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City of Pasadena to Consider Using Eminent Domain to Acquire Historical Building, 3/31/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

A building which has remained vacant for over a decade may be acquired by the City of Pasadena using the power of eminent domain.

The Pasadena Star News recently reported in their article, Pasadena may use eminent domain to seize historical building,” that the fate of Angela Chen-Sabella’s property at 78 N. Marengo Ave. will be decided during an April 12th city council meeting.

The property, which “was originally used by the Young Women’s Christian Association as a social center and place for women to stay,” has been deteriorating for years.  It has not been used as a YWCA since the 1980s and was purchased by Chen-Sabella’s company, Trove Investments, in 1996.  The article mentions previous discussions between the owner and the city regarding a potential luxury hotel on the site, although that idea never came to fruition.

Compensation has been the issue keeping the city and the property owner from coming to an agreement on the acquisition.  According to the article, “in the latest effort, the city offered about $6 million for the site, said [city attorney Michele] Bagneris, but Trove countered with an asking price of about $12 million.”

Mayor Bill Bogaard is hoping that “the threat of eminent domain will be enough to bring Trove back to the negotiating table.”

The city council will meet April 12, 2010 to discuss the adoption of a resolution of necessity, which is a governmental agency’s formal decision to acquire property by eminent domain.  The council will consider authorizing the use of eminent domain, as well as deciding whether or not to initiate eminent domain proceedings in this circumstance.

San Luis Obispo County Delays Eminent Domain Decision, 3/24/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

San Luis Obispo County Board of Supervisors decided to delay using eminent domain for a parcel needed for the Willow Road Interchange Project.

According to the Santa Maria Times article, Eminent domain decision delayed,” the Board had planned to vote on a resolution of necessity which would have been the last step prior to filing an eminent domain action.  The parcel in question is owned by Universal Life Church.  The County Department of Public Works needs to “obtain a roughly wedge-shaped parcel adjacent to Highway 101,” for the southbound 101 onramp at Willow Road.

Per the article, the county has offered the property owner fair market value, but “negotiations on the actual purchase price [are] expected to continue three to six months.”

Phil Acosta, the county’s right-of-way agent, said delaying the resolution of necessity hearing would “allow staff to make changes to the legal description of the property so there will be no question about the legality of an eminent domain proceeding.”

The resolution of necessity will be heard during the Board of Supervisors’ April 20th meeting.

Potential Eminent Domain Action in Glendale, CA, 3/24/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The city of Glendale may use eminent domain if an agreement cannot be made with the owner of a building on Brand Blvd.  A recent Glendale News Press Article, Council approves Neon increase,” explains that the city has been negotiating with the property owner, Andrainik Shahinian, since November.  His property at 212 S. Brand Blvd., which includes an arcade, has been in his family since 1987.

The property is needed for expansion of the Museum of Neon Art which will also occupy “an adjacent vacant city-owned building at 216 S. Brand Blvd. across from the Americana at Brand.”  The museum struck a deal with the city in September, proposing to expand their space to include this adjacent property.

According to the article, the city plans to continue negotiations with the property owner prior to beginning eminent domain proceedings.  However, the city would like to redevelop this property soon, as the arcade has been a source of many police calls.

San Pablo tries to quell eminent domain fears with promise to residents; Contra Costa Times, 3/18/10

By Tom Lochner

San Pablo, reacting to public angst about eminent domain, is promising not to use the doctrine to take away any owner-occupied home and turn it over to a private individual or company for development.

Such action already is prohibited by Proposition 99, passed by the state’s voters in 2008.  So although a resolution approved this week essentially affirms what already is law, the City Council, sitting as the redevelopment agency board, took a largely symbolic further step, pledging to sign agreements with any homeowner-in-residence promising not to use eminent domain improperly.

“In this way, San Pablo property owners will have a separate, contractual obligation to enforce against the Redevelopment Agency,” a staff report reads.

