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CALIFORNIA EMINENT DOMAIN LAW BLOG

California Project News: California May Take 300 Farms by Eminent Domain for Delta Tunnel Project

The state of California has recently disclosed plans to acquire farmland for an unapproved waterway project that intends to divert water from parts of the Sacramento River.

The Delta Waterway Tunnel Project (also known as the “Bay Delta Conservation Plan” or “California Waterfix”) is intended to provide water from Northern California to Southern California. This project has been in the making for about 8 years. Reuters News Agency reports, “it is a pet project of Governor Jerry Brown (D-California).”

If approved, the delta project will directly impact some 300 property owners in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta areas, and could indirectly impact many more.

California officials came up with a plan to take over 300 farms and may seize them by eminent domain. Under the property acquisition plan for the project – which is marked “Confidential” and only came to light as a result of a Public Records Act request by project opponents – affected landowners will be approached for a one time offer to sell the property. If owners refuse to sell, the State will proceed to acquire the land through eminent domain and owners will be forced to make a sale.

Opponents of the Delta Tunnel Project say it will cause damage to the wildlife and cause the delta to become salty, which would make farming impossible. Many believe it is an attempt to grab land and water.

Richard Elliot, who grows cherries, pears and other crops on delta land farmed by his family since the 1860s told Associated Press, “What really shocks is we’re fighting this and we’re hoping to win. To find out they’re sitting in a room figuring out this eminent domain makes it sound like they’re going to bully us … and take what they want.”

Officials are so far defending the plan to acquire property.

“Planning for right-of-way needs, that is the key part of your normal planning process,” said Roger Patterson, assistant general manager for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, one of the water agencies that would benefit from the twin tunnels.

The project’s environmental review is currently in public comment period, which was set to end August 31st, but after two weeks, it was considered necessary to extend the public comment period another 60 days to October 30th.

How does this impact you?

Right now the project is still under consideration, and may or may not ultimately be approved. If it’s not approved, then you’ll have nothing to worry about. But given that this appears to be a pet project of Governor Brown – and we’ve seen how those tend to get muscled through (i.e., California High Speed Rail) – it seems there is probably a pretty strong likelihood the project will go forward.

We’ll be following the progress of the project on our website at www.caledlaw.com. In the event the project is ultimately approved, and you are an affected owner, you can learn more about your options by giving us a call at (866) EM-DOMAIN.

California High Speed Rail Project: Relocation Considerations for Displaced Businesses, Farms and Non-Profits

The California High Speed Rail project has been slowly, but surely, picking up its pace of property acquisition in the Central Valley. So far, the State Public Works Board has adopted 192 resolutions of necessity declaring the CHSRA’s intent to file eminent domain actions in court to acquire properties.  Last month alone, CHSRA approved resolutions of necessity for 16 more parcels and approval was pending for 14 more parcels. This month, the State Public Works Board considered the adoption of resolutions for 23 more parcels.

Although CHSRA has a long way to go in acquiring the bulk of the land it requires in the Central Valley, many Central Valley residents and businesses are currently facing acquisition and relocation, and are entitled to seek compensation for both. For acquisition of commercial property, including farms and nonprofit organizations, owners may be challenged with relocating their businesses, including equipment and personal property connected to the functionality of the business.

In an effort to aid in the process of relocation CHSRA has created two programs for businesses, farms and nonprofit organizations. The first program, the Relocation Advisory Assistance Program, is to aid commercial property owners in finding suitable replacements for their property. The second program, the Relocation Payments Program, is intended to aid in getting commercial property owners reimbursement for certain costs such as moving and related expenses, reestablishment expenses, and in lieu payments.

The relocation program may pay for actual reasonable moving expenses and related expenses, with limitations, that can include:

  • transportation of personal property
  • packing and unpacking
  • disconnecting and reconnecting personal property related to the operation of the business
  • temporary storage
  • expenses related to finding a replacement location
  • license, permits and fees required for the replacement location
  • some professional services used in the relocation process

However, difficulties can arise for commercial business owners who have equipment or other personal property which is complicated or impossible to either move or replace. In a recent article in Right of Way magazine, relocation expert Darryl Root explained the importance of understanding the regulatory authority of the Code of Federal Regulation part 24 which governs Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition programs. CRF §24.301(g)(3) reads:

Eligible actual moving expenses. Disconnecting, dismantling, removing, reassembling, and reinstalling relocated household appliances and other personal property. For businesses, farms or nonprofit organizations this includes machinery, equipment, substitute personal property, and connections to utilities available within the building; it also includes modifications to the personal property, including those mandated by Federal, State or local law, code or ordinance, necessary to adapt it to the replacement structure, the replacement site, or the utilities at the replacement site, and modifications necessary to adapt the utilities at the replacement site to the personal property.

