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CALIFORNIA EMINENT DOMAIN LAW BLOG

OCEANSIDE: City considers eminent domain for water project: North County Times, 3/3/09

By Craig Tenbroeck

A thirst for more local water may prompt the city to start eminent domain proceedings on a slice of land near Highway 76.

Oceanside has drilled two wells in north Oceanside that tap into the Mission Basin. It wants to acquire an easement on a vacant piece of private land to run underground water lines that would connect the wells to the city’s purification plant.

As of Tuesday, however, negotiations with the property owner — Goli Enterprises Inc. — were at a stalemate, said William Marquis, Oceanside’s senior property agent.

The City Council will decide Wednesday whether acquiring the property rights through eminent domain is in the public interest. Approval would require four or five council votes.

Goli Enterprises’ attorney, John Credell, did not return calls for comment this week. In a letter to the city a few months ago, he said the company was looking to develop a hotel on the property at Highway 76 and Foussat Street.

“The acquisition by eminent domain may block the project in its entirety, change the nature of the project, change the size of the project, make the project less profitable, (and) decrease revenues to the city of Oceanside and surrounding businesses,” Credell wrote.

Marquis said Oceanside’s interest is only in the narrowest and “least usable portion of the property.” The owner could still use it for parking, he said.

Oceanside built the Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility in 1994 to turn groundwater into potable water and bolster its local supply. Five wells in the city are producing, but three “are not performing as well as expected,” a city report states.

Councilman Jerry Kern, a water policy wonk, called them “dry holes.”

The new wells, near Fire Station No. 7 on Mission Avenue, look to be “real good producers,” Water Utilities Director Lonnie Thibodeaux said Tuesday. Each should produce more than a million gallons a day.

Local water has become a prized commodity, as California is experiencing a harsh drought. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared it a state of emergency last week.

Oceanside has offered Goli Enterprises $26,301 in exchange for the 1,968 square feet of permanent easement and temporary  use of 11,547 square feet of land for construction. Thibodeaux said alternative routes for the water lines would pose difficult construction issues, raising the cost of the project substantially.

North County Times: http://www.nctimes.com

County could use eminent domain for Willow Road: Santa Maria Times, 3/5/09

By April Charlton

San Luis Obispo County might invoke its eminent-domain powers so that the first phase of the Willow Road interchange project in Nipomo can begin as scheduled this summer.

There are 20 parcels between Pomeroy and Hetrick roads that the county needs to secure so construction on the project’s first phase can begin in June.

That work includes extending Willow Road just west of Pomeroy Road through mostly undeveloped property out to Hetrick.

Seventeen of the 20 parcels have been acquired, and negotiations with the three remaining property owners are continuing, said Dave Flynn, county traffic engineer.

All of the properties were appraised last year by an independent consultant hired by the county. The issue with the three remaining properties is those appraisals.

“It really gets into what is the appropriate value of the property,” Flynn told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, when the body unanimously adopted a resolution of necessity.

That resolution is the first step in eminent-domain proceedings, which allow the government to obtain private property for public use, and is mostly used when the property can’t be purchased from the owner voluntarily.

“We do need to establish the need for acquisition of these parcels,” Flynn said.

Eminent-domain laws changed several years ago, allowing affected property owners to obtain counter-appraisals, which are paid for by the governmental entity looking to acquire the property, Flynn added.

He said the three property owners could request counter-appraisals of their parcels, and that the county would have to pay — up to $5,000 for each one — for the service.

The county needs to acquire less than a half-acre of the 2-acre undeveloped Knotts parcel near Pomeroy that will provide direct access to an extended Willow Road, as well as 1.2 acres of a 5-acre parcel along Hetrick.

Additionally, the county needs to secure 2 acres of a 40-acre undeveloped parcel that’s almost in the middle of the proposed extension. The acquisition will split the parcel in half, Flynn said.

The three property owners did not attend Tuesday’s hearing.

The second phase of the project includes extending Willow from Hetrick to Highway 101, and then on to Thompson Road, where a full interchange with onramps and offramps is planned. Construction on that portion of the project isn’t expected to begin until 2011.

Santa Maria Times: http://www.santamariatimes.com

San Jose residents express fears about location of high-speed rail line: Mercury News, 2/26/09

By Stephen Baxter

A plan to bring California’s 800-mile, $45 billion high-speed rail project through San Jose left dozens of local residents wondering about the fate of their homes.

Rail leaders are proposing to bring the new rail through several San Jose neighborhoods next to the Caltrain line, which would mean adding two sets of tracks and widening the corridor from 64 feet to 102 feet.

Willow Glen resident Leslie Roberts, who lives near Fuller and Bird avenues close to the Caltrain tracks, said she fears she could lose her home if the corridor needs to be widened.

“I just spent $120,000 updating that house, so I’m heartbroken,” said Roberts during a community meeting with high-speed rail authority leaders at the Gardner Community Center on Feb. 25 that drew more than 60 people.

Some neighbors near the Caltrain tracks asked whether their homes would be sold by the rail authority or taken by eminent domain, rail leaders said taking the property would be the last resort.

“Caltrain is the preferred corridor, but it’s not the only possible way,” said Gary Kennerly, the rail authority regional manager for the San Jose to Merced section. “If there’s fatal flaws, it could change.”

State voters approved the sale of bonds for the high-speed rail project in November 2008, which will run trains from Sacramento to San Diego at a top speed of 220 mph. Its first phase will connect San Francisco and Los Angeles through San Jose’s Diridon station near the arena. Planners expect 86 high-speed trains and 15,000 passengers arriving at Diridon station daily.

The project is billed as a cheaper and more environmentally conscious alternative to expanding airports and freeways as the state’s population grows.

In San Jose, the proposed route runs parallet to the Caltrain tracks, which basically run from the south along State Route 87, turning near Fuller Avenue in Willow Glen to cross Interstate 280 to Diridon train station. The route would continue north near Stockton Avenue up to San Francisco.

The entire line would have a dedicated right of way and walls or bridges to keep out people and wildlife. Dave Mansen, a Parsons Corp. consultant and regional team project manager for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, said the route being explored is the authority’s preferred option, but the Union Pacific Railroad Co. told the authority not to assume it could use the Caltrain tracks. Union Pacific has traffic rights to the tracks, which are owned by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board.

Two separate environmental reviews will take place for San Jose’s portion of the project, from Diridon station north to San Francisco and from Diridon south to Merced. For the Diridon to Merced portion, an open house will be held on March 25 to pose questions to the rail authority for the environmental impact report. The open house will take place from 3 to 7 p.m. at the Roosevelt Community Center, 901 E. Santa Clara St.

The deadline for submitting questions for the environmental impact to Merced is April 10, and the deadline for the line from Diridon to San Francisco section is April 6.

Comments and questions also can be e-mailed to Dan Leavitt at comments@hsr.ca.gov with the subject line “San Jose to Merced HST.” For comments on the line from Diridon to San Francisco, the subject line should be “San Francisco to San Jose HST.”

For more information on the project, visit www.cahighspeedrail.ca.gov.

Mercury News: http://www.mercurynews.com

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.