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CALIFORNIA EMINENT DOMAIN LAW BLOG

Azusa officials clear way for pipeline: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 7/26/08

CIC project draws criticism from residents

By Bethania Palma

AZUSA – The city gave a water wholesaler rights to put a pipeline under the parking area of a housing complex, despite heavy opposition from the homeowners association.

After a drawn-out battle between the Crystal Canyon Homeowners Association and Covina Irrigation Company over pipe placement, the city invoked eminent domain statutes favoring the water wholesaler.

CIC is a nonprofit mutual water wholesaler that provides water to several local cities, including Covina, West Covina, Glendora, Azusa, San Dimas and Baldwin Park.

Officials said an underground pipe system protects against risks that include bio-terrorism, drowning and contamination.

The project is a needed upgrade to a 125-year-old canal system, part of which runs through a public park, said David de Jesus, president of CIC.

“We think this project is a worthy project,” de Jesus said. “It’s an opportunity to get rid of an aging open canal and the company is willing to spend the money to install the pipeline.”

He said CIC has been trying to start the project for about two years, but fierce opposition from the homeowners has stalled the process.

The matter came back to the City Council last Monday night after negotiations between the two parties fell through.

“The homeowners association and the community are very disappointed in the City Council’s decision,” said Frances Diggs, managing agent for Crystal Canyon Home Owners Association.

“We’ve been trying to negotiate with them but rather than finalize our negotiations, CIC chose to contact the city and encourage them to approve eminent domain authority.”

A portion of the pipeline would run under a parking area on the north side of the property of the Crystal Canyon Drive community.

While no homes will be threatened by the project, HOA members said they are concerned that residents’ access to parking spaces and their homes will be hindered.

The HOA has hired a lawyer and plans to continue the fight. De Jesus said the project could begin in about a year, instead of this year as hoped.

Diggs said the association board was concerned about the impacts on residents living on the north side of the property, where the pipe would be placed.

She added the association did not feel CIC provided it with adequate information.

“The association has many concerns on behalf of its members,” she said. “The issue is that it is possible for them to run the lines down Ranch Road, but because it’s less expensive they choose to take them down our property.”

Officials said that Ranch Road, which borders Crystal Canyon on the east, is heavily laden with utility lines. Thus, it wouldn’t be feasible to put a new water pipe there.

Because the water is gravity fed through the system, the best and most efficient route would be through the Crystal Canyon property.

“It would be almost physically impossible and too expensive to move all those utilities that run through Ranch Road,” Azusa City Manager Fran Delach said. “The analysis done by several engineers said it was not viable to put pipes down Ranch Road.”

CIC first approached the council in February, asking for eminent domain authority, but the council told the company to try negotiating one last time.

City officials said negotiations broke down and the right was granted in the public’s interest.

“It’s a temporary inconvenience, but it’s a necessary public works project that has to happen for the betterment of all of us,” Azusa City Councilman Uriel Macias said. “At this point, they haven’t moved anywhere nearer to an agreement, and hopefully this will get things going.”

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: http://www.sgvtribune.com

Changes needed in city plans: San Gabriel Valley Tribune, 7/25/08

Baldwin Park must extend eminent domain authority

By Tania Chatila

BALDWIN PARK – The City Council needs to pass a pair of amendments if it hopes to revitalize 125 acres of downtown real estate, officials said.

The amendments, written by city staff, would extend Baldwin Park’s eminent domain authority for another 12 years in both the Central Business District and the Sierra Vista redevelopment project areas. One amendment would also allow the city to extend its authority to residential property not previously included.

A proposal by the Bisno Development Co. seeking to redevelop 125 downtown acres includes property in portions of both zones.

Baldwin Park and the developer continue to negotiate. If the Council does not pass the amendments, the project – in its entirety – would not be feasible, City Attorney Joseph Pannone said.

“That doesn’t mean the project is going to die,” Councilman Anthony Bejarano said. “It may take a smaller form. The 125 acres isn’t necessarily the end all, be all. It’s more like the canvas we are starting with.”

