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Cathedral City Resolves One of Three Eminent Domain Lawsuits, 1/27/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

An eminent domain case filed in September 2007 was finally resolved in Cathedral City this month.  As reported in the Desert Sun article, Cathedral City council votes to pay $535,000 in eminent domain land deal,” the city wants the land for a 23-acre project which would include a 39-unit commercial center.

The article states, “the City Council unanimously voted in closed session on Jan. 13 to pay a landowner $535,000 from the  redevelopment fund for two parcels on Grove and Dawes streets east of the Civic Center.”  Eminent domain proceedings began September 26, 2007 and the lawsuit was filed in May 2008 against the landowner.  According to the article, negotiations had been ongoing for months between the city and the landowner.

However, Cathedral City has some concerns about the timing of the project, as redevelopment funds to the state were cut to help balance the state budget.  Cathedral City City Manager Don Bradley explained, “This ($535,000) was money that was set aside and was budgeted, and so it’s not directly affected by the state’s (action).  However, the state’s action of taking additional money is where we run into the problem of going forward.”

Councilman Greg Pettis mentioned it was too late to delay court proceedings once everything had been put into place.  Also, property values were noted, as real estate values could potentially increase in the future,  thereby costing the city even more money.

The land being acquired has about 10 tenants in apartments, some of which have lived there for 35 years.  A relocation company has been hired by the city to provide relocation assistance to the tenants as required by state law.

The two other lawsuits have mandatory settlement conferences scheduled for April 5, 2010.

City of Glendale Acquiring Sliver of Property by Eminent Domain, 1/22/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Glendale’s City Council adopted a resolution of necessity Tuesday, to acquire a five foot easement for the East Garfield Neighborhood Rehabilitation project.  The property is located at 820 S. Maryland Avenue in Glendale and is owned by Kathleen Rosenberry.

The Glendale News Press article, Council OKs eminent domain attempt,” explains that Ms. Rosenberry has previously denied the city’s offers to acquire her property, and therefore the city has now initiated the eminent domain process.  The article states that the city council has allocated $17,500 for the strip of land, which is the city’s estimated value of the land including fees.

This specific piece of land will be used to widen “H-alley” which has been an area of high crime in recent years.  According to the city, the widening will make it easier for police cars to drive in and out of the alley.

Widening “H-alley” is part of a larger rehabilitation project, “which is aimed at revitalizing the densely populated neighborhood in response to residential concerns about crime, lack of open space, parking, lighting and other substandard conditions,” according to the article.


Possible Eminent Domain in Orange County for Tunnel, 1/11/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Huntington Apartments

Annie Burris, The Orange County Register

The County of Orange may consider using eminent domain to acquire a portion of property from Huntington Apartments on Edinger Avenue in Huntington Beach.  The County indicates it needs to acquire 20 parking spaces in order to tunnel under the 405 for a storm drain project.

According to the article, O.C. may force sale of property for tunnel,” from the Orange County Register, the County has offered the property owners “$96,500 for use of about 7,200 square feet of the parking lot for about a year or whenever the construction is completed.”

Debbie Kroner, a spokeswoman with the County Public Works Department said, “eminent domain would only be used if negotiations with the owner of the Hungtinton Apartments at 8400 Edinger Avenue fall through.”

The County is planning these storm drainage improvements because of a flood which occurred in 1995, bringing about a series of lawsuits.  The flood resulted in 138 ground floor units of the complex having to be evacuated due to waist-high water flooding the apartments.

Debbie Kroner states, “…unless improvements are made, when heavy storm conditions similar to what we had in 1995 occur, this property will no doubt be flooded again.”

County supervisors may decide Tuesday whether or not to use eminent domain.

Eminent Domain in El Monte for ACE Project, 1/11/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Property owner Fred Jast is fighting the Alameda Corridor-East Construction Authority (“ACE”) regarding the amount of money they’re offering for the acquisition of his property.  Mr. Jast’s property is needed for an underpass project at Baldwin Avenue in the city of El Monte.

According to the article, El Monte man fights eminent domain claim,” from the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Fred Jast believes his property is worth hundreds of thousands more than what the City has offered.  Jast had his property appraised at $745,000 and ACE is offering $550,000 which includes moving expenses.

Mr. Jast claims, “[ACE has] the right to take my property, but they don’t have the right to steal my property.”  The article indicates that Fred Jast’s property has declined in value as real estate prices, in general, have fallen significantly.

