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The End of Redevelopment Agencies Halts Projects in the Planning for Years, 1/9/12

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Governor Brown’s plan to abolish redevelopment agencies followed by the recent California Supreme Court decision to do just that is having a profound effect on planned redevelopment projects.

An article in the Sacramento Business Journal last week entitled, “Rancho Cordova won’t buy property through eminent domain,” explains how the city is now abandoning a project they have been planning for years.  The article states that not only will a current eminent domain lawsuit be dropped, but Rancho Cordova’s redevelopment agency will also be “forced to sell two other parcels that it had previously acquired for redevelopment,” related to the same project.

Cities and other government agencies will inevitably attempt some workarounds in order to enhance and improve their areas.  For Rancho Cordova, “the city’s leaders said they will continue to improve Folsom Boulevard through grants and other funding.”

Metro’s Gold Line Construction Authority is another agency scrambling to keep a project moving forward in the midst of last week’s decision.  The Pasadena Star News reported in their article, “Monrovia, Gold Line officials continue attempts to execute land deal for maintenance yard,” that Gold Line and City of Monrovia officials are trying to understand what to do about their previously negotiated deal.  For a planned maintenance yard to be built in Monrovia, the Metro Gold Line Construction Authority had negotiated a deal to purchase 14 acres of Monrovia Redevelopment Agency-owned land for $41.6 million.  In anticipation of last week’s ruling, the Authority recently voted to condemn the land in order to keep the project on schedule.  Under the eminent domain proceedings, the land could be purchased for $17.3 million.  The City of Monrovia stands to lose millions of dollars if the eminent domain proceeding moves forward rather than the previously negotiated deal.

Per the Pasadena Star News article, Monrovia officials are “working with lobbyists to draft potential legislation that would carve out the project from the new redevelopment rules.”

Stay tuned…

Caltrans’ 5 Widening Project Could Mean Eminent Domain, 12/2/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Caltrans is moving forward with a widening project on the 5 freeway from the 605 to the Orange County line – a project which has been in the works for many years.  An article in the Downey Patriot, “Caltrans plans to widen 5 freeway” discusses some of the impacts the project will have on property and business owners in the surrounding areas.

As discussed in the article, 440 parcels will be impacted by the widening in the cities of Downey, Norwalk, Santa Fe Springs, La Mirada and Cerritos.  Caltrans project manager Emad Gorgy explains that “the goal of the project is to mitigate the bottleneck along the I-5 corridor and push the carpool lane towards Downtown Los Angeles.”  They will “divide the corridor into six sections and the existing lanes will be expanded to 10 lanes across.”

We have been informed that Caltrans has already begun the process of acquiring property for this project.  It is likely they will use the power of eminent domain as they did for the Carmenita Interchange project.

To better understand the eminent domain process, visit our website to read our “California Eminent Domain Handbook.” In the handbook, we provide a breakdown of the steps involved when the government wants to acquire property by eminent domain, as well as general information regarding property and business owners’ rights when faced with eminent domain.

California Water Commission OK’s Eminent Domain for Delta Project, 11/18/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The California Water Commission voted Wednesday to begin eminent domain proceedings, affecting 20 landowners.  According to The Record‘s article Vote clears state to seek eminent domain for drilling on delta properties,” the Commission is allowing the State Department of Water Resources to acquire permanent easements for drilling purposes from landowners in Sacramento County.

According to the State, the drilling is necessary to help choose the best route for a new tunnel which would move Sacramento River water through the delta to other counties.  While the easements are only about 16 square feet, the landowners have objected to the takings, specifically because they don’t know exactly where the drilling will take place.  The properties are mostly farmland and property owners fear it may affect their wells and irrigation lines.

The State claims the drill holes will be “about the size of a softball” and will be “filled with grout and abandoned” once their work is completed.

There are 46 landowners affected by this delta project and, as reported by The Record, only two have settled.

Eminent domain is the power of local, state or federal government agencies to take private property for “public use” so long as the government pays “just compensation.”  The government can exercise its power of eminent domain even if the owner does not wish to sell his or her property.

To learn more about eminent domain, check out our California Eminent Domain Handbook by clicking here.

San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement Project Will Require Eminent Domain, 8/23/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The San Jose Creek Capacity Improvement Project in the city of Goleta will require eminent domain; this according to Noozhawk’s article “Attorney Says Vote on Eminent Domain Puts Goleta Council ‘On a Road to Litigation.’”

