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?

Public use, as it relates to eminent domain, means that the property must be necessary for the benefit of the public rather than an individual. In other words, an individual who wants to build on a piece of property cannot use the eminent domain process to acquire this property and begin construction. However, if a group of individuals, such as homeowners within a subdivision or business owners within a business development, need specific property to construct something that will be of benefit to the group or public, claiming eminent domain is a possibility. This public use may be for the construction of sidewalks, a roadway or anything else that will be considered a benefit.

At times, property taken by means of eminent domain is for the benefit of an entire city within California. At other times, it is for the benefit of a smaller portion of the population. As discussions regarding the need for property using eminent domain become reality in the development of property throughout the community, those wishing to develop the property and those concerned with such impact will want to discuss the matter with experienced legal counsel.

Source: FindLaw, "Eminent Domain: Public Use Requirement," accessed on July 30, 2017

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