Root emphasizes that relocation professionals should be attentive to appraisals that include the value of equipment or other personal property as part of the real property. Some personal property, however, does not add overall value to real property and it may be a disservice to the business owner to include the personal property as part of the real estate value. It should be noted that this may not apply to properties where the highest and best use of that property is the existing business. In these situations Root states that the fair market value of the property may properly include the personal property as part of the real property. Therefore, if the displaced business sells its property to the displacing agency with the determination that the highest and best use of the property is the existing business, and personal property is included as part of the real property appraisal, then some relocation payments may not require to be paid to the displacee.

Root suggests that it is important to speak to a relocation professional to understand all of the consequences, regulations and financial impacts of relocating a business and personal property related to the operation of the business. We’ll take it a step further. The various items of compensation to which property or business owners are entitled in acquisitions under threat of eminent domain are complex and interrelated. It is a potential minefield, and trying to deal with CHSRA (or any other government agency threatening eminent domain for that matter) without full knowledge and understanding of the laws and regulations governing such acquisitions can put owners in the position of potentially leaving tens of thousands an even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. At California Eminent Domain Law Group, we are experts in understanding these laws and regulations, and putting them to work for owners rather than against them, to maximize the overall compensation to which property and business owners are entitled. We can be reached for a free initial consultation at (559) 697-6779, or see our website at www.caledlaw.com.

California Eminent Domain Project News: CHSRA Gives Thumbs Up on Fresno-Bakersfield Track

On May 7, California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) board members voted on the next section of the rail project. The two-part vote resulted in the approval of the 114-mile route from downtown Fresno to the northern outskirts of Bakersfield. The first part of the vote was dedicated to the 20,000 page Environmental Impact Report which contained the analysis of how construction and operation of the rail will effect nearby homes, businesses, farms, wildlife and their habitats, and what CHSRA would do to minimize or compensate for those effects. The second part of the vote was with regards to the actual route from Fresno to Bakersfield. Both the EIR and the route were approved by the CHSRA’s board. Opponents to the high speed rail objected to the approval. Opponents were unsatisfied with CHSRA’s work and research in regards to the effects the high-speed rail would have on the environment. Concerns of the unchanged line running through the Central Valley were one of the imminent issues for the opponents. They believe CHSRA had done little to address their concerns regarding the high-speed rail’s impact on the environment. Lawsuits against CHSRA are still underway as a recent appeal in three lawsuits was denied. CHSRA is ready for more lawsuits seeing that the Bakersfield-Fresno track will bring more opposition. Rail board’s vice chairman, Tom Richards, doesn’t think the new lawsuits will be any different from the ones CHSRA faced for the Madera to Fresno section of the rail; he says they are ready.
In response to concerns over the pollution the construction of the high-speed rail will cause, CHRSA stated that they will be committing over $35 million to the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District. Jeff Morales, CHSRA’s CEO, also stated that the agreement with San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District will also pay for replacements of old farm equipment, including pumps and tractors, to minimize pollution. In addition, CHSRA claims that all contractors during the construction of the high-speed rail will be required to use the cleanest-burning construction fleet available.

Although the votes for the Fresno-Bakersfield track were a significant step towards construction of the project, CHSRA still needs to get the approval of two federal agencies: the Federal Railroad Administration and The Surface Transportation Board. They also require permits from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service in order to work along waterways, wetlands and various other habitats.

For frequent updates on the California High Speed Rail Authority project, and other California projects, visit our blog and look for “California Eminent Domain Project News” for the latest news and information on projects near you.

