Current Status of Windeler et al v. Cambria Community Services District, et al9/6/2022 Findings of Fact & Conclusions of Law9/6/2022 Judgment
Background: The owners of five vacant residential properties in Cambria (9 total plaintiffs) have sued the District and the County of San Luis Obispo, claiming that the two agencies have jointly “taken” the plaintiffs’ properties without just compensation in violation of the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Based on this theory, the plaintiffs sought to force the District and the County to acquire these properties for hundreds of thousands of dollars each (as well as pay their attorneys’ fees). Plaintiffs’ claims are based on the fact that they cannot obtain water or sewer service from the District as a result of the moratorium on new residential connections, and because their properties are not on the water and sewer waitlist. Plaintiffs did not sue the California Coastal Commission, despite the fact that the Commission is not allowing any new residential development in Cambria, even where the District has issued intent to serve letters based upon existing commitments.
Status – Ruling in Favor of the District: Following an extensive discovery and pre-trial briefing process, trial of this case commenced on November 9, 2021, and concluded on November 18, 2021. Following additional written briefing, on September 6, 2022, the Court issued a ruling and judgment entirely in favor of the District and the County and against the Plaintiffs, holding that there has been no taking, and the Plaintiffs are not entitled to any just compensation.
The decision was very comprehensive and ruled for the District and the County on every material factual and legal issue in dispute. In particular, the Court found that (1) the statute of limitations for claims such as the Plaintiffs’ expired long ago, (2) agreed with the District that the Coastal Commission would not allow any new development in Cambria, even if the District issued new intent to serve letter(s), (3) the District has taken reasonable steps to both acquire new water sources and reduce existing water demand, and (4) the District has treated all similarly situated properties the same. The full ruling and judgement are attached.
In the District’s view, this ruling should foreclose any future lawsuits from owners of vacant property not on the wait list. This decision could theoretically be appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, but no appeal has been filed yet.
Companion Case: The same attorneys that are representing the Windeler plaintiffs filed a second lawsuit in the summer of 2021 on behalf of approximately 100 more property owners (Afifi et. al. v. Cambria Community Services District, et. al.), in the same court as the Windeler case. The District plans to move to dismiss this lawsuit in its entirely based on the reasoning in the Court’s ruling in Windeler, which clearly applies to this second case.