Pannone said the proposed amendments will go before the project area committees for each redevelopment area and the Planning Commission next month for review.

The City Council will have final say over whether the amendments are passed. But if the project area committees vote against them, the amendments would require at least four of five City Council members to vote to approve them, Pannone said.

The CBD and Sierra Vista redevelopment project areas were established in the 1980s. The city has eminent domain authority over commercial property in the CBD area for another eight to 10 years and over commercial and residential property in the Sierra Vista area until next year, Pannone said.

Along with seeking another 12 years of authority for both areas, the amendments also seek to extend eminent domain authority over residential property in the CBD area, Pannone said.

The CBD area constitutes Baldwin Park’s downtown, and the Sierra Vista area includes land by the 10 Freeway, parts of the downtown and an industrial area off of East Ramona Boulevard, associate planner Salvador Lopez.

Portions of all of those sectors make up Bisno’s 125-acre proposed project area – which would require the procurement of 370 homes and businesses through eminent domain, officials said.

If the amendments do not pass, the city would not be able to exercise eminent domain authority over any owner-occupied units in those areas, Lopez said.

“It is related (to the 125-acre project) in the fact of how it is going to impact the overall project,” Councilman Ricardo Pacheco said. “It’s sort of a continuance with the development area. If we vote not to extend authority, than that kind of ends the whole project area.”

Mayor Manuel Lozano said there is no rush to resolve the amendment issue, especially because the Bisno project is still conceptual.

“Definitely it’s a concern because of a project of this magnitude in the downtown,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s an urgency.”

While the Council has the final say, at least one council member said the PAC’s votes will influence his decision.

“Anytime we have, whether it’s a PAC or a commission, their recommendation always has weight,” Bejarano said. “Given what I know about the amendments currently and their interplay with them moving the development forward, if the PACs were to recommend for those amendments, I would strongly be in support of them.”

Pacheco said he wants to make sure the residents are not negatively affected.

“My whole purpose,” he said, “is to make sure residents aren’t impacted by eminent domain.”

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: http://www.sgvtribune.com

Lathrop OKs eminent domain to acquire farm: Manteca Bulletin, 7/25/08

By Rose Albano-Risso

LATHROP – The days of the old rustic red barn along the San Joaquin River at the end of Towne Centre Drive are numbered.

The Lathrop City Council earlier this week voted unanimously to authorize city staff to begin eminent domain proceedings leading to the acquisition of a portion of the Silveira Farms for the construction of the Bradshaw’s Crossing Bridge over the river.

The bridge, named after the late community activist and leader Mike Bradshaw, will be an extension of River Islands Parkway. It is designed to connect the rest of Lathrop east of the San Joaquin River to the future master-planned River Islands development on the west side where 11,000 homes will be built along with other commercial and recreational projects.

The city is interested in acquiring about seven acres of the Silveira property – 5.53 acres for right-of-way, 1.20 acres for slope easement, and 0.22 acres for a Reclamation District 17 levee easement.

Additionally, the project will need a 10.41-acre area of the property as a temporary construction easement to be used during the construction of the bridge. This will be returned to the Silveira Farms at the completion of the project.

There was no extensive discussion prior to the council’s unanimous vote which was done by roll call. The only extensive comment came from Mayor Kristy Sayles who said that she, too, was raised in a farm – in fact, right next to the Silveira property – but that the council was being asked to consider the greatest good for the public with the least private injury.

Council member Robert Oliver shared the mayor’s sentiment and logic, adding he also empathized with the Silveiras.

Their comments were addressed to a plea from Charles Steidtmann who represented property owners J.W. Silveira and his wife Barbara O. Silveira who now live in Oakland at the public hearing.

“They asked me to come here,” he said, and to ask the council to “restudy this matter.”

Steidtmann, a real estate attorney, said the Silveiras want to see the ambiance of the family’s 230-acre farm preserved.

“The family is not interested in anything but farming; they want to preserve the beauty of the land,” he said.