To learn more about California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC or if you have any questions regarding an eminent domain matter, please feel free to visit our website at www.caledlaw.com, where you may request an initial consultation or a copy of our California Eminent Domain Handbook, free of charge. The Handbook may help answer any general questions you have regarding eminent domain. However, the handbook is intended only as an aid for understanding general eminent domain issues. It does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon for that purpose. For a FREE consultation please call 1-866-EM-DOMAIN.

California Eminent Domain Project News: Senate Committee Rejects Attempts at Another Vote for the California High Speed Rail

The ongoing tug-of-war between rail backers and opponents to the project has led to delays in California’s plan to build a high speed rail. Since its voter-back initiative, Proposition 1A, was passed back in 2008, the California High Speed Rail project has encountered numerous bumps in the road. The latest was the appeal denied by the Third District Court of Appeals regarding pending lawsuits between CHSRA and Kings County farmers. Now, the courts continue to delay the project because CHSRA is implementing a plan much different than the one voters approved back in 2008. Issues have a risen regarding CHSRA’s financial plan, lengthened travel times and higher operating subsidies. Courts have already held that the current financial plan is not in accordance with the terms of Prop 1A.

Senator Andy Vidak, R-Hanford, argues that a majority of California voters are now opposed to the high speed rail. Senator Vidak attempted to get 4 bills passed in hopes of derailing the project. This first bill, SB 901, was an attempt to get a referendum on the November 2014 ballot to prohibit sales of additional bonds to fund the project. SB 902 would have required CHSRA to disclose its funding sources before the use of eminent domain to acquire property and required a higher compensation for any properties taken through eminent domain. In Fresno, the CHSRA has already begun the eminent domain process for property needed for new train stations; however, it is unclear whether CHSRA has enough funds to complete its initial operating segment. SB 903 would have required CHSRA to reimburse counties for lost tax revenue because of the acquisition of private properties. Finally, SB 904 would have required officials and contractors of the project to identify themselves to property owners prior to pre-condemnation entry for eminent domain purposes.

All 4 bills were rejected by the Senate Transportation and Housing committee. Legislators have been reluctant to allow California voters to re-vote on the high speed rail project. The Senate committee stated “while voters today may not approve…Californians will be thankful the state continued to pursue it.” Unfortunately, these Legislators seem to have forgotten that they are in office to represent the will of the people they serve- not to dictate to the people what their will should be.

At least the opponents to the project can look to the courts which have been diligently attempting to uphold the legal provisions specified in the ballot measure. It seems clear that Prop 1A’s promises are not being met and rail backers seem to think it is not a big deal in the context of the high speed rail’s benefits.

California Eminent Domain Project News: Update, CHSRA’s Petition Denied by Appeals Court: Next Stop, Trial

Late Tuesday, three justices with the Third District Court of Appeals denied the California High Speed Rail Authority’s (CHSRA) petition asking the court to overturn a decision by the Sacramento County Superior Court. The Superior court had ordered a trial on one part of an ongoing lawsuit between Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors and CHSRA.

One part of the lawsuit is still pending appeal; however, the Court of Appeals decision on the second part of the lawsuit has paved the way for a trial to take place between the Kings County opponents and CHSRA as to whether the High Speed Rail project complies with state law. The lawsuit was filed against CHSRA by the Kings County opponents alleging that the CHSRA is violating Proposition 1A for numerous reasons. Prop 1A was a $9.9 billion high-speed rail bond approved by California votes back in 2008. The Kings County opponents allege that CHRSA’s idea to share electrified tracks along the San Francisco Peninsula goes against Prop 1A by not complying with the promise that the high-speed rail would have a line of fully dedicated tracks. Also, sharing tracks would mean that the CHSRA’s assurance of a 2 hour and 40 minute trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles would be unachievable. Furthermore, a public subsidy would be needed for the blended system.

CHSRA made promises when rounding up California voters to okay the high-speed rail project and now the Kings County opponents assert that the shortcomings to their promises add up to illegal spending of public funds.

CHSRA’s business plan in late 2011 calculated that a fully dedicated track for the high-speed rail would cost $98 billion for only the first phase. In efforts to cut costs, CHSRA decided that a blended track system would save them $30 billion.