His property consists of 7,300 square feet and houses his home as well as a workshop he uses for his electrical contracting business.

Mr. Jast has not agreed to the offer and has yet to leave the property.  ACE’s real estate manager, Mark Mendoza, explained in the article that ACE, “went to court [last week] to get permission to forcibly remove Jast from the property, with the help of the sheriff.”

Once this hurdle is overcome, ACE will be one step closer to beginning construction as both project design and environmental reviews have been completed.


Commentary from A.J. Hazarabedian:

Mr. Jast’s issue is perhaps the most common issue in eminent domain: the property owner disagrees with the Agency’s appraisal.  Mr. Jast is correct that the Agency cannot steal his property.  If he disagrees with the Agency’s value, he is entitled under the California Constitution to have a jury decide the fair market value of his property.  Mr. Jast would also be entitled to relocation benefits, and possibly loss of business  goodwill, since he apparently was operating a business on the property.  With the right experienced eminent domain counsel, owners like Mr. Jast can ensure that they receive all items of compensation to which they are entitled by law, and can often obtain significantly greater compensation that that offered by the public agency.

Hunts Lane Overpass Project, 1/11/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

Property owners affected by San Bernardino Associated Governments’ (“SANBAG”) Hunts Lane overpass project have voiced their concerns about the project and may have some issues resolved, according to The Press Enterprise article, Hunts Lane overpass causes some concern.”

SANBAG did not adopt the resolutions of necessity from last month’s board meeting which would have been the last step prior to filing eminent domain actions to condemn property needed for the project.

Property owners near the railroad are concerned that the overpass will harm their business by blocking access and obstructing visibility.

According to the article, SANBAG officials are trying to accommodate owners and have made a change to the proposal which would add a stoplight at the end of the overpass on Oliver Holmes Road.

Officials are hoping for construction to begin later this year and should last about 18 months.

City of Ontario May Take More Land for Grade Separation Project, 1/6/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The City of Ontario has given its approval to acquire any adjacent property in the future for the North Milliken Avenue Grade Separation Project.

Currently, construction plans are being finalized and they are hoping for construction to begin by spring.  With this, the City does not want any property acquisitions to get in the way of their timeline.

The Daily Bulletin reports in, Ontario eyes land for grade separation project,” that the City has purchased several properties near the railroad tracks and anywhere from ten to twenty feet from many property owners for the project.

City Manager, Greg Devereaux, said in the articel that only one property owner remains, disputing the monetary amount offered for his property.  Mr. Devereaux also said, “he is confident that the City and owners will reach an agreement before resorting to seizing the property through eminent domain.”

South Lake Tahoe Redevelopment, 1/6/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The South Lake Tahoe City Council has begun discussions about whether or not to add a new redevelopment project area to their plan.  This second project area would include most of the west end of town along Highway 50, which is about 1,300 acres.

The City isn’t taking this idea lightly, mainly because it is a State requirement that properties be deemed blighted prior to being added to a redevelopment area.  Councilman Bill Crawford voiced his opinion in the Tahoe Daily Tribune article, Redevelopment talks set for upcoming months.  He stated, “…we’re going to have the whole town on Highway 50 in a redevelopment area, which says that the whole town is blighted.  No, it’s not.”  He adds that deeming certain properties as blighted could hurt business owners who may want to sell their properties.  If the property is “blighted,” they would have to disclose that information in the sale, which could significantly affect the property’s value.

Another councilman, Bruce Grego, indicated he would support the new redevelopment area, as long as eminent domain is not involved, saying, “…if we provide land use tools to improve their properties, I support that no matter what you call it, as long as we’re not forcing people to do anything.”

The decision to add Project Area No. 2 could come up for vote by the City Council as soon as March.


Commentary from A.J. Hazarabedian:

It is nice to see that the City is taking seriously the issue of declaring an area blighted.  As noted by Councilman Crawford, declaring properties blighted can have a serious impact on the affected area.  While redevelopment can positively influence an area once a project is implemented, redevelopment plans often hang around for years or even decades.  During that time, property owners in redevelopment areas often feel as though they are in a state of limbo, not knowing whether to spend money improving their properties or just allow their properties to decay, since the area may be redeveloped anyway.  Thus adopting a redevelopment plan may be having the opposite effect from the ostensible purpose of the plan – i.e., to eliminate blight.

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.