Supreme Court of the United States
535 U.S. 302 (2002)


Stevens, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which O’Connor, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer, JJ., joined. Rehnquist, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, J., and Thomas, J., joined. Thomas, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Scalia, J., joined.

Stevens, J.


The relevant facts are undisputed. The Court of Appeals, while reversing the District Court on a question of law, accepted all of its findings of fact, and no party challenges those findings. All agree that Lake Tahoe is “uniquely beautiful,” 34 F.Supp.2d 1226, 1230 (D.Nev.1999), that President Clinton was right to call it a “ ‘national treasure that must be protected and preserved,’ “ ibid., and that Mark Twain aptly described the clarity of its waters as “ ‘not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so,’ “ ibid. (emphasis added) (quoting M. Twain, Roughing It 174–175 (1872)).

Lake Tahoe’s exceptional clarity is attributed to the absence of algae that obscures the waters of most other lakes. Historically, the lack of nitrogen and phosphorous, which nourish the growth of algae, has ensured the transparency of its waters.2 Unfortunately, the lake’s pristine state has deteriorated rapidly over the past 40 years; increased land development in the Lake Tahoe Basin (Basin) has threatened the “ ‘noble sheet of blue water’ “ beloved by Twain and countless others. 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1230. As the District Court found, “[d]ramatic decreases in clarity first began to be noted in the 1950’s/early 1960’s, shortly after development at the lake began in earnest.” Id., at 1231. The lake’s unsurpassed beauty, it seems, is the wellspring of its undoing.

The upsurge of development in the area has caused “increased nutrient loading of the lake largely because of the increase in impervious coverage of land in the Basin resulting from that development.” Ibid.

“Impervious coverage—such as asphalt, concrete, buildings, and even packed dirt—prevents precipitation from being absorbed by the soil. Instead, the water is gathered and concentrated by such coverage. Larger amounts of water flowing off a driveway or a roof have more erosive force than scattered raindrops falling over a dispersed area—especially one covered with indigenous vegetation, which softens the impact of the raindrops themselves.” Ibid.

Given this trend, the District Court predicted that “unless the process is stopped, the lake will lose its clarity and its trademark blue color, becoming green and opaque for eternity.” 3

Those areas in the Basin that have steeper slopes produce more runoff; therefore, they are usually considered “high hazard” lands. Moreover, certain areas near streams or wetlands known as “Stream Environment Zones” (SEZs) are especially vulnerable to the impact of development because, in their natural state, they act as filters for much of the debris that runoff carries. Because “[t]he most obvious response to this problem ... is to restrict development around the lake—especially in SEZ lands, as well as in areas already naturally prone to runoff,” id., at 1232, conservation efforts have focused on controlling growth in these high hazard areas.

In the 1960’s, when the problems associated with the burgeoning development began to receive significant attention, jurisdiction over the Basin, which occupies 501 square miles, was shared by the States of California and Nevada, five counties, several municipalities, and the Forest Service of the Federal Government. In 1968, the legislatures of the two States adopted the Tahoe Regional Planning Compact, see 1968 Cal. Stats., ch. 998, p.1900, §  1; 1968 Nev. Stats. 4, which Congress approved in 1969, Pub.L. 91–148, 83 Stat. 360. The compact set goals for the protection and preservation of the lake and created TRPA as the agency assigned “to coordinate and regulate development in the Basin and to conserve its natural resources.” Lake Country Estates, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 440 U.S. 391, 394, 99 S.Ct. 1171, 59 L.Ed.2d 401 (1979).

Pursuant to the compact, in 1972 TRPA adopted a Land Use Ordinance that divided the land in the Basin into seven “land capability districts,” based largely on steepness but also taking into consideration other factors affecting runoff. Each district was assigned a “land coverage coefficient—a recommended limit on the percentage of such land that could be covered by impervious surface.” Those limits ranged from 1% for districts 1 and 2 to 30% for districts 6 and 7. Land in districts 1, 2, and 3 is characterized as “high hazard” or “sensitive,” while land in districts 4, 5, 6, and 7 is “low hazard” or “non-sensitive.” The SEZ lands, though often treated as a separate category, were actually a subcategory of district 1. 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1232.

Unfortunately, the 1972 ordinance allowed numerous exceptions and did not significantly limit the construction of new residential housing. California became so dissatisfied with TRPA that it withdrew its financial support and unilaterally imposed stricter regulations on the part of the Basin located in California. Eventually the two States, with the approval of Congress and the President, adopted an extensive amendment to the compact that became effective on December 19, 1980. Pub.L. 96–551, 94 Stat. 3233; Cal. Govt Code Ann. §  66801 (West Supp.2002); Nev.Rev.Stat. §  277.200 (1980).

The 1980 Tahoe Regional Planning Compact (Compact) redefined the structure, functions, and voting procedures of TRPA, App. 37, 94 Stat. 3235–3238; 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1233, and directed it to develop regional “environmental threshold carrying capacities”—a term that embraced “standards for air quality, water quality, soil conservation, vegetation preservation and noise.” 94 Stat. 3235, 3239. The Compact provided that TRPA “shall adopt” those standards within 18 months, and that “[w]ithin 1 year after” their adoption (i.e., by June 19, 1983), it “shall” adopt an amended regional plan that achieves and maintains those carrying capacities. Id., at 3240. The Compact also contained a finding by the Legislatures of California and Nevada “that in order to make effective the regional plan as revised by [TRPA], it is necessary to halt temporarily works of development in the region which might otherwise absorb the entire capability of the region for further development or direct it out of harmony with the ultimate plan.” Id., at 3243. Accordingly, for the period prior to the adoption of the final plan (“or until May 1, 1983, whichever is earlier”), the Compact itself prohibited the development of new subdivisions, condominiums, and apartment buildings, and also prohibited each city and county in the Basin from granting any more permits in 1981, 1982, or 1983 than had been granted in 1978.4

During this period TRPA was also working on the development of a regional water quality plan to comply with the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. §  1288 (1994 ed.). Despite the fact that TRPA performed these obligations in “good faith and to the best of its ability,” 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1233, after a few months it concluded that it could not meet the deadlines in the Compact. On June 25, 1981, it therefore enacted Ordinance 81–5 imposing the first of the two moratoria on development that petitioners challenge in this proceeding. The ordinance provided that it would become effective on August 24, 1981, and remain in effect pending the adoption of the permanent plan required by the Compact. App. 159, 191.

The District Court made a detailed analysis of the ordinance, noting that it might even prohibit hiking or picnicking on SEZ lands, but construed it as essentially banning any construction or other activity that involved the removal of vegetation or the creation of land coverage on all SEZ lands, as well as on class 1, 2, and 3 lands in California. 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1233– 1235. Some permits could be obtained for such construction in Nevada if certain findings were made. Id., at 1235. It is undisputed, however, that Ordinance 81–5 prohibited the construction of any new residences on SEZ lands in either State and on class 1, 2, and 3 lands in California.

Given the complexity of the task of defining “environmental threshold carrying capacities” and the division of opinion within TRPA’s governing board, the District Court found that it was “unsurprising” that TRPA failed to adopt those thresholds until August 26, 1982, roughly two months after the Compact deadline. Ibid. Under a liberal reading of the Compact, TRPA then had until August 26, 1983, to adopt a new regional plan. 94 Stat. 3240. “Unfortunately, but again not surprisingly, no regional plan was in place as of that date.” 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1235. TRPA therefore adopted Resolution 83–21, “which completely suspended all project reviews and approvals, including the acceptance of new proposals,” and which remained in effect until a new regional plan was adopted on April 26, 1984. Thus, Resolution 83–21 imposed an 8–month moratorium prohibiting all construction on high hazard lands in either State. In combination, Ordinance 81–5 and Resolution 83–21 effectively prohibited all construction on sensitive lands in California and on all SEZ lands in the entire Basin for 32 months, and on sensitive lands in Nevada (other than SEZ lands) for eight months. It is these two moratoria that are at issue in this case.

On the same day that the 1984 plan was adopted, the State of California filed an action seeking to enjoin its implementation on the ground that it failed to establish land-use controls sufficiently stringent to protect the Basin. Id., at 1236. The District Court entered an injunction that was upheld by the Court of Appeals and remained in effect until a completely revised plan was adopted in 1987. Both the 1984 injunction and the 1987 plan contained provisions that prohibited new construction on sensitive lands in the Basin. As the case comes to us, however, we have no occasion to consider the validity of those provisions.