Or as City Manager Brock Arner expressed it: “It’s like wearing a belt and putting on suspenders.”

Under eminent domain, government can force an owner to sell it property for the public’s benefit and for just compensation, which is determined in court if the owner and the agency cannot settle on a price.

This week’s action came in response to an outpouring of more than 100 people at a public hearing two weeks ago on a proposal to renew the redevelopment agency’s eminent domain powers for another 12 years.  Many at that meeting accused the agency of plotting to take their homes and businesses.  The council continued discussion of the renewal proposal to April 19.

There was no such outpouring this time, but two residents drew the council and staff into a discussion of eminent domain and redevelopment in general.

Margaret Judkins objected to the fact that more than 90 percent of San Pablo is in a redevelopment area.

“It’s telling everybody we live in a garbage dump,” Judkins said.  “That’s very embarrassing.”

She also said the council resolution does nothing to protect business owners.

Arner and Assistant City Manager Kelsey Worthy countered that redevelopment created much of today’s San Pablo and that without it, the Signature at Abella residential development, several shopping centers, the Holiday Inn Express hotel and numerous other projects would not have been built.

Arner noted that earlier in the meeting, the critics had applauded the redevelopment manager of East Palo Alto, Marie McKenzie, who made a guest presentation on a program in her city to get businesses assisted by her agency to hire local residents.  East Palo Alto has a population similar in size to San Pablo’s, and most of that city also is in a redevelopment area.

The council announced there will be a town hall meeting March 29 on the subject of redevelopment and eminent domain.

The council will vote April 5 on a proposed letter of agreement with homeowners-in-residence, and April 19 it will resume the discussion of the proposal to renew the agency’s eminent domain powers for another 12 years.

Contra Costa Times:

VISTA: Member breaks rank with Vista redevelopment panel; The North County Times, 3/17/10

By Cigi Ross

A member of a Vista redevelopment committee is being chastised by his colleagues for distributing a letter to downtown merchants and homeowners that warns their property may be in danger of being seized by the city.

Jerome Hymes, a member of the Project Area Committee, recently distributed the letter to about 35 downtown businesses alleging the city is trying to “seize private property from unwilling sellers” by using eminent domain.  It also states that the city has “no intentions to treat property owners as partners” in the redevelopment process.

Eminent domain is a process that allows a government agency to take private land for public use or development, as long as it pays fair market value as determined by a court.

The letter, dated Feb. 1, is addressed to Vista’s Director of Redevelopment and Housing Bill Rawlings, though Rawlings said in a Feb. 4 response that he had never received a copy of the letter until he learned of it through a newspaper reporter.

Rawlings said Hymes misunderstands redevelopment laws and the processes the redevelopment agency must follow.

During a meeting of the committee Monday, Hymes told fellow panel members he was dissatisfied with Rawlings’ response and decided to hand out copies of the complaint letter as a way to provide information to downtown property and business owners.

“Sometimes it takes a public to get government or cities to listen,” Hymes said.  “If other people are asking, maybe you’ll see it as important.”

Other committee members promptly took Hymes to task for distributing the letter and said it was full of inaccuracies.

“It’s a total laundry list of all the urban myths of redevelopment,” member David Nilson said.

Janet Puckett, a committee member and executive director of the Vista Village Business Association, called the letter a “scare tactic.”

“Going out and scaring these people with information that is incomplete or inaccurate is not what I (as a PAC member) should be doing,” she said.

In the letter, Hymes cites the agency’s attempt to purchase the Vista Riviera Motel and lease the property to a nearby car dealership, North County Ford.  Redevelopment officials are currently negotiating a purchase with the motel owners, who have said they don’t want to sell the property, and the City Council authorized the agency to proceed with eminent domain if an agreement isn’t reached.

Hymes also said other committee members have an insensitive attitude to property owners who might not want to sell their properties to the agency — citing a remark Nilson made at a Jan. 11 meeting to “bulldoze” a property.

