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CALIFORNIA EMINENT DOMAIN LAW BLOG

Claremont council wants more options for new police station; Contra Costa Times, 9/25/08

By Wes Woods II

CLAREMONT – Instead of approving a Monte Vista location as the best site for a new police station, the City Council has decided to look at more options.

The commission will return to the council with the information before the end of the year, Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper said.

The council at its Tuesday meeting accepted a report on the police station’s background, but did not decide to explore options to purchase the site at 1650 N. Monte Vista.

Council members asked the police commission to return later with additional information on more sites.

“I’m not necessarily disappointed,” Cooper said.

“We started this in 2002 and as each year ticks by, there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel. But we’ll be getting the information to them (the council) by the end of the year.”

Cooper said the commission was asked to look at the current site at 570. W. Bonita Ave., the strawberry patch fields at Baseline and Towne Avenues owned by the Pomona Valley Protective Association and the Corey Nursery at Monte Vista.

Council also directed the commission to again talk to Pomona about working together for a possible station at Towne and Bonita avenues, Cooper said.

With the new police station costing an estimated $25 to $30 million and the building expected to last at least 30 to 40 years, Cooper said he understood the council’s request for more information.

Once the station site is chosen, Cooper said, there are the additional challenges of financing the construction, which could involve a bond. “We have our work cut out for us,” Cooper said.

Residents, he said, will have to be convinced “that the need is so great, they have to potentially dig in their pocket to help pay for that.”

During a slide presentation at Tuesday’s council meeting, viewers saw photos of a separate trailer for women officers to dress in, overcrowded lockers and files of evidence threatening to spill out of their boxes.

Mayor Ellen Taylor, Councilwoman Linda Elderkin, Councilman Sam Pedroza and other council members expressed gratitude with the presentation, but discussed the possible use of eminent domain when government takes private property for a public purpose for some hotels near the 10 Freeway and other areas.

“Most of the violent crime is along Indian Hill and below the freeway,” Councilman Peter Yao said after the meeting. “A strong police presence there would be a good thing. If we’re going to spend 20 to 30 million, we shouldn’t settle for what’s available but a site that improves our enforcement.”

The city would consider the use of eminent domain in “What is good for Claremont. We truly have to come up with a spot that’s ideal and benefit the majority of people in Claremont,” Yao said.

Hotel Claremont, at 840 S. Indian Hill Blvd., “Has always been an issue because of some of the questionable activity that goes on in there. And this could be one way to address a couple of problems.”

On Tuesday night, Yao said the location of the police station was important because response times were key to a successful police department.

Cooper on Wednesday said he felt “the impact on crime” and “making the community safe to work in” were more important for his department.

“Response times fit in the whole calculation,” Cooper said.

The Police Department has officers on patrol for 24-hours-a-day and seven-days-a-week and they are not all in the station, he said.

“If we do move out of the center [of Claremont], we can maintain our response times,” Cooper said.

Councilman Corey Calaycay said the entire council was in agreement that “we needed more information because it was clear everyone was poking holes in what was brought before us.”

The reason for the council’s decision to wait for more information is, “Once we get to the point to introduce any financing mechanism, we have to have a solid plan for voters to consider if we expect it to succeed,” Calaycay said.

Contra Costa Times: http://www.contracostatimes.com

San Mateo County suing to gain land for crucial landslide repair in La Honda; San Mateo County Times, 9/23/08

Homeowner so far refusing to sell land that would allow repairs to be completed on project

By Julia Scott

LA HONDA — San Mateo County attorneys have begun eminent domain proceedings against a La Honda landowner who has so far refused to sell his property to the county for an urgent local land repair project.

The lawsuit, filed Sept. 12, names both landowner Jeffrey Kremer and the Cuesta La Honda Guild, the local homeowner’s association. Kremer’s half-acre property occupies a “crucial” location at a sharp bend in Lower Scenic Drive in which contractors plan to erect a row of water drains and a heavy retaining wall that will stop the road from sliding any farther this winter and destroying the houses across the street, according to Chief Deputy County Counsel Penny Bennett.

Kremer’s property is, ironically, the only one the county has needed to purchase in its $6.1 million effort to stop the dangerous slide of Scenic Drive, which has moved at least 35 feet since 1995.

The project to stabilize the slide plain under Scenic Drive began in late spring when La Honda voters approved a new assessment district to split the cost with the county and hopefully preserve their property values. The county has been granted construction easements on a number of other properties near the slide without needing to purchase them outright.

