MR. JUSTICE SANFORD delivered the opinion of the Court.
This record includes two cases which were tried together in the state courts and have been heard together here.
The writs of error are brought to review judgments of the District Court of Appeal affirming judgments of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, California, condemning lands of the plaintiffs in error for use by the County as public highways; which they insist have deprived them of their property without due process of law and in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Section 1241 of the California Code of Civil Procedure includes "highways" among the "public uses" for which the right of eminent domain may be exercised. Section 1241, as amended in 1913, provides that before property can be taken it must appear that the use to which it is to be applied is one authorized by law and that the taking is necessary to such use; provided, inter alia, that when the legislative body of a county has, by resolution adopted by vote of two-thirds of its members, found and determined that the public interest and necessity require the construction by the county of any proposed public improvement located within its limits and that designated property is necessary therefor, such resolution shall be "conclusive evidence" of the public necessity for such improvement, that such property is necessary therefor, and that such improvement is located in the manner most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury. Stats. 1913, p. 549.
The plaintiffs in error are the owners of a large tract of land lying on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, known as the Malibu Ranch, extending in an easterly and westerly direction about twenty-two miles and varying in width from one-half mile to one and one-half miles. It lies at the base of a high and rugged mountain range which parallels the shore at a distance of from three to four miles, its northern line extending along the slope and foothills of this mountain range, and is traversed by many ridges and intervening canyons leading from the mountains toward the shore. It lies about ten miles west of Santa Monica, one of the principal cities of Los Angeles County, situated on the coast to the southwest of the City of Los Angeles, and is mainly in Los Angeles County, but extends
In 1916 and 1917 the Board of Supervisors, the legislative body of Los Angeles County, without notice to the ranch owners, adopted, by the required vote, two resolutions declaring that the public interest and necessity required the construction of the two highways now in controversy "for public highway purposes" and that it was necessary for such "public uses" that the lands included therein be acquired by the county; and directing that condemnation proceedings be instituted for such purposes. One of these proposed highways, which is known in the record as the "main road," commences at the eastern boundary of the ranch, where it connects with and forms a continuation of a much traveled public county highway running along the shore of the ocean from Santa Monica, and extends lengthwise through the ranch in a westerly direction to the Ventura County line, where it terminates within the boundaries of the ranch. The other is a branch from this main road, extending to the northern boundary of the ranch, where it terminates. There are no connecting public roads either at the western termination of the main road or the northern termination of the branch road.
These condemnation proceedings were thereupon instituted in the Superior Court of the County. They were
The trial judge reviewed the evidence, and, manifestly without reference to any presumption arising under his ruling as to the prima facie evidence furnished by the resolutions, decided all the questions submitted in favor of the County; and made specific findings that the public interest and necessity required the acquisition of these public highways; that the use to which they were to be applied was authorized by law; that they would afford accommodation to the traveling public; and that they were located as required. Thereafter, the amount of landowners' compensation and damages having been determined by a jury — as to which no question is made — judgments condemning these lands for public highways were entered.
On appeals taken by the ranch owners the District Court of Appeals held that the taking of the property for these highways was for a public use; that the proviso to § 1241 of the Code was not obnoxious to any provision of
The ranch owners urge here, in substance: That the use for which their property was taken was not a public use authorized by law, and their special defenses raising this question as to the main road were erroneously stricken out; that their property was taken without any public necessity, and, the proviso to § 1241 of the Code purporting to make the resolutions conclusive evidence thereof being in violation of the state constitution and of the Fourteenth Amendment and constituting neither conclusive nor prima facie, evidence, the burden of disproving this public necessity was erroneously cast upon them; and that in consequence the judgments of condemnation deprived them of their property in violation of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
1. Authorized public use. The nature of a use, whether public or private, is ultimately a judicial question. However, the determination of this question is influenced by local conditions; and this Court, while enforcing the Fourteenth Amendment, should keep in
The ranch owners concede that a genuine highway, in fact adapted as a way of convenience or necessity for public use and travel, is a public use. Their real contention is that these particular roads, while called highways, are "highways" in name merely, that is, that they are shams under the name of public improvements, which cannot, in fact, furnish ways of convenience or necessity to the traveling public. This argument is based upon the fact that they extend through the ranch alone, the main road terminating within its boundaries, and connect with no other public roads at their western and northern ends. These roads will, however, be open to the general public to such extent as it can and may use them. The people to the eastward in Santa Monica, Los Angeles and other cities will have access to them and to the people living on the ranch through the connecting road from Santa Monica. The people living on the ranch will have egress over them. The people living north of the terminus of the crossroad, who now have no adequate outlet, will have access to it through private roads and ways and may then travel over these two roads to Los Angeles and other cities for marketing produce and other purposes; and the
But aside from these considerations, these roads, especially the main road, through its connection with the public road coming along the shore from Santa Monica, will afford a highway for persons desiring to travel along the shore to the county line, with a view of the ocean on the one side, and of the mountain range on the other, constituting, as stated by the trial judge, a scenic highway of great beauty. Public uses are not limited, in the modern view, to matters of mere business necessity and ordinary convenience, but may extend to matters of public health, recreation and enjoyment. Thus, the condemnation
For these reasons we conclude that these highways will, as found by the trial judge, afford accommodation to the traveling public, and that the taking of land for them is a taking for a public use authorized by the laws of California.
The ranch owners were not prejudiced by the action of the trial court in striking out their special defenses in this behalf, since, under the general issues, they were entitled, as held by the District Court of Appeals, and were in fact permitted, to introduce all their evidence bearing upon this question.
2. Public necessity for the taking. We necessarily accept, as a matter of state law, the holding of the District Court of Appeal that the proviso to § 1241 of the Code made the resolutions of the Board of Supervisors conclusive evidence as to the necessity of taking these particular highways and the other matters therein specified. So construed it was held by that court not to be objectionable to any provision of the State or Federal Constitutions. By this we are controlled so far as the provisions
And since the resolutions were conclusive evidence as to the necessity for the taking of these public highways, the ranch owners were not prejudiced by the ruling of the trial judge which treated them as prima facie evidence merely and allowed them full opportunity to introduce their evidence upon the subject. A litigant can
We therefore conclude that the property of the ranch owners has been taken for highways constituting a public use authorized by law, and upon a public necessity for the taking duly established, and that they have not been deprived of their property in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The judgments of the District Court of Appeal are accordingly.
MR. JUSTICE SUTHERLAND took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.