• Posts by Bradford B. Kuhn
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    Brad Kuhn serves as Chair of Nossaman's Eminent Domain & Valuation Group, likely the largest group of skilled eminent domain attorneys in California and the United States.  Brad is a real estate and business litigation attorney, with ...

As we have written about in past posts, the issue of inverse condemnation remains on the forefront in the state given the continuing, severe wildfire risks and other climate change impacts.  Brad Kuhn was recently quoted in the Wall Street Journal in “PG&E Isn’t Alone in Facing Liability Risk Over California Fires,” addressing liability associated with inverse condemnation...

As we all get into the holiday spirit, don’t forget to keep your skills and knowledge sharp for what is looking to shape up as a very active 2020 in the projects arena.  Join our Nossaman Partners for the following year-end conferences before settling in for your long winter’s nap! ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In an eminent domain proceeding, tenants of property subject to condemnation have constitutional rights to just compensation. However, those rights can be assigned to the landlord through a lease agreement. A recent unpublished Court of Appeal decision confirmed that commercial tenants can assign all claims to just compensation through the terms of a lease agreement ...

It is commonplace for a local government agency to require a property or business owner to secure a license or permit for a particular type of operation (such as a liquor license, medical marijuana license, etc.).  If the property owner expends substantial funds developing the business or property in reliance on that license or permit, and a government regulation thereafter prohibits that use, does it trigger a taking entitling the property or business owner to just compensation?  According to a recent California district court decision, the answer is no.  In ...

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We recently reported on the California Supreme Court’s decision in Oroville which provided a relaxed standard for public agencies facing inverse condemnation claims.  Since that decision, a new unpublished Court of Appeal decision provides further guidance and supports the “reasonableness” analysis considered in Oroville, although in this case the decision was not as favorable to public entities with respect to determining whether the damage is caused by a public or private improvement ...

Thanks to all of you who were able to attend Nossaman’s Coastal Law Conference last week.  If you missed the event, I provided an update on sea-level rise, managed retreat, and potential eminent domain / regulatory takings issues in California.  Specifically, I touched on: ...

On August 15, 2019, the California Supreme Court issued its first inverse condemnation opinion in more than 22 years in the case City of Oroville v. Superior Court of Butte County, Case No. S243247.  The Court held that to succeed on an inverse condemnation claim, a property owner must show more than just a causal link between the existence of a public improvement and damage to private property:  it must demonstrate that “the property damage was the probable result or necessary effect of an inherent risk associated with the design, construction, or maintenance of the relevant ...

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We've been tracking the impacts of sea-level rise in California, and previously reported on a potential recommendation by the California Coastal Commission to utilize eminent domain for "managed retreat" -- buying or condemning threatened homes and relocating them or tearing them down, which would thereafter free the coastline and preserve the beaches.  That recommendation has been met with widespread opposition.  According to an article in the San Diego Reader, "Don't say retreat when talking about sea rise in California," some local cities in San Diego are taking that option off ...

Inverse condemnation litigation and liability has become a particularly hot topic in California over the last several years.  Not many attorneys specialize in this area, and there are a number of traps for the unwary lawyers, public agencies, and property owners involved in such litigation.  A recent Court of Appeal decision provides some important lessons for all parties involved, including the risks of settling inverse condemnation claims with insurance companies, and pitfalls in recovering attorneys' fees ...

When entering into a lease agreement, parties rarely contemplate that the property may be subject to a future eminent domain proceeding.  As a result, many times the condemnation provision in the lease is given little thought.  But when a condemnation action does arise, that provision becomes critically important for purposes of determining how the eminent domain award is to be allocated among the property owner and business owner, and any ambiguities are likely to lead to a dispute as to apportionment of the award.  A recent California Court of Appeal decision, Thee Aguila v ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