In a follow-up telephone conversation with Steidtmann, he said the Silveiras, who are now in their 80s, “are obviously disappointed” with the decision of the council.

“They wanted to maintain the integrity of their ranch and preserve the beauty of the riverfront and preserve their historic barn and early California house.”

He said the ranch house was originally the home of J.W. Silveira’s parents. “He spent a lot of time there when he was a child. He has a lot of memorable memories of the place.”

The barn will be demolished to make way for the road or bridge.

“The road is gonna go right through that red barn; the bridge is going to be right next to the house,” Steidtmann said.

A caretaker currently lives in the old house.

He said the Silveiras have no intention of selling or subdividing their property.

Prior to the eminent domain action by the city, the previous developer of River Islands – Califia – also made an effort to acquire part of the Silveira property but were unsuccessful.

Constructing the bridge will take approximately two years, staff told council, with the work expected to start in July of next year. Part of the reason for pushing through with the eminent-domain acquisition of the property is the critical timing for proceeding with the bridge construction. Due to climate conditions and legal mandates, bridge workers will only be able to work on the project during a narrow time span – that is, in the summer months from July to September. Construction is expected to take place during the two consecutive summers.

Manteca Bulletin: http://www.mantecabulletin.com

Victorville to use eminent domain on 34 properties: Daily Press, 7/16/08

By Brooke Edwards

VICTORVILLE — The Victorville City Council unanimously approved the use of eminent domain on 34 properties needed for its latest energy project, the Victorville 2 power plant.

“When do you really expect the lights to go out here, folks, that you have to do this our family?” property owner Bob Landwehr questioned the council during Tuesday’s meeting.

City Manager Jon Roberts said the parcels will complete the 250 acres the city needs for its planned Victorville 2 Hybrid Power Project, which will include a natural gas-fired plant combined with solar panels. The resolution states that the city needs the plant to accommodate anticipated residential, commercial and industrial growth, with demand expected to exceed current energy resources.

The properties are north of Southern California Logistics Airport and are owned by an array of individuals and real estate companies, along with acreage belonging to the City of Adelanto and the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority. Most have no addresses, being parcels of undeveloped desert land, though they generally run along Helendale Road north of Colusa Road.

Landwehr’s five-acre parcel has been in his family for more than 50 years. He said he and his siblings, who share ownership on the property, do not want to sell. However, they’re not concerned as much with the offered price of $261,000 as with the lack of notice they received about the city’s planned use of eminent domain.

One of Landwehr’s brothers received an offer letter from the city’s negotiating agent Epic Land Solutions on June 24. Three business days later, he received notice of the city’s intent to use eminent domain on the property and explaining their rights to be reimbursed for an independent appraisal. Eight business days after that, the item was before the council for approval.

“This is not in the true spirit of negotiation,” Landwehr told the council, citing the state law regarding how eminent domain proceedings are to take place.

Before the vote, Mayor Terry Caldwell insisted the decision was not taken lightly and not a pleasant one for the council to make.

But, Caldwell said, “This project is important not just to Victorville but to the energy needs of Southern California.”

Property owner Su-main Chen drove from San Diego to attend the meeting, in an effort to understand how the eminent domain process works.

City Attorney Andre de Bortnowsky explained that the properties will now go before a San Bernardino County Superior Court judge, who will determine how much money owners will receive from the city. The city can also continue to negotiate pricing, de Bortnowsky said, while the court proceedings take place.

The Daily Press: http://www.vvdailypress.com

Police Station site identified: Claremont Courier, 7/5/08

By Tony Krickl

The Police Commission has identified its top location for a new police station. A 7-acre plot of land just south of the city yard was chosen for its size, location, accessibility and visibility.

In December 2007, an architectural firm was contracted to review the top 10 sites identified by the commission as viable locations for a new police station. The 7-acre site was the top pick by the firm and won unanimous support among police commissioners.

The location is ideal for several reasons, said Carol Painter, Chair of the Police Commission. It is not located in the middle of a residential neighborhood, which could hinder mobility for emergency vehicles. It would be adjacent to the city yard where city vehicles are fueled and repaired. It would also be located across the street from the Pomona Valley Hospital development.