Approximately two months after the adoption of the 1984 Plan, petitioners filed parallel actions against TRPA and other defendants in federal courts in Nevada and California that were ultimately consolidated for trial in the District of Nevada. The petitioners include the Tahoe Sierra Preservation Council, a nonprofit membership corporation representing about 2,000 owners of both improved and unimproved parcels of real estate in the Lake Tahoe Basin, and a class of some 400 individual owners of vacant lots located either on SEZ lands or in other parts of districts 1, 2, or 3. Those individuals purchased their properties prior to the effective date of the 1980 Compact, App. 34, primarily for the purpose of constructing “at a time of their choosing” a single-family home “to serve as a permanent, retirement or vacation residence,” id., at 36. When they made those purchases, they did so with the understanding that such construction was authorized provided that “they complied with all reasonable requirements for building.” Ibid.5

Petitioners’ complaints gave rise to protracted litigation that has produced four opinions by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and several published District Court opinions.6 For present purposes, however, we need only describe those courts’ disposition of the claim that three actions taken by TRPA—Ordinance 81–5, Resolution 83–21, and the 1984 regional plan—constituted takings of petitioners’ property without just compensation.7 Indeed, the challenge to the 1984 plan is not before us because both the District Court and the Court of Appeals held that it was the federal injunction against implementing that plan, rather than the plan itself, that caused the post-1984 injuries that petitioners allegedly suffered, and those rulings are not encompassed within our limited grant of certiorari. 8 Thus, we limit our discussion to the lower courts’ disposition of the claims based on the 2–year moratorium (Ordinance 81–5) and the ensuing 8–month moratorium (Resolution 83–21).

The District Court began its constitutional analysis by identifying the distinction between a direct government appropriation of property without just compensation and a government regulation that imposes such a severe restriction on the owner’s use of her property that it produces “nearly the same result as a direct appropriation.” 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1238. The court noted that all of the claims in this case “are of the ‘regulatory takings’ variety.” Id., at 1239. Citing our decision in Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106 (1980), it then stated that a “regulation will constitute a taking when either: (1) it does not substantially advance a legitimate state interest; or (2) it denies the owner economically viable use of her land.” 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1239. The District Court rejected the first alternative based on its finding that “further development on high hazard lands suchas [petitioners’] would lead to significant additional damage to the lake.” Id., at 1240.9 With respect to the second alternative, the court first considered whether the analysis adopted in Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 98 S.Ct. 2646, 57 L.Ed.2d 631 (1978), would lead to the conclusion that TRPA had effected a “partial taking,” and then whether those actions had effected a “total taking.” 10

Emphasizing the temporary nature of the regulations, the testimony that the  “average holding time of a lot in the Tahoe area between lot purchase and home construction is twenty-five years,” and the failure of petitioners to offer specific evidence of harm, the District Court concluded that “consideration of the Penn Central factors clearly leads to the conclusion that there was no taking.” 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1240. In the absence of evidence regarding any of the individual plaintiffs, the court evaluated the “average” purchasers’ intent and found that such purchasers “did not have reasonable, investment-backed expectations that they would be able to build single-family homes on their land within the six-year period involved in this lawsuit.” 11

The District Court had more difficulty with the “total taking” issue. Although it was satisfied that petitioners’ property did retain some value during the moratoria,12 it found that they had been temporarily deprived of “all economically viable use of their land.” Id., at 1245. The court concluded that those actions therefore constituted “categorical” takings under our decision in Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992). It rejected TRPA’s response that Ordinance 81–5 and Resolution 83–21 were “reasonable temporary planning moratoria” that should be excluded from Lucas’ categorical approach. The court thought it “fairly clear” that such interim actions would not have been viewed as takings prior to our decisions in Lucas and First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale v. County of Los Angeles, 482 U.S. 304, 107 S.Ct. 2378, 96 L.Ed.2d 250 (1987), because “[z]oning boards, cities, counties and other agencies used them all the time to ‘maintain the status quo pending study and governmental decision making.’ “ 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1248–1249 (quoting Williams v. Central, 907 P.2d 701, 706 (Colo.App.1995)). After expressing uncertainty as to whether those cases required a holding that moratoria on development automatically effect takings, the court concluded that TRPA’s actions did so, partly because neither the ordinance nor the resolution, even though intended to be temporary from the beginning, contained an express termination date. 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1250–1251.13 Accordingly, it ordered TRPA to pay damages to most petitioners for the 32–month period from August 24, 1981, to April 25, 1984, and to those owning class 1, 2, or 3 property in Nevada for the 8–month period from August 27, 1983, to April 25, 1984. Id., at 1255.

Both parties appealed. TRPA successfully challenged the District Court’s takings determination, and petitioners unsuccessfully challenged the dismissal of their claims based on the 1984 and 1987 plans. Petitioners did not, however, challenge the District Court’s findings or conclusions concerning its application of Penn Central. With respect to the two moratoria, the Ninth Circuit noted that petitioners had expressly disavowed an argument “that the regulations constitute a taking under the ad hoc balancing approach described in Penn Central” and that they did not “dispute that the restrictions imposed on their properties are appropriate means of securing the purpose set forth in the Compact.” 14 Accordingly, the only question before the court was “whether the rule set forth in Lucas applies—that is, whether a categorical taking occurred because Ordinance 81–5 and Resolution 83–21 denied the plaintiffs’ ‘all economically beneficial or productive use of land.’ “ 216 F.3d 764, 773 (C.A.9 2000). Moreover, because petitioners brought only a facial challenge, the narrow inquiry before the Court of Appeals was whether the mere enactment of the regulations constituted a taking.

Contrary to the District Court, the Court of Appeals held that because the regulations had only a temporary impact on petitioners’ fee interest in the properties, no categorical taking had occurred. It reasoned:

“Property interests may have many different dimensions. For example, the dimensions of a property interest may include a physical dimension (which describes the size and shape of the property in question), a functional dimension (which describes the extent to which an owner may use or dispose of the property in question), and a temporal dimension (which describes the duration of the property interest). At base, the plaintiffs’ argument is that we should conceptually sever each plaintiff’s fee interest into discrete segments in at least one of these dimensions—the temporal one—and treat each of those segments as separate and distinct property interests for purposes of takings analysis. Under this theory, they argue that there was a categorical taking of one of those temporal segments.” Id., at 774.

Putting to one side “cases of physical invasion or occupation,” ibid., the court read our cases involving regulatory taking claims to focus on the impact of a regulation on the parcel asa whole. In its view a “planning regulation that prevents the development of a parcel for a temporary period of time is conceptually no different than a land-use restriction that permanently denies all use on a discrete portion of property, or that permanently restricts a type of use across all of the parcel.” Id., at 776. In each situation, a regulation that affects only a portion of the parcel—whether limited by time, use, or space—does not deprive the owner of all economically beneficial use. 15

“Each of these three types of regulation will have an impact on the parcel’s value, because each will affect an aspect of the owner’s ‘use’ of the property—by restricting when the ‘use’ may occur, where the ‘use’ may occur, or how the ‘use’ may occur. Prior to Agins [v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106 (1980) ], the Court had already rejected takings challenges to regulations eliminating all ‘use’ on a portion of the property, and to regulations restricting the type of ‘use’ across the breadth of the property. See Penn Central, 438 U.S. at 130–31 [, 98 S.Ct. 2646]; Keystone Bituminous Coal Ass’n, 480 U.S. at 498–99 [, 107 S.Ct. 1232]; Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 384, 397[, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303] ... (1926) (75% diminution in value caused by zoning law); see also William C. Haas & Co. v. City & County of San Francisco, 605 F.2d 1117, 1120 (9th Cir.1979) (value reduced from $2,000,000 to $100,000). In those cases, the Court ‘uniformly reject [ed] the proposition that diminution in property value, standing alone, can establish a “taking.’ “ Penn Central, 438 U.S. at 131[, 98 S.Ct. 2646] ...; see also Concrete Pipe and Products, Inc. v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust, 508 U.S. 602, 645[, 113 S.Ct. 2264, 124 L.Ed.2d 539] ... (1993). There is no plausible basis on which to distinguish a similar diminution in value that results from a temporary suspension of development.” Id., at 776–777.

The Court of Appeals distinguished Lucas as applying to the “ ‘relatively rare’ “ case in which a regulation denies all productive use of an entire parcel, whereas the moratoria involve only a “temporal ‘slice’ “ of the fee interest and a form of regulation that is widespread and well established. 216 F.3d, at 773–774. It also rejected petitioners’ argument that our decision in First English was controlling. According to the Court of Appeals, First English concerned the question whether compensation is an appropriate remedy for a temporary taking and not whether or when such a taking has occurred. 216 F.3d, at 778. Faced squarely with the question whether a taking had occurred, the court held that Penn Central was the appropriate framework for analysis. Petitioners, however, had failed to challenge the District Court’s conclusion that they could not make out a taking claim under the Penn Central factors.