Like the vast majority of general civil litigation, eminent domain matters usually settle before going to trial.  The resolution is typically documented in either a stipulated judgment or a settlement agreement.  What is unique to eminent domain, however, is that the settlements oftentimes take place before the public project is fully constructed, meaning the parties are resolving their claims based on the "project as proposed," without seeing the actual finished product or fully understanding its impacts on the property.  In documenting a settlement, property owners can ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Many public agencies and utilities have easements for water or gas pipelines or electric transmission lines.  Those easements typically contain express rights to construct, operate, and maintain the facilities, including rights of access; but oftentimes the easements are silent on what rights are reserved to the private property owner, including whether the owner can place trees or other improvements within the easement area.  As utilities and public agencies are undertaking more thorough efforts to protect and maintain their rights-of-way, they are commonly seeking to remove ...

In Governor Gavin Newsom’s first State of the State address, he called for the creation of a strike force charged with developing a comprehensive strategy to address the destabilizing effect of catastrophic wildfires on the State.  On April 12, 2019, Governor Newsom announced the results of that dedicated effort, in the form of a report titled Wildfires and Climate Change: California’s Energy Future (Strike Force Report).  Governor Newsom also summarized the findings of the Strike Force Report in a press conference that can be viewed here.

The Strike Force Report first sets out ...

Posted in Court Decisions

More than 50 years ago, Caltrans purchased roughly 500 homes under threat of eminent domain within the planned right-of-way for the anticipated construction of the I-710 freeway (linking Monterey Park to Pasadena).  As we reported a number of years ago, Caltrans finally decided to sell those homes once it became clear the alignment would not be utilized.  We haven't heard much on how that sales process was going, but the Pasadena Star reported recently that it has been the subject of litigation, which has now reached an outcome.

In Steve Scauzillo's April San Gabriel Valley Tribune ...

Posted in Projects

As we have seen far too many times in California, eminent domain becomes a key tool for public agencies in order to keep public works construction on schedule and avoid jeopardizing state or federal funding.  According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz council approves eminent domain for road widening, situation is playing out in Santa Cruz, where the City Council recently approved the adoption of a resolution of necessity to acquire two properties by eminent domain in order to satisfy a July deadline for a $2.8 million construction grant.

The properties in question ...

Posted in Court Decisions

A few months ago, we reported on a Court of Appeal decision, Bottini v. City of San Diego, where the Court held that delays resulting from a governmental agency's improper denial of a permit application for a new development did not result in a regulatory taking.  The case involved a local agency's improper application of CEQA to a proposed residential development, and the property owner successfully securing a decision by the court to overturn the City's requirement to comply with CEQA where there was a clear exemption.  The owner also sought damages due to a lengthy delay in ...

With the recent widespread reports of sea-level rise triggered by global warming, the California Coastal Commission -- a state agency which regulates coastal development -- plans to release a proposal in early-2019 which provides guidelines to local jurisdictions on how to combat the potential impacts.  The stakes are enormous, as the Commission believes many homes along California's 1,100 miles of coastline will inevitably be wiped out by a rising ocean.  According to an article by Anne Mulkern in E&E News, Calif. prepares policy for coastal 'retreat', the suggested ...

When the government physically takes or occupies property without first going through the rigorous procedural requirements under California eminent domain law, usually it's a clear-cut case of inverse condemnation liability.  But a recent California Court of Appeal case provides a unique exception involving property subject to dedication.

In Prout v. California Department of Transportation (Dec. 18, 2018, 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 8523),  Caltrans sought to use a 1.3-acre strip of land to make improvements to Highway 12 in Calveras ...

Ever since the demise of redevelopment agencies in 2012, there have been a variety of legislative efforts to revive, incrementally or in whole, some form of redevelopment in California.  We have seen enhanced infrastructure financing districts, community revitalization and investment authorities, and more traditional affordable housing authorities and joint powers authorities.  But we have yet to truly see a funding source that would revive the use of redevelopment tools.  The political climate is much different now than in was in 2012:  California has a surplus budget, there is an ...

Posted in New Legislation

On August 31, 2018, the California Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 901, which addresses a number of wildfire-related items relating to public utilities.  Governor Brown signed the Bill into law on September 21, 2018.

