Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 30, 2008

CA Appeals Court Holds Approval of a Vesting Tentative Map Does Not Protect Developer Against New Land Use Regulations in a Local Coastal Plan

The California Coastal Act requires a coastal permit for development within the coastal zone. A coastal permit cannot be issued unless the development is consistent with the Local Coastal Plan. Local Coastal Plans, which typically consist of parts of the local agency’s general plan land use element, are part of the Local Coastal Program, and specify the appropriate location, type and scale of land uses. Local Coastal Plans are enacted by the local agency, but must be approved by the Coastal Commission. In Yost v. Thomas, the California Supreme Court had previously made clear that the Coastal Commission’s review is limited to determining whether the local program is consistent with the Coastal Act, that the Coastal Act gives local agencies broad discretion to determine appropriate land uses, and that the local voters retain the right to modify or overturn a general plan amendment by referendum even though that amendment comprises part of the Local Coastal Program.


Pratt Construction had attempted to develop coastal land in San Luis Obispo County for decades. The county eventually approved a vesting tentative map that vested Pratt into the laws and ordinances in effect in 1990, the year when Pratt submitted its map application. The county issued a coastal development permit, but that permit was appealed to the Coastal Commission. The commission denied the permit, in part because the development was not consistent with Local Coastal Program policies that had been adopted after 1990.


Pratt sued, arguing that the Local Coastal Program was a local matter, as established in Yost, and was therefore part of the local laws and ordinances into which it had vested. The court disagreed, holding that Local Coastal Programs and coastal permits are matters of state law. It dismissed Yost as irrelevant, characterizing Yost as addressing only the power of referendum. The court held that because the Vesting Tentative Map Statute affects only the applicability of local laws, Pratt was not protected against a later-adopted Local Coastal Program.


By holding that the Vesting Tentative Map Statute does not protect against changes in a Local Coastal Program, the court raises significant questions about whether and how vested rights may be obtained in the coastal zone. A petition for review of the case is pending before the California Supreme Court.


Charles A. Pratt Construction Co. v. California Coastal Commission 162 Cal.App.4th 1068, 76 Cal.Rptr.3d 466, (5/8/08 ), as modified on denial of rehearing 6/9/08.


The opinion can be accessed at:


This abstract appears in the July 24, 2008 Alert – Land Use from Bingham McCutchen.  The alert was prepared by firm partners Geoffrey Robinson and Matthew Gray, and of counsel Marie Cooper. See,


The case is also summarized on the Abbott and Kindermann Land Use Law Blog at:  


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