Over the dissent of five judges, the Ninth Circuit denied a petition for rehearing en banc. 228 F.3d 998 (C.A.9 2000). In the dissenters’ opinion, the panel’s holding was not faithful to this Court’s decisions in First English and Lucas, nor to Justice Holmes admonition in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393, 416, 43 S.Ct. 158, 67 L.Ed. 322 (1922), that “ ‘a strong public desire to improve the public condition is not enough to warrant achieving the desire by a shorter cut than the constitutional way of paying for the change.’ “ 228 F.3d, at 1003. Because of the importance of the case, we granted certiorari limited to the question stated at the beginning of this opinion. 533 U.S. 948, 121 S.Ct. 2589, 150 L.Ed.2d 749 (2001). We now affirm.


Petitioners make only a facial attack on Ordinance 81–5 and Resolution 83–21. They contend that the mere enactment of a temporary regulation that, while in effect, denies a property owner all viable economic use of her property gives rise to an unqualified constitutional obligation to compensate her for the value of its use during that period. Hence, they “face an uphill battle,” Keystone Bituminous Coal Assn. v. DeBenedictis, 480 U.S. 470, 495, 107 S.Ct. 1232, 94 L.Ed.2d 472 (1987), that is made especially steep by their desire for a categorical rule requiring compensation whenever the government imposes such a moratorium on development. Under their proposed rule, there is no need to evaluate the landowners’ investment-backed expectations, the actual impact of the regulation on any individual, the importance of the public interest served by the regulation, or the reasons for imposing the temporary restriction. For petitioners, it is enough that a regulation imposes a temporary deprivation—no matter how brief—of all economically viable use to trigger a per se rule that a taking has occurred. Petitioners assert that our opinions in First English and Lucas have already endorsed their view, and that it is a logical application of the principle that the Takings Clause was “designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40, 49, 80 S.Ct. 1563, 4 L.Ed.2d 1554 (1960).

We shall first explain why our cases do not support their proposed categorical rule—indeed, fairly read, they implicitly reject it. Next, we shall explain why the Armstrong principle requires rejection of that rule as well as the less extreme position advanced by petitioners at oral argument. In our view the answer to the abstract question whether a temporary moratorium effects a taking is neither “yes, always” nor “no, never”; the answer depends upon the particular circumstances of the case.16 Resisting “[t]he temptation to adopt what amount to per se rules in either direction,” Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606, 636, 121 S.Ct. 2448, 150 L.Ed.2d 592 (2001) (O’Connor, J., concurring), we conclude that the circumstances in this case are best analyzed within the Penn Central framework.


The text of the Fifth Amendment itself provides a basis for drawing a distinction between physical takings and regulatory takings. Its plain language requires the payment of compensation whenever the government acquires private property for a public purpose, whether the acquisition is the result of a condemnation proceeding or a physical appropriation. But the Constitution contains no comparable reference to regulations that prohibit a property owner from making certain uses of her private property.17 Our jurisprudence involving condemnations and physical takings is as old as the Republic and, for the most part, involves the straightforward application of per se rules. Our regulatory takings jurisprudence, in contrast, is of more recent vintage and is characterized by “essentially ad hoc, factual inquiries,” Penn Central, 438 U.S., at 124, 98 S.Ct. 2646, designed to allow “careful examination and weighing of all the relevant circumstances.” Palazzolo, 533 U.S., at 636, 121 S.Ct. 2448 (O’Connor, J., concurring).

When the government physically takes possession of an interest in property for some public purpose, it has a categorical duty to compensate the former owner, United States v. Pewee Coal Co., 341 U.S. 114, 115, 71 S.Ct. 670, 95 L.Ed. 809 (1951), regardless of whether the interest that is taken constitutes an entire parcel or merely a part thereof. Thus, compensation is mandated when a leasehold is taken and the government occupies the property for its own purposes, even though that use is temporary. United States v. General Motors Corp., 323 U.S. 373, 65 S.Ct. 357, 89 L.Ed. 311 (1945), United States v. Petty Motor Co., 327 U.S. 372, 66 S.Ct. 596, 90 L.Ed. 729 (1946). Similarly, when the government appropriates part of a rooftop in order to provide cable TV access for apartment tenants, Loretto v. Teleprompter Manhattan CATV Corp., 458 U.S. 419, 102 S.Ct. 3164, 73 L.Ed.2d 868 (1982); or when its planes use private airspace to approach a governmentge of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 47 S.Ct. 114, 71 L.Ed. 303 (1926); Keystone Bituminous Coal Assn. v. DeBenedictis, 480 U.S. 470, 107 S.Ct. 1232, 94 L.Ed.2d 472 (1987); or that forbids the private use of certain airspace, Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 98 S.Ct. 2646, 57 L.Ed.2d 631 (1978), does not constitute a categorical taking. “The first category of cases requires courts to apply a clear rule; the second necessarily entails complex factual assessments of the purposes and economic effects of government actions.” Yee v. Escondido, 503 U.S. 519, 523, 112 S.Ct. 1522, 118 L.Ed.2d 153 (1992). See also Loretto, 458 U.S., at 440, 102 S.Ct. 3164; Keystone, 480 U.S., at 489, n. 18, 107 S.Ct. 1232.

This longstanding distinction between acquisitions of property for public use, on the one hand, and regulations prohibiting private uses, on the other, makes it inappropriate to treat cases involving physical takings as controlling precedents for the evaluation of a claim that there has been a “regulatory taking,” 18 and vice versa. For the same reason that we do not ask whether a physical appropriation advances a substantial government interest or whether it deprives the owner of all economically valuable use, we do not apply our precedent from the physical takings context to regulatory takings claims. Land-use regulations are ubiquitous and most of them impact property values in some tangential way— often in completely unanticipated ways. Treating them all as per se takings would transform government regulation into a luxury few governments could afford. By contrast, physical appropriations are relatively rare, easily identified, and usually represent a greater affront to individual property rights.19 “This case does not present the ‘classi[c] taking’ in which the government directly appropriates private property for its own use,” Eastern Enterprises v. Apfel, 524 U.S. 498, 522, 118 S.Ct. 2131, 141 L.Ed.2d 451 (1998); instead the interference with property rights “arises from some public program adjusting the benefits and burdens of economic life to promote the common good,” Penn Central, 438 U.S., at 124, 98 S.Ct. 2646.

The Chief Justice stretches Lucas’ “equivalence” language too far. For even a regulation that constitutes only a minor infringement on property may, from the landowner’s perspective, be the functional equivalent of an appropriation. Lucas carved out a narrow exception to the rules governing regulatory takings for the “extraordinary circumstance” of a permanent deprivation of all beneficial use. The exception was only partially justified based on the “equivalence” theory cited by his dissent. It was also justified on the theory that, in the “relatively rare situations where the government has deprived a landowner of all economically beneficial uses,” it is less realistic to assume that the regulation will secure an “average reciprocity of advantage,” or that government could not go on if required to pay for every such restriction. 505 U.S., at 1017–1018, 112 S.Ct. 2886. But as we explain, infra, at —— -—— 35–38, these assumptions hold true in the context of a moratorium.

Perhaps recognizing this fundamental distinction, petitioners wisely do not place all their emphasis on analogies to physical takings cases. Instead, they rely principally on our decision in Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992)—a regulatory takings case that, nevertheless, applied a categorical rule—to argue that the Penn Central framework is inapplicable here. A brief review of some of the cases that led to our decision in Lucas, however, will help to explain why the holding in that case does not answer the question presented here.

As we noted in Lucas, it was Justice Holmes’ opinion in Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393, 43 S.Ct. 158, 67 L.Ed. 322 (1922),20 that gave birth to our regulatory takings jurisprudence. 21 In subsequent opinions we have repeatedly and consistently endorsed Holmes’ observation that “if regulation goes too far it will be recognized as a taking.” Id., at 415, 43 S.Ct. 158. Justice Holmes did not provide a standard for determining when a regulation goes “too far,” but he did reject the view expressed in Justice Brandeis’ dissent that there could not be a taking because the property remained in the possession of the owner and had not been appropriated or used by the public.22 After Mahon, neither a physical appropriation nor a public use has ever been a necessary component of a “regulatory taking.”