The commission has been looking for a 4- to 5-acre site that would provide enough room for a single or two-story building and ground level parking. The 7-acre site along Monte Vista Avenue would offer plenty of space for current needs and allow for future expansion, according to the architectural firm’s report.

“There’s not very much available land in Claremont,” Ms. Painter said. “So looking for some property that is feasible for a police station is very difficult. And this is a feasible site.”

Other benefits include the location’s high visibility, the relative flatness of the land and the site’s “excellent solar orientation,” which would allow for good natural lighting of the building.

An issue of concern for the city is that the land is currently used as a commercial site for Corey Nursery, which has been at the location for many years. City officials have said that the business owner, Gene Corey, may be interested in selling the land and relocating his business. Mr. Corey could not be reached for comment.

If a negotiated settlement between the city and property owner cannot be reached, the city can still forcibly take the land using eminent domain proceedings.

Another crucial point is that a good portion of the property sits in San Bernardino County. The city might be required to seek some licenses and approval from San Bernardino in order to operate across the county line.

Among the locations no longer being considered are the affordable housing site on Baseline Road, the Holliday Rock quarry north of the city yard, land owned by the Pomona Valley Protective Association that is used as water-spreading grounds and land owned by the city of Pomona with potentially “hazardous material on the site,” according to the report.

Since an assessment of the current police station was done in 2002, city officials have stressed the need for a new one. Built in 1974 to accommodate a staff of 25, officials say the current station is completely outdated and lacks the infrastructure needed for today’s technology.

The station also suffers from excessive overcrowding; with female lockers located in a trailer outside and no room for additional storage space, forensics, new equipment or staff meetings.

“It’s completely inadequate for our police station,” said Councilmember Linda Elderkin.

A new police station would cost somewhere between $25 and $35 million, city officials have said, and would need to be financed using a bond or assessment district with voter approval.

In recent priority setting meetings, the city council has consistently put the development of a new police station near the top of its priority list.

Claremont Courier: http://www.claremont-courier.com

Carmel Valley Residents Concerned About Freeway Connector: 10 News, 6/27/08

SAN DIEGO — Carmel Valley residents are up in arms about a proposed Caltrans project.

Several residents who live near the proposed project rallied outside a Caltrans meeting on Thursday.

“Our choice is either a totally unpleasant living environment or being forced out of a place that we really grew attached to,” resident Dan Brown said.

The project would connect Interstate 5 and the state Route 56 freeway.

Caltrans said the project would allow commuters to transition more smoothly between the two busy highways. Presently drivers have to use surface streets to reach the connecting ramps.

Caltrans is considering several options.

“One would be a typical director alternative, second would be just beefing up the existing streets and freeways, adding more lanes but keeping the existing intersections, no direct connectors, and then we have hybrid alternatives, which would build one connector westbound to northbound,” said Caltrans spokesman Allan Kosup.

Contrary to previous plans, Caltrans said it’s no longer considering acquiring 30 homes through eminent domain.

“The plans do not include direct impact to homes but there would be slopes impacted, landscaping impacted and new walls constructed,” said Kosup.

Residents said their homes will still be affected, whether it be indirectly or not. They said they can only hope their concerns are addressed.

10 News: http://www.10news.com

City agrees to six-figure eminent domain settlement: Half Moon Bay Review, 7/2/08

By Mark Noack

The Half Moon Bay City Council has agreed to pay Equilon Enterprises more than $360,000 for property taken under the city’s eminent domain authority for the Highway 92 widening project.

The settlement was announced Tuesday night by City Attorney Tony Condotti during the council’s regular public meeting.

Equilon Enterprises, which owns the Shell gas station on Highway 92, filed the civil complaint against the city back in 2005.

According to Condotti, the city’s settlement amount reflects the appraised value of the land taken to widen the road, plus about $48,000 in interest and other costs.

Half Moon Bay Review: http://www.hmbreview.com

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.