One big slide in 1998 destroyed several houses below Scenic Drive and others had to be condemned. The most recent slide, in 2005, ripped apart Lower Scenic Drive.

Bennett said the county decided to file suit when Kremer, a contractor, did not immediately agree to sell his vacant property and officials looked at the calendar and realized time was running out for the project to wrap up before the first rains began.

“So far we’ve been able to accommodate lack of access to this property — they started repairs at Upper Scenic instead of Lower Scenic,” said Bennett. “But the more time goes by, the closer we get to the winter season.”

The Cuesta La Honda Guild was named in the lawsuit because it has a lien against Kremer’s property. According to the lawsuit, he has not paid his Guild assessments since 2005.

Kremer’s attorney, David Byers, said his client would have no problem selling the county his land — if the price is right. He said the county had offered Kremer $25,000 for his land when a fairer offer would have been closer to $275,000, based on what he said were comparable market prices in the area.

“A real property has a price — that’s the only issue,” Byers said. “The last thing Mr. Kremer is interested in is holding up a project for his neighbors.”

San Mateo County Times: http://www.insidebayarea.com

Eminent domain issue causes fractious debate; Press-Telegram, 9/16/08

By Paul Eakins

LONG BEACH – Residents and business owners concerned about losing their properties confronted city officials Tuesday over a proposed 12-year extension of eminent domain power in North Long Beach.

The North Long Beach Redevelopment Plan was established in 1996 and gave the city a 12-year power of eminent domain, which allows governments to force people to sell their property for improvement projects.

The public hearing at the City Council meeting came one day after the Redevelopment Agency’s board approved the 12-year eminent domain extension. The council will vote on the proposed extension on Oct. 7.

City officials said that residential property owners needn’t worry about eminent domain. California voters in June approved Proposition 99, which forbids governments from using eminent domain to buy homes for other private developments, only allowing the use for public projects such as roads and parks.

But local business owners still expressed concern about how the city may use eminent domain to take their property.

The city often has used eminent domain as a stick to encourage business owners to sell their property, along with the carrot of eliminating neighborhood blight and bringing more desirable developments to the community.

Aristi Contos, whose family owns Golden Star Family Restaurants, spoke out against the Redevelopment Agency’s use of eminent domain, though Contos’ properties are part of the Redevelopment Agency’s Central Project Area, not in North Long Beach. 

“Taking someone’s property because of blight is too simplistic of a solution,” Contos said.

She said her family has been forced to speed up development of a third restaurant site in order to meet the Redevelopment Agency’s timeline or risk losing the property to eminent domain.

The city should do more to help local business owners improve their property, rather than bring in outside developers, Contos said.

Craig Beck, director of Long Beach Development Services, defended the city’s policy, saying that it has many effective programs to help business owners, such as a facade assistance program.

At 12,500 acres, the North Long Beach Project Area is the largest in the city and includes much of the Port of Long Beach as well. The 12-year eminent domain extension wouldn’t include the port, however.

City officials did their best Tuesday to make their case for the value of eminent domain, which they said has allowed the city to bring in projects like the planned North Village Center. That project at Atlantic Avenue and South Street will include condominiums, retail and commercial businesses, a new North Long Beach branch library and a community center.

Amy Bodek, manager of the Redevelopment Bureau, said the city has bought and demolished 10 North Long Beach properties that had caused problems for their neighborhoods, including motels and liquor stores. As a result, police received 2,400 fewer service calls in the project area, she said.But more needs to be done, Bodek said.

“There are still significant blighting conditions that exist within the city’s North Project Area that do need to continue to be eliminated,” Bodek said.

WHAT IS EMINENT DOMAIN?

It is the power of local, state or federal governments to force the sale of private property at a fair price for a public purpose, even if the owner objects. California’s Proposition 99, passed by voters in June, forbids government from using eminent domain to seize homes for another private development.

OTHER CITY COUNCIL

MATTERS

In other business Tuesday, the City Council voted:

To approve the rezoning of 6,750 square feet of city-owned land on the east side of Ernest S. McBride Sr. Community Center, 1550 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., from residential to park, to increase the total size of Ernest McBride Sr. Park to 108,180 square feet, or 2.48 acres.