In the decades following that decision, we have  “generally eschewed” any set formula for determining how far is too far, choosing instead to engage in “ ‘essentially ad hoc, factual inquiries.’ “ Lucas, 505 U.S., at 1015, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (quoting Penn Central, 438 U.S., at 124, 98 S.Ct. 2646). Indeed, we still resist the temptation to adopt per se rules in our cases involving partial regulatory takings, preferring to examine “a number of factors” rather than a simple “mathematically precise” formula. 23 Justice Brennan’s opinion for the Court in Penn Central did, however, make it clear that even though multiple factors are relevant in the analysis of regulatory takings claims, in such cases we must focus on “the parcel as a whole”:

“‘Taking’ jurisprudence does not divide a single parcel into discrete segments and attempt to determine whether rights in a particular segment have been entirely abrogated. In deciding whether a particular governmental action has effected a taking, this Court focuses rather both on the character of the action and on the nature and extent of the interference with rights in the parcel as a whole—here, the city tax block designated as the ‘landmark site.’ “ Id., at 130–131, 98 S.Ct. 2646.

This requirement that “the aggregate must be viewed in its entirety” explains why, for example, a regulation that prohibited commercial transactions in eagle feathers, but did not bar other uses or impose any physical invasion or restraint upon them, was not a taking. Andrus v. Allard, 444 U.S. 51, 66, 100 S.Ct. 318, 62 L.Ed.2d 210 (1979). It also clarifies why restrictions on the use of only limited portions of the parcel, such as set-back ordinances, Gorieb v. Fox, 274 U.S. 603, 47 S.Ct. 675, 71 L.Ed. 1228 (1927), or a requirement that coal pillars be left in place to prevent mine subsidence, Keystone Bituminous Coal Assn. v. DeBenedictis, 480 U.S., at 498, 107 S.Ct. 1232, were not considered regulatory takings. In each of these cases, we affirmed that “where an owner possesses a full ‘bundle’ of property rights, the destruction of one ‘strand’ of the bundle is not a taking.” Andrus, 444 U.S., at 65–66, 100 S.Ct. 318.

While the foregoing cases considered whether particular regulations had “gone too far” and were therefore invalid, none of them addressed the separate remedial question of how compensation is measured once a regulatory taking is established. In his dissenting opinion in San Diego Gas & Elec. Co. v. San Diego, 450 U.S. 621, 636, 101 S.Ct. 1287, 67 L.Ed.2d 551 (1981), Justice Brennan identified that question and explained how he would answer it:

“The constitutional rule I propose requires that, once a court finds that a police power regulation has effected a ‘taking,’ the government entity must pay just compensation for the period commencing on the date the regulation first effected the ‘taking,’ and ending on the date the government entity chooses to rescind or otherwise amend the regulation.” Id., at 658, 101 S.Ct. 1287.

Justice Brennan’s proposed rule was subsequently endorsed by the Court in  First English, 482 U.S., at 315, 318, 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378. First English was certainly a significant decision, and nothing that we say today qualifies its holding. Nonetheless, it is important to recognize that we did not address in that case the quite different and logically prior question whether the temporary regulation at issue had in fact constituted a taking.

In First English, the Court unambiguously and repeatedly characterized the issue to be decided as a “compensation question” or a “remedial question.” Id., at 311, 107 S.Ct. 2378 (“The disposition of the case on these grounds isolates the remedial question for our consideration”); see also id., at 313, 318, 107 S.Ct. 2378. And the Court’s statement of its holding was equally unambiguous: “We merely hold that where the government’s activities have already worked a taking of all use of property, no subsequent action by the government can relieve it of the duty to provide compensation for the period during which the taking was effective.” Id., at 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378 (emphasis added). In fact, First English expressly disavowed any ruling on the merits of the takings issue because the California courts had decided the remedial question on the assumption that a taking had been alleged. Id., at 312–313, 107 S.Ct. 2378 (“We reject appellee’s suggestion that ... we must independently evaluate the adequacy of the complaint and resolve the takings claim on the merits before we can reach the remedial question”). After our remand, the California courts concluded that there had not been a taking, First English Evangelical Church of Glendale v. County of Los Angeles, 210 Cal.App.3d 1353, 258 Cal.Rptr. 893 (1989), and we declined review of that decision, 493 U.S. 1056, 110 S.Ct. 866, 107 L.Ed.2d 950 (1990).

To the extent that the Court in First English referenced the antecedent takings question, we identified two reasons why a regulation temporarily denying an owner all use of her property might not constitute a taking. First, we recognized that “the county might avoid the conclusion that a compensable taking had occurred by establishing that the denial of all use was insulated as a part of the State’s authority to enact safety regulations.” 482 U.S., at 313, 107 S.Ct. 2378. Second, we limited our holding “to the facts presented” and recognized “the quite different questions that would arise in the case of normal delays in obtaining building permits, changes in zoning ordinances, variances, and the like which [were] not before us.” Id., at 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378. Thus, our decision in First English surely did not approve, and implicitly rejected, the categorical submission that petitioners are now advocating.

Similarly, our decision in Lucas is not dispositive of the question presented. Although Lucas endorsed and applied a categorical rule, it was not the one that petitioners propose. Lucas purchased two residential lots in 1988 for $975,000. These lots were rendered “valueless” by a statute enacted two years later. The trial court found that a taking had occurred and ordered compensation of $1,232,387.50, representing the value of the fee simple estate, plus interest. As the statute read at the time of the trial, it effected a taking that “was unconditional and permanent.” 505 U.S., at 1012, 112 S.Ct. 2886. While the State’s appeal was pending, the statute was amended to authorize exceptions that might have allowed Lucas to obtain a building permit. Despite the fact that the amendment gave the State Supreme Court the opportunity to dispose of the appeal on ripeness grounds, it resolved the merits of the permanent takings claim and reversed. Since “Lucas had no reason to proceed on a ‘temporary taking’ theory at trial,” we decided the case on the permanent taking theory that both the trial court and the State Supreme Court had addressed. Ibid.

The categorical rule that we applied in Lucas states that compensation is required when a regulation deprives an owner of “all economically beneficial uses” of his land. Id., at 1019, 112 S.Ct. 2886. Underthat rule, a statute that “wholly eliminated the value” of Lucas’ fee simple title clearly qualified as a taking. But our holding was limited to “the extraordinary circumstance when no productive or economically beneficial use of land is permitted.” Id., at 1017, 112 S.Ct. 2886. The emphasis on the word “no” in the text of the opinion was, in effect, reiterated in a footnote explaining that the categorical rule would not apply if the diminution in value were 95% instead of 100%. Id., at 1019, n. 8, 112 S.Ct. 2886.24 Anything less than a “complete elimination of value,” or a “total loss,” the Court acknowledged, would require the kind of analysis applied in Penn Central. Lucas, 505 U.S., at 1019–1020, n. 8, 112 S.Ct. 2886.25

Certainly, our holding that the permanent “obliteration of the value” of a fee simple estate constitutes a categorical taking does not answer the question whether a regulation prohibiting any economic use of land for a 32– month period has the same legal effect. Petitioners seek to bring this case under the rule announced in Lucas by arguing that we can effectively sever a 32–month segment from the remainder of each landowner’s fee simple estate, and then ask whether that segment has been taken in its entirety by the moratoria. Of course, defining the property interest taken in terms of the very regulation being challenged is circular. With property so divided, every delay would become a total ban; the moratorium and the normal permit process alike would constitute categorical takings. Petitioners’ “conceptual severance” argument is unavailing because it ignores Penn Central’s admonition that in regulatory takings cases we must focus on “the parcel as a whole.” 438 U.S., at 130–131, 98 S.Ct. 2646. We have consistently rejected such an approach to the “denominator” question. See Keystone, 480 U.S., at 497, 107 S.Ct. 1232. See also, Concrete Pipe & Products of Cal., Inc. v. Construction Laborers Pension Trust for Southern Cal., 508 U.S. 602, 644, 113 S.Ct. 2264, 124 L.Ed.2d 539 (1993) (“To the extent that any portion of property is taken, that portion is always taken in its entirety; the relevant question, however, is whether the property taken is all, or only a portion of, the parcel in question”). Thus, the District Court erred when it disaggregated petitioners’ property into temporal segments corresponding to the regulations at issue and then analyzed whether petitioners were deprived of all economically viable use during each period. 34 F.Supp.2d, at 1242–1245. The starting point for the court’s analysis should have been to ask whether there was a total taking of the entire parcel; if not, then Penn Central was the proper framework.26

An interest in real property is defined by the metes and bounds that describe its geographic dimensions and the term of years that describes the temporal aspect of the owner’s interest. See Restatement of Property §§ 7–9 (1936). Both dimensions must be considered if the interest is to be viewed in its entirety. Hence, a permanent deprivation of the owner’s use of the entire area is a taking of “the parcel as a whole,” whereas a temporary restriction that merely causes a diminution in value is not. Logically, a fee simple estate cannot be rendered valueless by a temporary prohibition on economic use, because the property will recover value as soon as the prohibition is lifted. Cf. Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S., at 263, n. 9, 100 S.Ct. 2138 (“Even if the appellants’ ability to sell their property was limited during the pendency of the condemnation proceeding, the appellants were free to sell or develop their property when the proceedings ended. Mere fluctuations in value during the process of governmental decisionmaking, absent extraordinary delay, are ‘incidents of ownership. They cannot be considered as a “taking” in the constitutional sense’ “) (quoting Danforth v. United States, 308 U.S. 271, 285, 60 S.Ct. 231, 84 L.Ed. 240 (1939)).