At the August 16th City Council meeting, councilmembers adopted a “Resolution of Necessity” to acquire the necessary parcels by eminent domain.

A “Resolution of Necessity” is the government agency’s formal decision to acquire property by eminent domain.  It must be adopted before the condemning agency can commence an eminent domain action in court.

The project, per the city’s website, will include “the removal and replacement of both the existing concrete flood control channel from Hollister Avenue to the Twins Screen Drive-in property and the existing Hollister Avenue Bridge over San Jose Creek.”

While the city is only seeking portions of private properties for the project, the attorney for the property owners suggests that the city acquire the parcels on the east side of the channel in their entirety.  He argues this “would allow the construction equipment, vehicles and materials to be on site and accessible as needed, instead of affecting properties on both sides of the channel.”

As often occurs on properties potentially affected by eminent domain, the attorney points out that “eminent domain has already caused a major tenant to leave the property in anticipation of the difficulties that might happen as a result of the city’s activities.”

The article indicates Community Services Director Steve Wagner is hoping to continue negotiating with property owners, but adopting the Resolution of Necessity aids in the timing of the project.

Cathedral City May Use Eminent Domain to Acquire Angel View Thrift Mart, 8/22/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

A thrift mart in Cathedral City is facing eminent domain to make way for future downtown development, reports The Desert SunAngel View Thrift Mart has been operating at the East Palm Canyon Drive location since before the city was incorporated.  And now, if the city gets their way, the store will be forced to relocate.

The article, “Cathedral City plans to push Angel View move” quotes the store’s General Manager Tracy Powers stating, “[they] don’t want to stand in the way of the city accomplishing their goal [but they're] distressed in that the city is not more forthcoming in details on what they can do for [them].”

The thrift mart was offered $750,000 for their property but Powers says he is less concerned with the money and more interested in finding a suitable place to relocate the business which will maintain the store’s revenue.

As for a possible relocation site?  The city had offered Angel View another building on East Palm Canyon Drive over a year ago.  However according to the article, Powers and the city weren’t able to come to an agreement regarding the necessary repairs the building would have required.  Now, Powers has learned that this same proposed relocation site is slated for demolition.

Where does this leave the Angel View Thrift Mart?  For now, they’ll have to wait for Cathedral City’s council meeting on September 14th when the issue is expected to be discussed.

Calleguas Water District Considers Eminent Domain for Pipeline Project, 6/22/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The Calleguas Water District is considering using eminent domain to acquire an easement on two properties in Camarillo.  The easements are needed for a pipeline project which, according to the Ventura County Star article, will help bring much needed water to Simi Valley, Moorpark, Thousand Oaks and Camarillo.

The article, “Water district may invoke eminent domain on Lewis Road to finish pipeline,” quotes Eric Bergh, resources manager for the District, who says they have been having a hard time finding the legal owner of one of the properties and negotiations have “stalled” with the other property owner.

The article indicates that if the District continues to have trouble negotiating an agreement by the end of the month, they will consider adopting a Resolution of Necessity.  As discussed in our California Eminent Domain Handbook, a Resolution of Necessity is the government agency’s formal decision to acquire property by eminent domain.  As touched on in the article by Susan Mulligan, a Director at the District, the Calleguas Water District will have to find that the pipeline project is necessary, that the property they seek to acquire for the project is necessary, that the project is located in such a way as to offer the greatest public benefit with the lease private detriment, and that an offer to purchase the property has been made (or the offer was not made because the owner could not be located after a diligent search).

The District will consider adopting a Resolution of Necessity at their July 5, 2011 meeting if an agreement is not made before then.

Banning to Use Eminent Domain on Vacant Parcel, 5/13/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The City of Banning adopted a resolution of necessity this week, authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire a vacant parcel which sits in the middle of their planned project area.  The project, Village at Paseo San Gorgonio, plans to revitalize a currently “blighted” downtown area.

The Banning-Beaumont Patch reported in their article, “Banning Proceeds With Eminent Domain to Acquire Property for Village at Paseo San Gorgonio Project,” that negotiations with property owners have been unsuccessful as the City has received no response to any offers made.

