Friends of Martin’s Beach v. Martin’s Beach 1, LLC

To prove a common law dedication, plaintiff need only show the owner’s intent to dedicate the property to public use and the public’s acceptance of the dedication; no written conveyance or acceptance by a public entity is required.  Cal. Const., art. X, sec. 4, declares that riparian owners must permit the state a right of way across their land to the water when it is required for a public purpose.  Without deciding exactly what this means—is it self-executing, or must the state exercise its eminent domain power to acquire an easement—this decision holds that the provision cannot be raised as a restriction on title acquired before the constitutional provision was first adopted in 1879 and particularly not against persons whose title derives from federal land patents confirmed under the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.  However, the decision holds that plaintiff raised a triable issue of fact sufficient to defeat defendant’s summary judgment motion on the claim for dedication of a road to the beach.  Prior owners of the property had for decades allowed and even encouraged public access to the beach along the road.  All that is needed for an express common law dedication of property to public use is an intention to dedicate on the owner’s part and the public’s acceptance of the dedication.  Neither acceptance by a public entity nor any formal written conveyance is required.  Encouragement of public use of the easement showed the intention to dedicate.  Public use for decades established acceptance.  The fact that the prior owners charged an admission fee for some period of time might rebut the showing of intent to dedicate, but the evidence was introduced too late and was too vague to disprove dedication as a matter of law.  The same was true of evidence that the prior owners had run businesses such as a general store that profited from public use of the road to the beach.

California Court of Appeal, First District, Division 2 (Stewart, J.); April 27, 2016; 2016 WL 1704100


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