While the bill introduces a series of new changes, it is particularly noteworthy for what it does not include from Governor Brown’s initial June 2018 proposal for wildfire liability reform.  At least for the time being, lawmakers abandoned the most controversial aspect of Governor Brown’s proposal for the bill: modifying California's strict liability ...

When a governmental agency improperly denies a permit application for a new development, and the proposed development is thereby delayed, does this result in a regulatory taking?  As we've seen in some prior cases, such improper governmental actions can trigger liability, but it is uncommon.  A recent Court of Appeal decision, Bottini v. City of San Diego (Sept. 18, 2018), highlights just how difficult it is for a property owner to pursue a regulatory taking due to a delay caused by a city's improper denial of a development application.

Background

Bottini concerns the ...

Posted in Court Decisions

For those of you who have followed Nossaman’s eminent domain blog since the very early days, you’ll recall our coverage of a significant regulatory takings case, Monks v. City of Rancho Palos Verdes.  The 2008 California decision received much press coverage in that it was one of the very few instances where property owners overcame the myriad substantive and procedural obstacles and succeeded under a regulatory takings theory.  Now, ten years later, another group of property owners in Rancho Palos Verdes attempted to pursue a similar regulatory takings claim on the back of ...

Posted in Projects, Valuation

We wanted to provide some timely articles for those of you in the eminent domain and valuation arena.

First, Brad Kuhn, the Chair of Nossaman’s Eminent Domain and Valuation Practice Group, was recently featured on the cover of the July/August 2018 issue of Right Of Way magazine—a publication of the International Right of Way Association.  Brad participated in an Industry Roundtable in the issue on leveraging the right of way professional in today’s fast-paced design-build world.  The  Roundtable examined the critical right of way component in infrastructure projects and how ...

Posted in New Legislation

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) recently issued a Notice of Inquiry seeking input on whether to adjust its policies and procedures for reviewing and issuing authorizations for natural gas transportation facilities.  FERC is specifically considering whether it should modify (i) its methodology for determining whether there is a need for a proposed project, (ii) its consideration of the use of eminent domain and landowner interests, and (iii) its evaluation of environmental impacts.  FERC is also considering whether there are ways to improve the efficiency ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Many states have enacted eminent domain reform since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, which broadly defined "public use" to include the government's acquiring property for another private owner to realize an economic benefit (such as increasing tax revenues).  However, as reported by the Institute for Justice in its 50 States Report Card, many of those reform efforts have been insignificant.  And, despite repeated efforts over the last 13 years, Congress has yet to pass legislation limiting the use of eminent domain for truly ...

Posted in Projects

For years, the College of the Desert has been seeking to acquire the former Palm Springs mall in order to expand its campus to the west valley.  It has been quite a lengthy battle, as the property owner had repeatedly objected to the College's use of eminent domain for the site.  However, last week, the parties finally reached a settlement of the condemnation action, with the College agreeing to pay $22 million for the property -- dramatically more than the $9.6 million the College originally offered to pay.

According to an article in the Desert Sun, the 29-acre property will allow the College ...

When state and local governments impose unreasonable conditions or exactions on private property, owners pursuing a regulatory takings claim often face a maze of procedural obstacles just to have their case heard. I once described these procedural obstacles as resembling Alice's trip through Wonderland, with the parties falling in and out of state and then federal court (instead of a rabbit hole) based on procedural and substantive rules that often seem as logical as the Mad Hatter's recitals at the Tea Party. The reason for this maze stems from (i) a U.S. Supreme Court decision ...

Posted in Court Decisions

As we’ve seen all too many times in California, when local municipalities delay development approvals -- even improperly -- courts are reluctant to find liability under an inverse condemnation cause of action and award temporary damages. While there have been some successful cases (see Lockaway Storage v. County of Alameda (2013) 216 Cal.App.4th 161), those results are the exception, not the rule.  A recent court of appeal opinion, Mahon v. County of San Mateo 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 1483, provides an example of the uphill battle a property owner faces in successfully ...