Neither Lucas, nor First English, nor any of our other regulatory takings cases compels us to accept petitioners’ categorical submission. In fact, these cases make clear that the categorical rule in Lucas was carved out for the “extraordinary case” in which a regulation permanently deprives property of all value; the default rule remains that, in the regulatory taking context, we require a more fact specific inquiry. Nevertheless, we will consider whether the interest in protecting individual property owners from bearing public burdens “which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole,” Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S., at 49, 80 S.Ct. 1563, justifies creating a new rule for these circumstances.27


Considerations of “fairness and justice” arguably could support the conclusion that TRPA’s moratoria were takings of petitioners’ property based on any of seven different theories. First, even though we have not previously done so, we might now announce a categorical rule that, in the interest of fairness and justice, compensation is required whenever government temporarily deprives an owner of all economically viable use of her property. Second, we could craft a narrower rule that would cover all temporary land-use restrictions except those “normal delays in obtaining building permits, changes in zoning ordinances, variances, and the like” which were put to one side in our opinion in First English, 482 U.S., at 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378. Third, we could adopt a rule like the one suggested by an amicus supporting petitioners that would “allow a short fixed period for deliberations to take place without compensation—say maximum one year—after which the just compensation requirements” would “kick in.” 28 Fourth, with the benefit of hindsight, we might characterize the successive actions of TRPA as a “series of rolling moratoria” that were the functional equivalent of a permanent taking. 29 Fifth, were it not for the findings of the District Court that TRPA acted diligently and in good faith, we might have concluded that the agency was stalling in order to avoid promulgating the environmental threshold carrying capacities and regional plan mandated by the 1980 Compact. Cf. Monterey v. Del Monte Dunes at Monterey, Ltd., 526 U.S. 687, 698, 119 S.Ct. 1624, 143 L.Ed.2d 882 (1999). Sixth, apart from the District Court’s finding that TRPA’s actions represented a proportional response to a serious risk of harm to the lake, petitioners might have argued that the moratoria did not substantially advance a legitimate state interest, see Agins and Monterey. Finally, if petitioners had challenged the application of the moratoria to their individual parcels, instead of making a facial challenge, some of them might have prevailed under a Penn Central analysis.

As the case comes to us, however, none of the last four theories is available. The “rolling moratoria” theory was presented in the petition for certiorari, but our order granting review did not encompass that issue, 533 U.S. 948, 121 S.Ct. 2589, 150 L.Ed.2d 749 (2001); the case was tried in the District Court and reviewed in the Court of Appeals on the theory that each of the two moratoria was a separate taking, one for a 2–year period and the other for an 8–month period. 216 F.3d, at 769. And, as we have already noted, recovery on either a bad faith theory or a theory that the state interests were insubstantial is foreclosed by the District Court’s unchallenged findings of fact. Recovery under a Penn Central analysis is also foreclosed both because petitioners expressly disavowed that theory, and because they did not appeal from the District Court’s conclusion that the evidence would not support it. Nonetheless, each of the three per se theories is fairly encompassed within the question that we decided to answer.

With respect to these theories, the ultimate constitutional question is whether the concepts of “fairness and justice” that underlie the Takings Clause will be better served by one of these categorical rules or by a Penn Central inquiry into all of the relevant circumstances in particular cases. From that perspective, the extreme categorical rule that any deprivation of all economic use, no matter how brief, constitutes a compensable taking surely cannot be sustained. Petitioners’ broad submission would apply to numerous “normal delays in obtaining building permits, changes in zoning ordinances, variances, and the like,” 482 U.S., at 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378, as well as to orders temporarily prohibiting access to crime scenes, businesses that violate health codes, fire-damaged buildings, or other areas that we cannot now foresee. Such a rule would undoubtedly require changes in numerous practices that have long been considered permissible exercises of the police power. As Justice Holmes warned in Mahon, “[g]overnment hardly could go on if to some extent values incident to property could not be diminished without paying for every such change in the general law.” 260 U.S., at 413, 43 S.Ct. 158. A rule that required compensation for every delay in the use of property would render routine government processes prohibitively expensive or encourage hasty decisionmaking. Such an important change in the law should be the product of legislative rulemaking rather than adjudication.30

More importantly, for reasons set out at some length by Justice O’Connor in her concurring opinion in Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S., at 636, 121 S.Ct. 2448 (2001), we are persuaded that the better approach to claims that a regulation has effected a temporary taking “requires careful examination and weighing of all the relevant circumstances.” In that opinion, Justice O’Connor specifically considered the role that the “temporal relationship between regulatory enactment and title acquisition” should play in the analysis of a takings claim. Id., at 632, 121 S.Ct. 2448. We have no occasion to address that particular issue in this case, because it involves a different temporal relationship—the distinction between a temporary restriction and one that is permanent. Her comments on the “fairness and justice” inquiry are, nevertheless, instructive:

“Today’s holding does not mean that the timing of the regulation’s enactment relative to the acquisition of title is immaterial to the Penn Central analysis. Indeed, it would be just as much error to expunge this consideration from the takings inquiry as it would be to accord it exclusive significance. Our polestar instead remains the principles set forth in Penn Central itself and our other cases that govern partial regulatory takings. Under these cases, interference with investment-backed expectations is one of a number of factors that a court must examine. ...

“The Fifth Amendment forbids the taking of private property for public use without just compensation. We have recognized that this constitutional guarantee is ‘ “designed to bar Government from forcing some people alone to bear public burdens which, in all fairness and justice, should be borne by the public as a whole.” ‘ “ Penn Central, [438 U.S.], at 123–124[, 98 S.Ct. 2646] (quoting  Armstrong v. United States, 364 U.S. 40, 49[, 80 S.Ct. 1563, 4 L.Ed.2d 1554] (1960)). The concepts of ‘fairness and justice’ that underlie the Takings Clause, of course, are less than fully determinate. Accordingly, we have eschewed ‘any “set formula” for determining when “justice and fairness” require that economic injuries caused by public action be compensated by the government, rather than remain disproportionately concentrated on a few persons.” Penn Central, supra, at 124[, 98 S.Ct. 2646] (quoting Goldblatt v. Hempstead, 369 U.S. 590, 594[, 82 S.Ct. 987, 8 L.Ed.2d 130] (1962)). The outcome instead ‘depends largely “upon the particular circumstances [in that] case.’ “ Penn Central, supra, at 124[, 98 S.Ct. 2646] (quoting  United States v. Central Eureka Mining Co., 357 U.S. 155, 168[, 78 S.Ct. 1097, 2 L.Ed.2d 1228] (1958)).” Id., at 633, 121 S.Ct. 2448.

In rejecting petitioners’ per se rule, we do not hold that the temporary nature of a land-use restriction precludes finding that it effects a taking; we simply recognize that it should not be given exclusive significance one way or the other.

