In 1970 the California Supreme Court held that, under certain circumstances, private property owners impliedly dedicate their property to the public if they permit the public to use it. Gion v. City of Santa Cruz (1970) 2 Cal.3d 29. This holding was controversial, and the next year the California Legislature enacted Civil Code section 1009 limiting the public’s ability to permanently use private property through an implied dedication.
In the 40-plus years since then, the lower courts have wrestled with the issue of whether the statute limiting implied dedication applies only to recreational uses by the public, or also to nonrecreational uses. On June 15, 2017, the California Supreme Court issued its unanimous opinion in Scher v. Burke (June 15, 2017, S230104) ___ Cal.4th ___, holding that the limitations on implied dedication apply to nonrecreational as well as recreational uses. The case is significant because it demonstrates that the Supreme Court will apply the plain language of the state’s statutes to uphold private property rights.