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Irvine Eminent Domain Legal Blog

Napa City Council authorizes eminent domain

Traffic flow and congestion continues to be an important consideration to local and state planning, development, and infrastructure analysis in California. Local authorities and state agencies study traffic patterns and vehicle counts over several years, and then draft scenarios in which traffic flow and congestion can be improved. Often, these scenarios support infrastructure enhancement or expansion, which is carried out through public projects across the state to improve major street intersections, freeways, overpasses, railroads, public transportation boarding stations, and the like. Existing infrastructure is often surrounded by development, and so eminent domain proceedings are required in order to acquire the additional land needed to expand an existing improvement or develop and build a new infrastructure improvement.

According to public record, eminent domain may be coming to wine country. To account for recent jumps in traffic and congestion, the Napa City Council recently authorized the use of eminent domain in order to improve traffic flow moving from the freeway into downtown Napa. According to public record, a total of eight properties may be affected. Similar projects have been carried out in Bakersfield, Fresno, the Port of Los Angeles, and Riverside to account for growing travel and population in the last decade.

I-5 freeway acquisitions complete

Caltrans, working hand in hand with local cities in Los Angeles close to the Orange County border, have been planning for the Interstate-5 widening project for over a decade.  The project was presented, implemented and began construction in 5 separate phases spanning from the 605 freeway in Santa Fe Springs to the 91 freeway in Buena Park.  With earlier phases completed, Caltrans turned towards acquiring the private property needed to begin construction on the last phase in late 2014.  The last phase required properties on the south side of I-5 from Alondra Boulevard to Artesia Boulevard.  Earlier this year, Caltrans completed its acquisition phase, and has now turned towards demolition of existing structures to prepare for the I-5 realignment and widening.

Peterson Law Group represented several of the property and business owners affected by the final phase of the I-5 widening project, including an El Pollo Loco franchise and a machinery moving business that occupied 11 acres.  Both businesses were required to relocate.  Both cases involved valuation of real estate, improvements, trade fixtures, equipment, and loss of business goodwill.

Based on current schedules, the last phase of the I-5 widening is expected to be completed in mid-late 2019.

California company fights eminent domain and wins

Business enterprise takes on government entity and overcomes. While this may sound like something out of a made for television drama, it is reality for some in California. The fact that the government entity was utilizing the eminent domain process to acquire property and the business enterprise was able to fight back and finally come to a settlement provides hope for others.

Several years ago, a local steel company was informed that part of its property was going to be taken through eminent domain. The company was first offered over $200,000 for the property. The state then adjusted its offer to just over $110,000. According to the property owner, $1 million was offered later, which he also rejected.

Proposed sports arena triggers eminent domain concerns

Sports and the businesses associated with them are big businesses throughout the country. The average California resident is familiar with the various teams throughout the state. Often, families spend time attending games and enjoying the environment. In order for all of this to happen, there must be a venue for such activity. Currently, there is talk of a new venue being created in the Inglewood area through the use of eminent domain.

According to a document proposing a new arena for the L.A. Clippers, there is potential for the eminent domain process to be used in order to acquire the property necessary for construction of the arena. Reports suggest that approximately 100 parcels have been pinpointed as potentially needed for this project. Within these parcels are a number of single-family homes, established businesses, churches, etc. Property owners have expressed concern regarding the affect that this may have upon themselves and their property.

Eminent domain and the process if the owner objects

At times, it is necessary for a governmental body within the state of California to take private property for public use. This process is called eminent domain. When this happens, there are a number of steps prior to the actual taking of the property. Additionally, if the property owner objects to the process, this must be addressed as well.

If the property owner disagrees with the process, he or she must be given time in which to obtain legal counsel and to formulate a formal objection. This is known as fair notice. Additionally, prior to compensation being remitted to the property owner, a hearing will take place. This hearing is to determine if the property in question is to be taken for public use and if the amount being offered is actually just compensation.

LAX to use eminent domain as 'fallback' in neighborhood takeover

The recent decision by the city council to allow Los Angeles World Airports to use eminent domain to help acquire the entirety of the Manchester Square neighborhood will affect residents there in different ways. But ultimately, it will mean the same thing for all of them: they will have to find a new place to live.