A narrower rule that excluded the normal delays associated with processing permits, or that covered only delays of more than a year, would certainly have a less severe impact on prevailing practices, but it would still impose serious financial constraints on the planning process.31 Unlike the “extraordinary circumstance” in which the government deprives a property owner of all economic use, Lucas, 505 U.S., at 1017, 112 S.Ct. 2886, moratoria like Ordinance 81–5 and Resolution 83–21 are used widely among land-use planners to preserve the status quo while formulating a more permanent development strategy.32 In fact, the consensus in the planning community appears to be that moratoria, or “interim development controls” as they are often called, are an essential tool of successful development. 33 Yet even the weak version of petitioners’ categorical rule would treat these interim measures as takings regardless of the good faith of the planners, the reasonable expectations of the landowners, or the actual impact of the moratorium on property values.34

The interest in facilitating informed decisionmaking by regulatory agencies counsels against adopting a per se rule that would impose such severe costs on their deliberations. Otherwise, the financial constraints of compensating property owners during a moratorium may force officials to rush through the planning process or to abandon the practice altogether. To the extent that communities are forced to abandon using moratoria, landowners will have incentives to develop their property quickly before a comprehensive plan can be enacted, thereby fostering inefficient and ill-conceived growth. A finding in the 1980 Compact itself, which presumably was endorsed by all three legislative bodies that participated in its enactment, attests to the importance of that concern. 94 Stat. 3243 (“The legislatures of the States of California and Nevada find that in order to make effective the regional plan as revised by the agency, it is necessary to halt temporarily works of development in the region which might otherwise absorb the entire capability of the region for further development or direct it out of harmony with the ultimate plan”).

As Justice KWe would create a perverse system of incentives were we to hold that landowners must wait for a taking claim to ripen so that planners can make well-reasoned decisions while, at the same time, holding that those planners must compensate landowners for the delay.

Indeed, the interest in protecting the decisional process is even stronger when an agency is developing a regional plan than when it is considering a permit for a single parcel. In the proceedings involving the Lake Tahoe Basin, for example, the moratoria enabled TRPA to obtain the benefit of comments and criticisms from interested parties, such as the petitioners, during its deliberations.35 Since a categorical rule tied to the length of deliberations would likely create added pressure on decisionmakers to reach a quick resolution of land-use questions, it would only serve to disadvantage those landowners and interest groups who are not as organized or familiar with the planning process. Moreover, with a temporary ban on development there is a lesser risk that individual landowners will be “singled out” to bear a special burden that should be shared by the public as a whole. Nollan v. California Coastal Comm’n, 483 U.S. 825, 835, 107 S.Ct. 3141, 97 L.Ed.2d 677 (1987). At least with a moratorium there is a clear “reciprocity of advantage,” Mahon, 260 U.S., at 415, 43 S.Ct. 158, because it protects the interests of all affected landowners against immediate construction that might be inconsistent with the provisions of the plan that is ultimately adopted. “While each of us is burdened somewhat by such restrictions, we, in turn, benefit greatly from the restrictions that are placed on others.” Keystone, 480 U.S., at 491, 107 S.Ct. 1232. In fact, there is reason to believe property values often will continue to increase despite a moratorium. See, e.g., Growth Properties, Inc. v. Klingbeil Holding Co., 419 F.Supp. 212, 218 (D.Md.1976) (noting that land values could be expected to increase 20% during a 5–year moratorium on development). Cf. Forest Properties, Inc. v. United States, 177 F.3d 1360, 1367 (C.A.Fed.1999) (record showed that market value of the entire parcel increased despite denial of permit to fill and develop lake-bottom property). Such an increase makes sense in this context because property values throughout the Basin can be expected to reflect the added assurance that Lake Tahoe will remain in its pristine state. Since in some cases a 1–year moratorium may not impose a burden at all, we should not adopt a rule that assumes moratoria always force individuals to bear a special burden that should be shared by the public as a whole.

It may well be true that any moratorium that lasts for more than one year should be viewed with special skepticism. But given the fact that the District Court found that the 32 months required by TRPA to formulate the 1984 Regional Plan was not unreasonable, we could not possibly conclude that every delay of over one year is constitutionally unacceptable.36 Formulating a general rule of this kind is a suitable task for state legislatures. 37 In our view, the duration of the restriction is one of the important factors that a court must consider in the appraisal of a regulatory takings claim, but with respect to that factor as with respect to other factors, the “temptation to adopt what amount to per se rules in either direction must be resisted.” Palazzolo, 533 U.S., at 636, 121 S.Ct. 2448 (O’Connor J., concurring). There may be moratoria that last longer than one year which interfere with reasonable investment-backed expectations, but as the District Court’s opinion illustrates, petitioners’ proposed rule is simply “too blunt an instrument,” for identifying those cases. Id., at 628, 121 S.Ct. 2448. We conclude, therefore, that the interest in “fairness and justice” will be best served by relying on the familiar Penn Central approach when deciding cases like this, rather than by attempting to craft a new categorical rule.

Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.

It is so ordered.

Rehnquist, C.J., with whom Scalia and Thomas, JJ., join, dissenting.  For over half a decade petitioners were prohibited from building homes, or any other structures, on their land. Because the Takings Clause requires the government to pay compensation when it deprives owners of all economically viable use of their land, see Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992), and because a ban on all development lasting almost six years does not resemble any traditional land-use planning device, I dissent.


“A court cannot determine whether a regulation has gone ‘too far’ unless it knows how far the regulation goes.” MacDonald, Sommer & Frates v. Yolo County, 477 U.S. 340, 348, 106 S.Ct. 2561, 91 L.Ed.2d 285 (1986) (citing Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S. 393, 415, 43 S.Ct. 158, 67 L.Ed. 322 (1922)).38In failing to undertake this inquiry, the Court ignores much of the impact of respondent’s conduct on petitioners. Instead, it relies on the flawed determination of the Court of Appeals that the relevant time period lasted only from August 1981 until April 1984. Ante, at ——, ——, 7, 9. During that period, Ordinance 81–5 and Regulation 83–21 prohibited development pending the adoption of a new regional land-use plan. The adoption of the 1984 Regional Plan (hereinafter Plan or 1984 Plan) did not, however, change anything from the petitioners’ standpoint. After the adoption of the 1984 Plan, petitioners still could make no use of their land.

The Court of Appeals disregarded this post-April 1984 deprivation on the ground that respondent did not “cause” it. In a §  1983 action, “the plaintiff must demonstrate that the defendant’s conduct was the actionable cause of the claimed injury.” 216 F.3d 764, 783 (C.A.9 2000). Applying this principle, the Court of Appeals held that the 1984 Regional Plan did not amount to a taking because the Plan actually allowed permits to issue for the construction of single-family residences. Those permits were never issued because the District Court immediately issued a temporary restraining order, and later a permanent injunction that lasted until 1987, prohibiting the approval of any building projects under the 1984 Plan. Thus, the Court of Appeals concluded that the “1984 Plan itself could not have constituted a taking,” because it was the injunction, not the Plan, that prohibited development during this period. 216 F.3d, at 784. The Court of Appeals is correct that the 1984 Plan did not cause petitioners’ injury. But that is the right answer to the wrong question. The causation question is not limited to whether the 1984 Plan caused petitioners’ injury; the question is whether respondent caused petitioners’ injury.

We have never addressed the § 1983 causation requirement in the context of a regulatory takings claim, though language in Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 98 S.Ct. 2646, 57 L.Ed.2d 631 (1978), suggests that ordinary principles of proximate cause govern the causation inquiry for takings claims. Id., at 124, 98 S.Ct. 2646. The causation standard does not require much elaboration in this case, because respondent was undoubtedly the “moving force” behind petitioners’ inability to build on their land from August 1984 through 1987. Monell v. New York City Dept. of Social Servs., 436 U.S. 658, 694, 98 S.Ct. 2018, 56 L.Ed.2d 611 (1978) (§  1983 causation established when government action is the “moving force” behind the alleged constitutional violation). The injunction in this case issued because the 1984 Plan did not comply with the 1980 Tahoe Regional Planning Compact (Compact) and regulations issued pursuant to the Compact. And, of course, respondent is responsible for the Compact and its regulations.

On August 26, 1982, respondent adopted Resolution 82–11. That resolution established “environmental thresholds for water quality, soil conservation, air quality, vegetation preservation, wildlife, fisheries, noise, recreation, and scenic resources.” California v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 766 F.2d 1308, 1311 (C.A.9 1985). The District Court enjoined the 1984 Plan in part because the Plan would have allowed 42,000 metric tons of soil per year to erode from some of the single-family residences, in excess of the Resolution 82–11 threshold for soil conservation. Id., at 1315; see also id., at 1312. Another reason the District Court enjoined the 1984 Plan was that it did not comply with article V(g) of the Compact, which requires a finding “with respect to each project, that the project will not cause the established [environmental] thresholds to be exceeded.” Id., at 1312. Thus, the District Court enjoined the 1984 Plan because the Plan did not comply with the environmental requirements of respondent’s regulations and of the Compact itself.

