two numbered lots and 3 lettered lots: A, B and C. By certificate on the map, the County accepted the dedication offer on Lot A into the County maintained road system, and accepted Lots B and C on behalf of the public, but not into the County maintained system, specifying that acceptance would require a separate resolution by the Board of Supervisors.

In 1984, Robinson sold Lot 1 and Lot C to plaintiff Coppinger. The deed referred to the previously recorded parcel map. A property owner located to the rear needed access over Parcels B and C (previously dedicated to the public) and filed an action against Coppinger in 2012. Following the voluntary dismissal by the owner, Coppinger then sued the County and the adjacent property owner. The County and adjacent owner successfully and repeatedly demurred to the complaint and the trial court denied further leave to amend and dismissed the case. Coppinger appealed.

On appeal, Coppinger argued (a) that the County failed to comply with CCP 771.010 by not accepting the road into the County maintained system, and (b) there was a "taking" of Coppinger’s property. The appellate court affirmed the lower court, first determining that nothing obligated the County to accept the road into the County maintained system as formal action by the Board is required. Streets and Highways Code section 941. (See Streets and Highways Code section 1806 for similar action by cities. The history in this case was clear. The Board’s acceptance of the dedication was narrowly and clearly drafted. The acceptance was on behalf of the public, but was not an acceptance into the county maintained system. 

Coppinger’s deed expressly referred to the recorded map, putting Coppinger on notice.

Coppinger’s second argument, a "takings" claim, gained no traction with the appellate court. First, the relinquishment of the property interest was not by Coppinger but its predecessor in interest. Nothing was taken from the plaintiff, the current owner, by the County. Further, Coppinger was unable to argue how it could step into the shoes of Rominger, its predecessor in interest to assert a "takings" claim.

William W. Abbott is a partner at Abbott & Kindermann, LLP. For questions relating to this article or any other California land use, real estate, environmental and/or planning issues contact Abbott & Kindermann, LLP at (916) 456-9595.

The information presented in this article should not be construed to be formal legal advice by Abbott & Kindermann, LLP, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Because of the changing nature of this area of the law and the importance of individual facts, readers are encouraged to seek independent counsel for advice regarding their individual legal issues.