Accepting Benefits of Conditional Use Permit Forfeits Right to Maintain Objections

    The California Supreme Court, in Lynch v. California Coastal Commission, holds that by accepting the benefits of a conditional use permit and building pursuant to the conditions, plaintiffs forfeited their right to maintain their objections to the conditional use. “By accepting the benefits of the permit and building the seawall, plaintiffs effectively forfeited the right to maintain their otherwise timely objections.”

    The court reasoned that permit holders are obliged to accept the burdens of a permit along with its benefits. This rule stems from the equitable maxim: “He who takes the benefit must bear the burden.”

    Plaintiffs obtained all the benefits of their permit when they built a seawall. They cannot now complain of its burdens, i.e., that the permit prohibits reconstruction of a lower stairway to the beach, that it expires in 20 years, and that the seawall cannot be relied upon for future blufftop redevelopment as a source of geological stability or protection unless plaintiffs obtain a new permit within the 20-year period.