Clark v. San Francisco

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United States Supreme Court

124 U.S. 639

Clark  v.  San Francisco

This suit was brought by Milo Hoadley to quiet his title to certain lands in the city of San Francisco. The material facts are these: Prior to 1848 there existed at the place now occupied by the city of San Francisco a town or pueblo, which was organized under the Mexican government, and which claimed title to four square leagues of land, including the premises in controversy. The present city of San Francisco is the legal successor of this town or pueblo. In the spring of 1850, Hoadley entered into the possession of a part of the claim, including the land now in dispute. The city of San Francisco was incorporated by the state of California, April 15, 1851, and, on the 6th of July, 1852, it presented to the board of land commissioners, organized under the act of congress of March 3, 1851, (9 St. 631, c. 41,) 'to ascertain and settle the private land claims in the state of California,' its claim, as the successor of the pueblo, to the four leagues of land held, as alleged, by the pueblo under Mexican authority. The commission, in December, 1854, confirmed the claim to only a portion of the four leagues, (Trenouth v. San Francisco, 100 U.S. 251, 253;) and the city took an appeal to the district court. On the 20th of June, 1855, while this appeal was pending and undisposed of, the common council of the city passed ordinance No. 822, commonly called the 'Van Ness Ordinance,' 'for the settlement and quieting of the land titles in the city of San Francisco.' By the first section it was made the duty of the mayor to enter at the proper land-office, at the minimum price, all the lands within the city above the natural high-water mark of the bay of San Francisco, 'in trust for the several use, benefit, and behoof of the occupants or possessors thereof, according to their respective interests.' The second section relinquished and granted all the right and claim of the city to the lands within the corporate limits to the parties in the actual possession thereof, with certain exceptions, not material to this case. The third section provided that the patent issued, or any grant made, by the United States to the city should inure to possessors, 'as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as if it were issued or made directly to them individually and by name.' Sections 6, 8, and 10 of the same ordinance were as follows:

'Sec. 6. The city * * * may lay out and reserve upon the said lands * * * public squares, which shall not embrace more than one block, corresponding in size to the adjoining block: provided, that the selection shall be made within six months from the time of the passage of this ordinance; and that the city shall not, without due compensation, occupy, for the purposes mentioned in this section, after the laying out the streets aforesaid, more than one-twentieth part of the land in the possession of any one person.'

'Sec. 8. The selection of said lands and lots shall be made by a ommission, to consist of three persons, who shall be chosen by the common council, in joint convention, who shall report the same to the common council for its approval; and, upon such approval, deeds of release to the corporation for the lands thus selected shall be executed, acknowledged, and recorded, in which deeds shall be specified the uses for which they are granted, reserved, and set apart respectively.'

'Sec. 10. Application shall be made to the legislature to confirm and ratify this ordinance, and to congress to relinquish all the right and title of the United States to the said lands, for the uses and purposes hereinbefore specified.'

No entry of the land was ever perfected under this or any other ordinance. Neither was there any selection of squares made before the 27th of September, 1855, when the common council passed ordinance No. 845, being an 'ordinance providing for, selecting, and designating public squares, * * *ACCORDING TO THE PROVISIONS OF ORDINANCE no. 822,' and confirmatory thereof. This ordinance provided for the election of three commissioners, to act under No. 822, and to discharge the duties specified in section 8 thereof. Under this ordinance, commissioners were chosen, and, by another ordinance, passed April 7, 1856, they 'were granted until the 20th day of April, 1856, to complete their labors.' On the 19th of April, 1856, these commissioners made their report, by which they laid out and reserved, among others, 'Alta Plaza' and 'Hamilton Square,' and, in so doing, they took for each four blocks, instead of one, and they also took more than one-tenth of the whole land in the possession of Hoadley. No compensation has been made him for any part of the land so taken.

On the 15th of October, 1856, this taking and these reservations were approved by an order of the board of supervisors of the city and county of San Francisco, then the governing body of the city. On the 11th of March, 1858, the legislature of California passed an act embodying and reciting literally the two ordinances of the common council, and the order of the board of supervisors, above mentioned, and then enacted as follows:

'Be it therefore enacted, that the within and before cited order and ordinances be, and the same are, hereby, ratified and confirmed, and all the land entered, or to be entered, in the United States land-office, in pursuance of section one of the first recited of said ordinances, in trust, shall pass and inure to and be deemed to have immediately vested in the occupants thereof, for their several use and benefit, according to their respective interests, in execution of the trust designated in an act of congress entitled 'An act for the relief of citizens of towns upon the public lands of the United States, under certain circumstances,' approved May twenty-third, one thousand eight hundred and forty-four, as extended and applied by an act of congress entitled 'An act to provide for the survey of the public lands in California, the granting of pre-emption rights therein, and for other purposes,' approved March third, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-three; and it shall be the duty of all courts and officers to take judicial notice of the said order and ordinances, as hereinbefore recited, without further proof, as fully and effectually, to all intents and purposes, as if they were public acts of the state legislature.

'Sec. 2. That the grant or relinquishment of title made by the said city in favor of the several possessors by sections two and three of the ordinance first above recited shall take effect as fully and completely, for the purpose of transferring the city's interest, and for all other purposes whatsoever, as if deeds of release and quitclaim had been duly executed and delivered to and in favor of them individually and by name; and no further conveyance or other act shall be necessary to invest the said possessors with all the interest, title, rights, benefits, and advantages which the said order and ordinances intend or purport to transf r or convey, according to the true intent and meaning thereof: provided, that nothing in this act shall be so construed as to release the city of San Francisco, or city and county of San Francisco, from the payment of any claim or claims due or to become due this state against said city, or city and county, nor to effect or release to said city and county any title this state has or may have to any lands in said city and county of San Francisco.'

By section 5 of the act of July 1, 1864, (13 St. 332, c. 194,) 'to expedite the settlement of titles to lands in the state of California,' congress enacted as follows:

'Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, that all the right and title of the United States to the lands within the corporate limits of the city of San Francisco, as defined in the act incorporating said city, passed by the legislature of the state of California on the fifteenth of April, one thousand eight hundred and fifty-one, are hereby relinquished and granted to the said city and its successors, for the uses and purposes specified in the ordinances of said city, ratified by an act of the legislature of the said state, approved on the eleventh of March, eighteen hundred and fifty-eight, entitled 'An act concerning the city of San Francisco, and to ratify and confirm certain ordinances of the common council of the city."

Under the authority of the same statute (section 4) the appeal of the city of San Francisco then pending in the district court was transferred to the circuit court, and that court, on the 18th of May, 1865, entered a decree confirming the claim so as to include the land now in dispute, but declaring that 'this confirmation is in trust for the benefit of the lot-holders under grants from the pueblo, town, or city of San Francisco, or other competent authority; and as to any residue, in trust for the use and benefit of the inhabitants of the city.' Upon these facts Hoadley claimed title to the parts of the 'Alta Plaza' and 'Hamilton Square,' which were taken from the lands originally occupied by him under his entry in 1850. The supreme court of the state decided that the title was in the city, and enjoined him from 'meddling or interfering with the same.' To reverse that judgment this writ of error was brought.

[ S. W. Holladay, for plaintiffs in error.

George Flournoy and John B. Mhoon, for defendants in error.



This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).