California Condemnation Round-Up

 Here's a few updates on eminent domain-related issues taking place in California this week:

  • City of Covina Condemnation:  According to an article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Covina using eminent domain to take property from Alhassen-controlled company, the City of Covina has filed an eminent domain action to acquire a vacant, half-acre property owned by West Covina-based developer Ziad Alhassen.  The City intends to utilize the property for parking for police department employees and County firefighters.  The condemnation action was necessary after the City and the owner apparently had a "huge gap" in their appraised values for the property.  
  • Pasadena Sees Impact of Elimination of Redevelopment:  Curbed Los Angeles is reporting in its article, Post-Eminent Domain Seizure, Pas Doesn't Have the Cash to Fix Up Old Julia Morgan YWCA Building, that after the City of Pasadena filed an eminent domain action to acquire the old Julia Morgan YWCA Building (see our previous post), the City is now in a quandry in deciding what to do with the property once the action is resolved.  With the elimination of redevelopment in California, the City won't have the money it needs to restore the building.
  • Lake County Moves Forward with Sewer Project:  The Lake County Record-Bee is reporting in its article, Sewer pipeline project approved, that the Lake County Sanitation District has adopted a resolution of necessity to acquire property necessary for a wastewater sewer pipeline project in Clearlake.  The condemnations will involve partial acquisitions, and the construction contractor has been directed to work with property owners to minimize impacts.  
  • Battle For Brooklyn Screening:  For those of you up in Nor. Cal. who haven't had a chance to catch the screening of "Battle For Brooklyn," here's your chance:  it's playing tonight at the Roxie Theater.  Check out our good friend Robert Thomas' blog,, for details on the movie time and where to grab tickets.  Robert will actually be there to answer any questions you may have.  


Kelo The Movie

Six years ago, the US Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in Kelo v. City of New London, affirming the government's ability to exercise eminent domain for purely economic purposes.  The public backlash and media firestorm surrounding the decision turned our quirky group of eminent domain attorneys into rock stars for a short moment in time.  Ms. Kelo's battle was put to print in Jeff Benedict's Little Pink House:  A True Story of Defiance and Courage, and it now appears the infamous case is making its way to your television. 

According to a Hartford Courant article, Little Pink House is being made into a Lifetime TV movie starring Brooke Shields as Ms. Kelo.  While Ms. Kelo's former residence is now a "90-acre swath of nothingness," Benedict recognizes the bigger picture, noting that "there has been a movement triggered across the country to turn back these eminent domain laws because of [the Kelo] decision."

So, perhaps again for a glimpse of time, the day-to-day workings of us eminent domain attorneys can make their way into the spotlight.  Between the Little Pink House, the Battle for BrooklynGreetings from Asbury Park, and Split Ends, eminent domain fights appear to be movies in the making.

To learn more, I'd also recommend checking out the reports from our blogging colleagues, Robert Thomas at, and Anthony Della Pelle at

Eminent Domain Documentary "Battle for Brooklyn" Makes its Way to Los Angeles

It's not often a film comes out dealing with eminent domain issues.  You may remember when Avatar came out, my partner Rick Rayl and our esteemed colleague Gideon Kanner had a nice back-and-forth spar about whether the film had anything to do with eminent domain.  (Rick ended up buying Professor Kanner a movie ticket in the hopes of changing his mind.)  

Well, there can be no dispute about the eminent domain context in the recent documentary "Battle for Brooklyn," which follows a man's fight to save his Atlantic Yards neighborhood from condemnation for the New Jersey Nets' new basketball arena.  And the documentary is making its west coast swing, opening here in Los Angeles this weekend.

If you're in the right of way industry, this is a must see.  Or, if you simply like tales of David versus Goliath, go get yourself a movie ticket.  If you're not sold, take a look at the Los Angeles Times' movie review.  Better yet, give Indiewire's review a read.  (How's this for a statement:  "Atlantic Yards using eminent domain is the sort of precedent that could change how development happens in this country, wherever you live.")  Time it right, and you may partake in the question and answer session with the film makers and the man who led the battle cry.

Do public agencies make low-ball offers?  Are areas that are designated as "blighted" really so?  Is eminent domain for redevelopment "Un-American"?  Is there any point to fighting City Hall?  No matter how you feel, this movie may evoke some strong emotions.  If you can't make it to see the documentary, but want to know more, I'd suggest checking out Robert Thomas' blog post covering the case in detail.  

Enjoy your weekend!