The vote is part of a plan to take over the neighborhood and convert it into parking space, a rental car facility and a transportation hub to serve the nearby LAX airport. The city has already bought up most of the property in Manchester Square, but there are 37 properties remaining, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Eminent domain -- public use rather than personal gain

When it comes to property rights, there are a number of terms that can be confusing to the general public. One such term, eminent domain, has received considerable attention throughout California in the past few years. Eminent domain has been referenced in regards to water rights, beach access and even roadways throughout California.

The purpose of eminent domain is to allow property to be taken when it is necessary for "public use." However, the term public use can be confusing to some. Does this mean that the property must be used by the general public? Does it need to be used by a certain percentage of the population?

Water at center of eminent domain concern

Water is an important resource for California communities. It is essential to the quality of life for residents and an integral part of many planning decisions. Over the years, water has played an important role in the development and growth of different communities. Now, this role is being considered as part of an eminent domain proceeding involving two California communities.

Apparently, in the early 1900s, representatives for the city of Los Angeles posing as farmers or ranchers purchased a considerable portion of land along the Owens Valley. Then, as Los Angeles continued to grow, the city began draining water from Owens Valley by means of an aqueduct. It appears that in its efforts to provide water for a growing Los Angeles, the city also created both economic and environmental concerns for Owens Valley.

Appraising property in the eminent domain process

A government entity acquires land for a public project through its power of eminent domain. Prior to initiating formal condemnation proceedings by filing a complaint in eminent domain in Superior Court, the government must fulfill several legal requirements, including appraising the property it seeks to acquire and making a purchase offer to the owner according to specific sections of the California Government Code.

Once the eminent domain case begins, the process focuses on two aspects: (1) clearing title and possession for the government, and (2) paying the owner "just compensation" for the property to be acquired.  In California, "just compensation" can include a claim for loss of business goodwill from a business owner if the business is located on the property that the government seeks to acquire.

The valuation of property in eminent domain attempts to simulate a market transaction.  However, because the transaction is not voluntary and because the purchase is accomplished using public funds, it operates under a completely different and specific set of rules under the term "fair market value."  Eminent domain and the "just compensation" requirement adhere to its own sections of the California Code of Civil Procedure and the California Evidence Code.  Appraising the property typically involves a detailed search for comparables that must meet the numerous factors set forth in the applicable sections of portions of the California codes.  Because the valuation process is governed by California code, court opinions interpret the code and give further guidance and requirements on valuing property in eminent domain.

While the goal is to simulate a market transaction, an eminent domain proceeding is unlike any other property transaction or court case, and can often involve substantial overlap of other areas of law, including property contamination, business relationships and corporate structuring, tax, finance, contracts, and land use and zoning.

How does eminent domain work?

The population is growing, and so must the infrastructure that supports it.

Cities and counties throughout California are constantly building new roads, expanding current freeways, reconfiguring underground sewer and water systems, and the like in an effort to provide for the population of that city or community. Sometimes these governmental bodies already own the property on which they are building; other times, they must first acquire the property. When a form of government acquires private property for such public use, it does so through the right of eminent domain.

Once a government entity determines that a parcel of real property is necessary for a public project, it will have an appraisal made of the property. This appraisal will provide the government's basis for making a precondemnation offer to purchase property; a legal prerequisite to formal eminent domain proceedings.

If the owner does not accept the offer, the matter is submitted to a "resolution of necessity" hearing, during which the board or council of a specific government entity votes to condemn the property by eminent domain.  Once the resolution passes, the matter is turned over to the government's attorneys who file a complaint in eminent domain, naming the property owner, tenant(s), business owner on the property, and any lien or mortgage holders, as well as any persons or entities believed to have an interest in the property based on the latest chain of title or other recorded documents.

The eminent domain case is a court supervised proceeding assigned to a superior court judge, and progresses similarly to any other type of civil case filed in superior court.  Eminent domain is governed by its own sections of the California Code of Civil Procedure, as well as the Evidence Code and case law interpreting the statutory laws.  Businesses on the property to be acquired are entitled to relocation benefits under the California Relocation Assistance Act.

Eminent domain arises from the Federal and State Constitutions.  The government has the legal right to acquire property for a public use or project, but the owners are entitled to "just compensation."

Peterson Law Group has focused on property rights for over 30 years, and devotes most of its attention to representation of private property and business owners in eminent domain matters against the government.

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