Respondent is surely responsible for its own regulations, and it is also responsible for the Compact as it is the governmental agency charged with administering the Compact. Compact, Art. I(c), 94 Stat 3234. It follows that respondent was the “moving force” behind petitioners’ inability to develop its land from April 1984 through the enactment of the 1987 plan. Without the environmental thresholds established by the Compact and Resolution 82–11, the 1984 Plan would have gone into effect and petitioners would have been able to build single-family residences. And it was certainly foreseeable that development projects exceeding the environmental thresholds would be prohibited; indeed, that was the very purpose of enacting the thresholds.

Because respondent caused petitioners’ inability to use their land from 1981 through 1987, that is the appropriate period of time from which to consider their takings claim.


I now turn to determining whether a ban onall economic development lasting almost six years is a taking. Lucas reaffirmed our “frequently expressed” view that “when the owner of real property has been called upon to sacrifice all economically beneficial uses in the name of the common good, that is, to leave his property economically idle, he has suffered a taking.” 505 U.S., at 1019, 112 S.Ct. 2886. See also Agins v. City of Tiburon, 447 U.S. 255, 258–259, 100 S.Ct. 2138, 65 L.Ed.2d 106 (1980). The District Court in this case held that the ordinances and resolutions in effect between August 24, 1981, and April 25, 1984, “did in fact deny the plaintiffs all economically viable use of their land.” 34 F.Supp.2d 1226, 1245 (D.Nev.1999). The Court of Appeals did not overturn this finding. And the 1984 injunction, issued because the environmental thresholds issued by respondent did not permit the development of single-family residences, forced petitioners to leave their land economically idle for at least another three years. The Court does not dispute that petitioners were forced to leave their land economically idle during this period. See ante, at —— 7. But the Court refuses to apply Lucas on the ground that the deprivation was “temporary.”

Neither the Takings Clause nor our case law supports such a distinction. For one thing, a distinction between “temporary” and “permanent” prohibitions is tenuous. The “temporary” prohibition in this case that the Court finds is not a taking lasted almost six years.39 The “permanent” prohibition that the Court held to be a taking in Lucas lasted less than two years. See 505 U.S., at 1011–1012, 112 S.Ct. 2886. The “permanent” prohibition in Lucas lasted less than two years because the law, as it often does, changed. The South Carolina Legislature in 1990 decided to amend the 1988 Beachfront Management Act to allow the issuance of “ ‘special permits’ for the construction or reconstruction of habitable structures seaward of the baseline.” Id., at 1011–1012, 112 S.Ct. 2886. Land-use regulations are not irrevocable. And the government can even abandon condemned land. See United States v. Dow, 357 U.S. 17, 26, 78 S.Ct. 1039, 2 L.Ed.2d 1109 (1958). Under the Court’s decision today, the takings question turns entirely on the initial label given a regulation, a label that is often without much meaning. There is every incentive for government to simply label any prohibition on development “temporary,” or to fix a set number of years. As in this case, this initial designation does not preclude the government from repeatedly extending the  “temporary” prohibition into a long-term ban on all development. The Court now holds that such a designation by the government is conclusive even though in fact the moratorium greatly exceeds the time initially specified. Apparently, the Court would not view even a 10–year moratorium as a taking under Lucas because the moratorium is not “permanent.”

Our opinion in First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale v. County of Los Angeles, 482 U.S. 304, 107 S.Ct. 2378, 96 L.Ed.2d 250 (1987), rejects any distinction between temporary and permanent takings when a landowner is deprived of all economically beneficial use of his land. First English stated that “temporary takings which, as here, deny a landowner all use of his property, are not different in kind from permanent takings, for which the Constitution clearly requires compensation.” Id., at 318, 107 S.Ct. 2378. Because of First English’s rule that “temporary deprivations of use are compensable under the Takings Clause,” the Court in Lucas found nothing problematic about the later developments that potentially made the ban on development temporary. 505 U.S., at 1011–1012, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (citing First English, supra ); see also 505 U.S., at 1033, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (Kennedy, J., concurring) (“It is well established that temporary takings are as protected by the Constitution as are permanent ones.” (citing First English, supra, at 318, 107 S.Ct. 2378)).

More fundamentally, even if a practical distinction between temporary and permanent deprivations were plausible, to treat the two differently in terms of takings law would be at odds with the justification for the Lucas rule. The Lucas rule is derived from the fact that a “total deprivation of use is, from the landowner’s point of view, the equivalent of a physical appropriation.” 505 U.S., at 1017, 112 S.Ct. 2886. The regulation in Lucas was the “practical equivalence” of a long-term physical appropriation, i.e., a condemnation, so the Fifth Amendment required compensation. The “practical equivalence,” from the landowner’s point of view, of a “temporary” ban on all economic use is a forced leasehold. For example, assume the following situation: Respondent is contemplating the creation of a National Park around Lake Tahoe to preserve its scenic beauty. Respondent decides to take a 6–year leasehold over petitioners’ property, during which any human activity on the land would be prohibited, in order to prevent any further destruction to the area while it was deciding whether to request that the area be designated a National Park.

Surely that leasehold would require compensation. In a series of World War II-era cases in which the Government had condemned leasehold interests in order to support the war effort, the Government conceded that it was required to pay compensation for the leasehold interest.40 See United States v. Petty Motor Co., 327 U.S. 372, 66 S.Ct. 596, 90 L.Ed. 729 (1946); United States v. General Motors Corp., 323 U.S. 373, 376, 65 S.Ct. 357, 89 L.Ed. 311 (1945). From petitioners’ standpoint, what happened in this case is no different than if the government had taken a 6–year lease of their property. The Court ignores this “practical equivalence” between respondent’s deprivation and the deprivation resulting from a leasehold. In so doing, the Court allows the government to “do by regulation what it cannot do through eminent domain—i.e., take private property without paying for it.” 228 F.3d 998, 999 (C.A.9 2000) (Kozinski, J., dissenting from denial of rehearing en banc).

Instead of acknowledging the “practical equivalence” of this case and a condemned leasehold, the Court analogizes to other areas of takings law in which we have distinguished between regulations and physical appropriations, see ante, at —— -—— 17–19. But whatever basis there is for such distinctions in those contexts does not apply when a regulation deprives a landowner of all economically beneficial use of his land. In addition to the “practical equivalence” from the landowner’s perspective of such a regulation and a physical appropriation, we have held that a regulation denying all productive use of land does not implicate the traditional justification for differentiating between regulations and physical appropriations. In “the extraordinary circumstance when no productive or economically beneficial use of land is permitted,” it is less likely that “the legislature is simply ‘adjusting the benefits and burdens of economic life’ in a manner that secures an ‘average reciprocity of advantage’ to everyone concerned,” Lucas, supra, at 1017–1018, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (quoting Penn Central Transp. Co. v. New York City, 438 U.S. 104, 124, 98 S.Ct. 2646, 57 L.Ed.2d 631 (1978), and Pennsylvania Coal Co. v. Mahon, 260 U.S., at 415, 43 S.Ct. 158), and more likely that the property “is being pressed into some form of public service under the guise of mitigating serious public harm,” Lucas supra, at 1018, 112 S.Ct. 2886.

The Court also reads Lucas as being fundamentally concerned with value, ante, at —— -—— 25–27, rather than with the denial of “all economically beneficial or productive use of land,” 505 U.S., at 1015, 112 S.Ct. 2886. But Lucas repeatedly discusses its holding as applying where “no productive or economically beneficial use of land is permitted.” Id., at 1017, 112 S.Ct. 2886; see also ibid. (“[T]otal deprivation of beneficial use is, from the landowner’s point of view, the equivalent of a physical appropriation”); id., at 1016, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (“[T]he Fifth Amendment is violated when land-use regulation ... denies an owner economically viable use of his land”); id., at 1018, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (“[T]he functional basis for permitting the government, by regulation, to affect property values without compensation ... does not apply to the relatively rare situations where the government has deprived a landowner of all economically beneficial uses”); ibid. (“[T]he fact that regulations that leave the owner of land without economically beneficial or productive options for its use ... carry with them a heightened risk that private property is being pressed into some form of public service”); id., at 1019, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (“[W]hen the owner of real property has been called upon to sacrifice all economically beneficial uses in the name of the common good, that is, to leave his property economically idle, he has suffered a taking”). Moreover, the Court’s position that value is the sine qua non of the Lucas rule proves too much. Surely, the land at issue in Lucas retained some market value based on the contingency, which soon came to fruition (see supra, at —— 5), that the development ban would be amended.