“I have a rude sense of humor,” Nilson said on Monday.  “I didn’t really mean it.”

“We all understand David was just making a flip comment,” Puckett said.

Rawlings said last month that the assertions Hymes is making about redevelopment are simply not correct.  He said Vista’s redevelopment plan has language that prohibits residentially zoned property from being taken through eminent domain and that the redevelopment agency is required by law to go through several steps, including negotiations with owners and City Council approval, before acquiring a property through eminent domain.

Rawlings said city officials would meet with individual property owners if the city becomes interested in their property.

“This effort has not been surreptitious, but has been very open and transparent,” Rawlings wrote in his response letter.

But Hymes said Rawlings’ and other members’ comments had not eased his concerns.

“I won’t accept your statements that (the letter was) inaccurate.  I won’t say I won’t write another letter,” Hymes said.

Rawlings said the city will begin unrolling a communication plan in May or June that will give property and business owners more information about redevelopment in the Paseo Santa Fe Corridor.

The redevelopment agency last month sold $36 million in bonds to begin purchasing property in the corridor, which stretches along South Santa Fe Avenue from Monte Vista Drive in the south to Orange Avenue in the north.

The redevelopment agency plans to purchase parcels it can bunch together, then sell them to private developers who will construct mixed-use buildings with ground-floor retail topped by offices and condos.

The North County Times:

CEDLG Will Be At The CRA EXPO Tomorrow – Booth #402

California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC will be exhibiting at the California Redevelopment Association’s Annual EXPO in Pasadena, CA on March 11th.  We will be in Booth #402.

The attorneys at California Eminent Domain Law Group, APC are among California’s premier eminent domain attorneys, with extensive experience in all facets of eminent domain law.

Glenn Block Speaking at the Los Angeles County Bar Association March 10, 2010

California Eminent Domain Law Group’s Glenn Block will be speaking at the Los Angeles County Bar Association on March 10th.  The topic of the presentation is “Partial Takings in Eminent Domain: A Caltrans Case Study.”

Program Description:

Sometimes the government just wants a portion of a property for roads or other public infrastructure projects.  Learn strategies for assessing the impacts of a partial taking, valuing what’s being taken, and obtaining fair compensation.  Caltrans’ Deputy Directory of Right of Way and the parties’ attorneys will give real-life examples of the impacts of a freeway widening project on a large industrial property and the business operating on the property, and share the creative solutions the parties reached to successfully resolve the case.

Program Location:

Los Angeles County Bar Association

1055 West 7th Street, 27th Floor

Los Angeles, CA 90017

12:00 PM – 1:30 PM

City of Ukiah Considers Eminent Domain for Palace Hotel, 3/2/10

By A.J. Hazarabedian

The Palace Hotel was once a “hub of activity” back in the 1970’s and 1980’s and now sits, decaying, deteriorated and vacant.  For over twenty years, the 119-year-old hotel building has remained vacant, with city officials gently suggesting to the owners that they clean it up.

Now, The Press-Democrat reports in their article, Ukiah seeks a new life for Palace Hotel,” that the city is considering reinstating the power of eminent domain which will give them the authority to either force the owners to rehabilitate the property or sell it to the city.

According to the article, the owners, real estate agents Eladia Laines and Mike Leddy, were somewhat cooperative, having hosted a wine and cheese gathering last year, showing off plans to remodel the hotel into condominiums and businesses.  They would also occasionally add some paint to the building, board up broken windows; keeping the property just above a public safety hazard.  However, the owners have now been out of touch for almost eight months.  Neither the city nor Friends of the Palace (a group formed to support rehabilitation efforts) have been able to contact them.

The Ukiah Redevelopment Agency’s power of eminent domain, which expired nine years ago because of infrequent use, will now be considered for reinstatement as a last ditch effort.

COPYRIGHT © 2010 Arthur J. Hazarabedian, Esq.