The parcel is owned by Frederick Huang, Audie Huang, and Jen Huang.  The City has offered them $75,000 for the parcel, which according to the article has been vacant since 1969.

City Councilmember Bob Botts is quoted in the article stating that “the City is on record…not to use eminent domain against residential properties…But this is a classic example, non-residential, unresponsive person, disinterested, and a vacant piece of property, and this will help the greater good for downtown Banning.”

Eminent domain proceedings will begin in a few weeks per Banning City Attorney David Aleshire.

SANBAG Will Hold Off on Eminent Domain for sbX Project – For the Moment, 2/4/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The San Bernardino Associated Governments (“SANBAG”) Board shot down a resolution of necessity to begin eminent domain proceedings to acquire property for the sbX Rapid Transit System project this week.  The San Bernardino Sun indicated in their article, “High-speed bus plan hits snag,” that the Board did not adopt the resolution because of the growing disapproval of affected business owners.

Per the article, affected business owners are claiming that not only will part of the property be taken, but “the proposed dedicated bus line will discourage commerce by forcing drivers to make u-turns into businesses instead of the left turns they make now.”

The Board recommended that more negotiations with property and business owners take place prior to initiating eminent domain proceedings.  More than likely, another resolution of necessity will be on the Board agenda in the coming months.  A “resolution of necessity” is a government agency’s formal decision to acquire property by eminent domain.

The sbX project would impact 151 properties, a few involving a full take, some requiring a “sliver take” of between 1 and 15 feet, and others requiring only a temporary construction easement.

Eminent Domain Looming in Glendale, 1/20/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Developer Rick Caruso is closing in on the remaining properties he desires to expand the Americana at Brand.  The Glendale News Press announced today that Henry David, owner of the vacant brick building at the edge of the mall, agreed to sell his 7,500 square foot property to the developer.

Caruso, who also developed The Grove, plans to expand his newest development in Glendale and has the support of the City’s Redevelopment Agency.  In December, the Agency gave Henry David and the owner of the Golden Key Motel, Ray Patel, two choices: negotiate with Caruso on a sale price, or submit a proposal to develop the property.  If neither choice is made by January 27, 2011, the Agency has threatened to use eminent domain.  Now that Henry David has agreed to sell his property, the focus has moved to Mr. Patel.

Today’s Glendale News Press, “Caruso buys vacant building next to Americana,” quotes Caruso who thanks Henry David “for his professionalism and cooperation through this process” and says he “hope[s] to enter into a constructive dialogue with Mr. Patel to complete [the] acquisition plan in the very near future.”

Previous news article have indicated that Ray Patel has been offered $6 million by Caruso to purchase the Golden Key Motel.  Thus far, no agreement has been reached.

January 27th is right around the corner.  Stay  tuned.

California Farmers Fear High-Speed Rail, 1/17/11

By A.J. Hazarabedian

California farmers are once again voicing their concerns about the potential high-speed rail project which has been a hot topic recently.  A route has yet to be determined, but one of the alternatives could displace 1,900 acres of property – of which 1,460 acres is farmland.

This morning’s Sacramento Bee featured an article, “Path of high-speed rail worries California farmers,” where both the farmers and the rail authority gave their arguments for and against the project.  Some of the farmers feel they are not being heard and that the rail authority is not giving them enough answers.  The authority’s deputy executive director, Jeff Barker, recognizes their fears however, and states “the authority cannot provide more specific answers until environmental reviews are completed on the route options.”  This February a draft environmental document is expected, which should discuss alternatives and provide some explanations of the plans.

The article explains the fears of the farmers.  It indicates that not only will their crops be disrupted, but they will have more challenges getting around, as the speed of the proposed train will prevent at-grade crossings.  This would mean the farmers would have to rely on new undercrossings or overpasses which may add inconvenience.

As an eminent domain attorney, I am interested in the issue of just compensation.  With farmers, taking land often means taking crops.  Valuing these crops and the loss of future business could be tricky.  The article briefly mentions the issue of compensation, addressing farmers concerns about whether they’ll be compensated only for the value of the land acquired, or “for future lost income from permanent crops like grapes, nuts or fruit crops.”  This particular issue is a prime example of why hiring an experienced eminent domain attorney is so important.  Eminent domain is an unusual area of the law and when dealing with your property and/or business, you want someone representing you who has extensive knowledge of the specific rules of eminent domain law.

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