Lucas is implicated when the government deprives a landowner of “all economically beneficial or productive use of land.” Id., at 1015, 112 S.Ct. 2886. The District Court found, and the Court agrees, that the moratorium “temporarily” deprived petitioners of “ ‘all economically viable use of their land.’ “ Ante, at —— 11. Because the rationale for the Lucas rule applies just as strongly in this case, the “temporary” denial of all viable use of land for six years is a taking.


The Court worries that applying Lucas here compels finding that an array of traditional, short-term, land-use planning devices are takings. Ante, at ——, —— -—— 31, 33–34. But since the beginning of our regulatory takings jurisprudence, we have recognized that property rights “are enjoyed under an implied limitation.” Mahon, supra, at 413, 43 S.Ct. 158. Thus, in Lucas, after holding that the regulation prohibiting all economically beneficial use of the coastal land came within our categorical takings rule, we nonetheless inquired into whether such a result “inhere[d] in the title itself, in the restrictions that background principles of the State’s law of property and nuisance already place upon land ownership.” 505 U.S., at 1029, 112 S.Ct. 2886. Because the regulation at issue in Lucas purported to be permanent, or at least long term, we concluded that the only implied limitation of state property law that could achieve a similar long-term deprivation of all economic use would be something “achieved in the courts—by adjacent landowners (or other uniquely affected persons) under the State’s law of private nuisance, or by the State under its complementary power to abate nuisances that affect the public generally, or otherwise.” Ibid.

When a regulation merely delays a final land use decision, we have recognized that there are other background principles of state property law that prevent the delay from being deemed a taking. We thus noted in First English that our discussion of temporary takings did not apply “in the case of normal delays in obtaining building permits, changes in zoning ordinances, variances, and the like.” 482 U.S., at 321, 107 S.Ct. 2378. We reiterated this last Term: “The right to improve property, of course, is subject to the reasonable exercise of state authority, including the enforcement of valid zoning and land-use restrictions.” Palazzolo v. Rhode Island, 533 U.S. 606, 627, 121 S.Ct. 2448, 150 L.Ed.2d 592, (2001). Zoning regulations existed as far back as colonial Boston, see Treanor, The Original Understanding of the Takings Clause and the Political Process, 95 Colum. L.Rev. 782, 789 (1995), and New York City enacted the first comprehensive zoning ordinance in 1916, see 1 Anderson’s American Law of Zoning §  3.07, p. 92 (K. Young rev. 4th ed.1995). Thus, the short-term delays attendant to zoning and permit regimes are a longstanding feature of state property law and part of a landowner’s reasonable investment-backed expectations. See Lucas, supra, at 1034, 112 S.Ct. 2886 (Kennedy, J., concurring in judgment).

But a moratorium prohibiting all economic use for a period of six years is not one of the longstanding, implied limitations of state property law.41 Moratoria are “interim controls on the use of land that seek to maintain the status quo with respect to land development in an area by either ‘freezing’ existing land uses or by allowing the issuance of building permits for only certain land uses that would not be inconsistent with a contemplated zoning plan or zoning change.” 1 E. Ziegler, Rathkopf’s The Law of Zoning and Planning §  13:3, p. 13–6 (4th ed.2001). Typical moratoria thus prohibit only certain categories of development, such as fast-food restaurants, see Schafer v. New Orleans, 743 F.2d 1086 (C.A.5 1984), or adult businesses, see Renton v. Playtime Theatres, Inc., 475 U.S. 41, 106 S.Ct. 925, 89 L.Ed.2d 29 (1986), or all commercial development, see Arnold Bernhard & Co. v. Planning & Zoning Comm’n, 194 Conn. 152, 479 A.2d 801 (1984). Such moratoria do not implicate Lucas because they do not deprive landowners of all economically beneficial use of their land. As for moratoria that prohibit all development, these do not have the lineage of permit and zoning requirements and thus it is less certain that property is acquired under the “implied limitation” of a moratorium prohibiting all development. Moreover, unlike a permit system in which it is expected that a project will be approved so long as certain conditions are satisfied, a moratorium that prohibits all uses is by definition contemplating a new land-use plan that would prohibit all uses.

But this case does not require us to decide as a categorical matter whether moratoria prohibiting all economic use are an implied limitation of state property law, because the duration of this “moratorium” far exceeds that of ordinary moratoria. As the Court recognizes, ante, at —— 38, n. 37, state statutes authorizing the issuance of moratoria often limit the moratoria’s duration. California, where much of the land at issue in this case is located, provides that a moratorium “shall be of no further force and effect 45 days from its date of adoption,” and caps extension of the moratorium so that the total duration cannot exceed two years. Cal. Govt.Code Ann. §  65858(a) (West Supp.2002); see also Minn.Stat. §  462.355, subd. 4 (2000) (limiting moratoria to 18 months, with one permissible extension, for a total of two years). Another State limits moratoria to 120 days, with the possibility of a single 6–month extension. Ore.Rev.Stat. Ann. §  197.520(4) (1997). Others limit moratoria to six months without any possibility of an extension. See Colo.Rev.Stat. §  30–28–121 (2001); N.J. Stat. Ann. §  40:55D-90(b) (1991).42 Indeed, it has long been understood that moratoria on development exceeding these short time periods are not a legitimate planning device. See, e.g., Holdsworth v. Hague, 9 N.J.Misc. 715, 155 A. 892 (1931).

Resolution 83–21 reflected this understanding of the limited duration of moratoria in initially limiting the moratorium in this case to 90 days. But what resulted—a “moratorium” lasting nearly six years—bears no resemblance to the short-term nature of traditional moratoria as understood from these background examples of state property law.

Because the prohibition on development of nearly six years in this case cannot be said to resemble any “implied limitation” of state property law, it is a taking that requires compensation. …

Lake Tahoe is a national treasure and I do not doubt that respondent’s efforts at preventing further degradation of the lake were made in good faith in furtherance of the public interest. But, as is the case with most governmental action that furthers the public interest, the Constitution requires that the costs and burdens be borne by the public at large, not by a few targeted citizens. Justice Holmes’ admonition of 80 years ago again rings true: “We are in danger of forgetting that a strong public desire to improve the public condition is not enough to warrant achieving the desire by a shorter cut than the constitutional way of paying for the change.” Mahon, 260 U.S., at 416, 43 S.Ct. 158.

Thomas, J., with whom Scalia, J., joins, dissenting.

I join The Chief Justices dissent. I write separately to address the majority’s conclusion that the temporary moratorium at issue here was not a taking because it was not a “taking of ‘the parcel as a whole.’ “ Ante, at —— 27. While this questionable rule* has been applied to various alleged regulatory takings, it was, in my view, rejected in the context of temporal deprivations of property by First English Evangelical Lutheran Church of Glendale v. County of Los Angeles, 482 U.S. 304, 318, 107 S.Ct. 2378, 96 L.Ed.2d 250 (1987), which held that temporary and permanent takings “are not different in kind” when a landowner is deprived of all beneficial use of his land. I had thought that First English put to rest the notion that the “relevant denominator” is land’s infinite life. Consequently, a regulation effecting a total deprivation of the use of a so-called “temporal slice” of property is compensable under the Takings Clause unless background principles of state property law prevent it from being deemed a taking; “total deprivation of use is, from the landowner’s point of view, the equivalent of a physical appropriation.” Lucas v. South Carolina Coastal Council, 505 U.S. 1003, 1017, 112 S.Ct. 2886, 120 L.Ed.2d 798 (1992).

A taking is exactly what occurred in this case. No one seriously doubts that the land use regulations at issue rendered petitioners’ land unsusceptible of any economically beneficial use. This was true at the inception of the moratorium, and it remains true today. These individuals and families were deprived of the opportunity to build single-family homes as permanent, retirement, or vacation residences on land upon which such construction was authorized when purchased. The Court assures them that “a temporary prohibition on economic use” cannot be a taking because “logically ... the property will recover value as soon as the prohibition is lifted.” Ante, at —— -—— 27–28. But the “logical” assurance that a “temporary restriction ... merely causes a diminution in value,” ante, at —— 27, is cold comfort to the property owners in this case or any other. After all, “[i]n the long run we are all dead.” John Maynard Keynes, Monetary Reform 88 (1924).

I would hold that regulations prohibiting all productive uses of property are subject to Lucasper se rule, regardless of whether the property so burdened retains theoretical useful life and value if, and when, the “temporary” moratorium is lifted. To my mind, such potential future value bears on the amount of compensation due and has nothing to do with the question whether there was a taking in the first place. It is regrettable that the Court has charted a markedly different path today.


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