Whatever CHSRA’s reasons may be, the Court of Appeals of the State of California has decided that the high-speed rail’s next stop is trial. Whether CHRSA will seek review from California Supreme Court is unclear at this time. However, the Court of Appeals will be deciding on two other rulings made by Sacramento County Superior Court. The first being part of the Kings County opponents’ lawsuit on the 2011 financial plan and the second on the Superior Court’s refusal to validate the sale of the Prop 1A bonds for funding to pay for the first phase of construction.

For regular updates on California High Speed Rail Authority look for “California Eminent Domain Project News:Updates” on our blog at http://blog.eminentdomainlaw.net/

California Eminent Domain Project News: LA Metro Purple Line Extension Project

The extension of the Metro Purple Line has been discussed, studied and planned for years and now the city of Los Angeles has begun construction on the first of three sections of the subway. Metro Purple Line will be extended 9 miles to the west starting at the Wilshire/Western terminus. The project will also be adding seven new stations dispersed along the west side of Los Angeles at Wilshire/La Brea, Wilshire/Fairfax, Wilshire/La Cienega, Wilshire/Rodeo, Century City, Westwood/UCLA and Westwood/VA Hospital.

Metro has begun the process to acquire needed property for the Westside Subway Extension. Hundreds of properties will be affected by this project; if you are an affected owner, an eminent domain case may reach you. It is important that you contact a reputable firm with extensive experience in eminent domain, such as California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC to protect you rights.

Metro has made it clear that it will exercise its power of eminent domain for their $6.3 billion project should negotiations fail. If you are affected by this project you have the right to seek just compensation for your business or property. Do not be left without proper representation from experienced eminent domain attorneys. California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC has handled numerous eminent domain cases, including against Metro, and has taken a substantial number of these cases to verdict and settlement with extraordinary outcomes for clients.

To learn more about California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC or if you have any questions regarding an eminent domain matter, please feel free to visit our website at www.caledlaw.com, where you may request an initial consultation or a copy of our California Eminent Domain Handbook, free of charge. The Handbook may help answer any general questions you have regarding eminent domain. However, the handbook is intended only as an aid for understanding general eminent domain issues. It does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon for that purpose.

FOR A FREE CONSULTATION PLEASE CALL 1-866-EM-DOMAIN

California Eminent Domain Project News: California Speeds Up on the High-Speed Rail Project

Even as the controversial High-Speed Rail project continues to be debated on in the Capitol and challenged in the courts, the California High-Speed Rail Authority (“CHSRA”) is already taking action towards the project. CHSRA has begun to acquire private property to build the foundation for the speed-rail’s tracks. Thousands of properties will be affected by this project; if you are an affected owner, an eminent domain case may reach your door step in no time. It is important that you contact a reputable firm with extensive experience in eminent domain, such as California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC to protect you rights.

The CHSRA is essentially saying “damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” Project supporters claim that the high-speed rail will create new jobs, increase tax revenue, preserve agricultural lands and better the environment. However, the project will also unequivocally impact thousands of property and business owners. Construction is estimated to take up to 2 decades.

Just recently the CHSRA appointed a new executive staff. James Andrews, Assistant Chief Counsel for CHSRA, will be in charge of the legal strategies enabling CHSRA to take the land needed for the project. This means eminent domain will be used to take private properties.

Whether you agree or disagree with the California High-Speed Rail project, you may be forced to address an eminent domain lawsuit if your property or business is in the route of the high-speed rail. Attorneys at California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC have over 25 years of exclusive experience in eminent domain law and inverse condemnation law, and currently represent property and business owners impacted by the High Speed Rail project. They are dedicated to obtaining maximum compensation for their clients. As a property or business owner you have rights to “just compensation.” Do not go unrepresented when faced with an eminent domain matter. Let experienced attorneys get you the compensation you deserve.

To learn more about California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC or if you have any questions regarding an eminent domain matter, please feel free to visit our website at www.caledlaw.com, where you may request an initial consultation or a copy of our California Eminent Domain Handbook, free of charge. The Handbook may help answer any general questions you have regarding eminent domain. However, the handbook is intended only as an aid for understanding general eminent domain issues. It does not constitute legal advice and may not be relied upon for that purpose.

FOR A FREE CONSULTATION PLEASE CALL 1-866-EM-DOMAIN

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.

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COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.