The rezoning was the final step to clear the way for an expansion of the community center that will include a new teen center, park area, basketball court, playground and outdoor area for seniors.

To delay a final vote on a change in the city’s sewer line maintenance policy, which would require that property owners instead of the city be responsible for the lines from their property line to the city’s main sewer line in the public right-of-way.

Property owners who must make repairs because of city owned trees may still submit a claim for reimbursement, officials have said.

However, several council members, most notably Gerrie Schipske, who was the only council member to oppose the policy change initially, said they wanted more information about how the new process will be managed.

To approve a location agreement with General Petroleum Corp. to entice the company away from Rancho Dominguez and to consolidate all sales and distribution offices for Southern California in Long Beach.

The 20-year agreement will allow General Petroleum to receive 65 percent of the sales tax revenue generated by its $200 million in annual sales, while 35 percent will go to the city. That will result in about $700,000 for the city and $1.3 million for General Petroleum annually, as well as creating 30 new local jobs.

The agreement was approved 7-2, with council members Schipske and Tonia Reyes Uranga dissenting because of concerns about the city’s small share of the tax revenue.

For the final adoption of the proposed city budget for the 2009 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1. The $3.1 billion budget includes some layoffs and program cuts, but managed to keep the downtown Main Library open.

To approve decreases to gas rates that city officials said will result in about a 1 percent lower cost for most residents.

To approve a six-month moratorium on interior alterations of homes to create additional bedrooms, called “bedroom splitting,” in Long Beach’s parking-impacted areas. 

Press-Telegram: http://www.presstelegram.com

Eminent-domain process moves ahead on Calvert’s Jurupa parcel: The Press-Enterprise, 8/29/08

By Sandra Stokley

GLEN AVON – Just days after voters overwhelmingly backed the use of eminent domain to seize 4.3 acres from Rep. Ken Calvert and his investment partners, Jurupa park officials are already planning their next steps.

On Sept. 11, the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District board of directors is set to certify the results of the Aug. 26 mail-in election in which voters approved Measure P by a nearly 3-to-1 margin.

Eminent domain, or “condemnation,” is the process by which a governmental entity may seize property from an owner unwilling to sell, providing the owner is paid fair-market value.

Bill Morrow, the attorney advising the park district, said the certification will set in motion statutory requirements that must be followed in eminent-domain actions.

Park district officials will be required to make a formal offer on the property based on an appraisal listing the land’s fair-market value, Morrow said.

Calvert and his partners must be advised of their rights under the law. If both sides are willing, a negotiating process would begin.

If the owners opt out of negotiating, then the park district board would adopt a “resolution of necessity,” and an eminent-domain lawsuit would be filed in court, Morrow said.

“There are a lot of T’s to cross and I’s to dot,” Morrow said.

“It remains to be seen how quickly or how slowly it goes.”

The land in question has been at the center of a two-year struggle between the park district and the Jurupa Community Services District.

The community services district sold the property to Calvert, R-Corona, and his partners more than two years ago for$1.2 million in a transaction the Riverside County grand jury concluded violated state law.

Under California law, governmental agencies such as the community services district are required to offer surplus property to other agencies, particularly park districts, before putting the land on the market.

That never happened in this case despite the fact that the Jurupa park district had expressed interest in the property as a possible park or sports field going back to at least 2001.

The Calvert partnership plans to build a self-storage facility on the land.

This week’s vote guarantees that the long-running — and expensive — drama will continue for the foreseeable future.

In July 2007, the park district board of directors hired the law firm Lepiscopo and Morrow to represent them in the dispute over the land.

Since then, the district has paid an average of $10,000 a month for those services.

Board President Robert “Bobby” Hernandez said the legal fees are “part of being accountable to the community.”

“If we’re going to take legal action, we have to make sure someone is on board who knows the legal system,” Hernandez said.

Board member Lee Parde said the result of this week’s vote shows the district has the moral support of the public.

Parde acknowledged that $10,000 a month is a lot of money but then asked rhetorically, “Do you just let (the community services district) get away with it?

“It’s time to let everybody know that they are answerable to the public,” Parde said.

Hernandez and Parde said they hope the park district will recoup its legal costs in the lawsuit it filed earlier this month against the community services district.

The lawsuit charges the community services district with fraud and deceit in connection with the property sale.

It seeks at least $1.5 million in general damages and unspecified special and punitive damages.

The Press-Enterprise: http://www.pe.com

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.