Infrastructure projects take years to develop:  the environmental review, funding, design, procurement, and construction of a public project is time consuming in any state, but even more so in California given the strict regulations and oversight any public agency must comply with.  During that lengthy process, private properties situated in the proposed project alignment remain in a state of flux.  When those impacted properties are slated for development, what are the parties to do?

According to an article in the Morgan Hill Times, Council OKs new housing in one of two ...

Posted in Projects

With the passing of California's new gas tax (SB1) earlier this year, local government agencies have come across a new source of funding to complete public infrastructure projects.  According to an article in the Ceres Courier, Caltrans Seeks Comments on Service Road Interchange, the City of Ceres hopes its Service/Mitchell/Highway 99 Interchange project can benefit from the new funds.  As part of the project, Caltrans and the City are planning one of the State's first "diverging diamond" designs, which would add a new interchange at Service Road and modify the Mitchell ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In the vast majority of cases, when a public agency exercises eminent domain, the only issue in dispute is the amount of just compensation the agency must pay for the property being acquired.  Even in situations where a property owner challenges the agency's right to take, it is typically for procedural reasons that can ultimately be corrected.  However, where a property owner successfully challenges the agency's right to take, the consequences can be significant, as the agency is required to pay the property owner's litigation expenses -- including attorneys' fees, expert fees, and ...

Posted in Valuation

Acquiring a fee interest in property seems to be so out-of-style.  Nearly every linear infrastructure project I work on now involves the acquisition of various types of easements, whether its a typical temporary construction easement, access easement, street/highway easement, or transmission line easement, or a more complicated aerial easement, parking structure easement, or floating easement.  The scope and terms of these easements can have massive ramifications on compensation, and particularly severance damages to impacted properties.  If you're interested ...

Posted in Valuation

Having recently worked on a number of pipeline and transmission line projects, I find the issue of proximity damages to be fascinating.  Does being adjacent to gas pipelines or electrical transmission lines diminish the value of an owner's remaining property?  I have seen studies suggesting nearly every possible conclusion.  If you're interested in this subject, there's a great article that was recently published in the Appraisal Institute's Appraisal Journal, Summer 2017 edition, titled The Effect of High-Voltage Overhead Transmission Lines on Property Values:  A Review of ...

Posted in New Legislation

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times, California lawmakers pitch a break from a key environmental law to help L.A. Olympic Bid, Clippers Arena, California lawmakers introduced Senate Bill 789 last week in an effort to exempt from CEQA any rail, bus, or transit project connected to the 2028 Olympics, along with expediting environmental challenges to construction of the Clippers arena in Inglewood.  If passed, SB 789 would streamline such projects as the environmental review process is typically a multi-year undertaking.  The Bill was introduced by Senator Bradford ...

Under inverse condemnation law in California, a public agency is generally strictly liable for physical damage to private property caused by a public improvement.  This means a public agency can be held liable even if the public improvement was properly designed, constructed and maintained.  Rarely is there a question of whether a project constitutes a "public improvement," but in Mercury Casualty Co. v. City of Pasadena (Aug. 24, 2017), the Court of Appeal recently addressed this issue and held that a tree constitutes a work of public improvement for purposes of inverse ...

The Martins Beach access dispute in San Mateo County continues to make headlines.  As a quick refresher, billionaire venture capitalist Vinod Khosla purchased 90 acres of beachfront property south of Half Moon Bay, and subsequently proceeded to lock the gated entry to Martins Beach, effectively preventing public access to the popular beach.  We've been covering the dispute for quite some time, including the recent introduction of legislation to potentially fund the State Lands Commission's use of eminent domain to acquire an easement for access to the popular beach.

While the ...

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Posted in New Legislation

We've previously reported on the recent passage of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1), The Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017, which will raise approximately $52 billion in funding over the next 10 years specifically for transportation.  SB1 is now in full swing, and Caltrans is on a fast track to release new grant funding provided under the legislation.

On August 3, Caltrans released for public review and comment the final drafts of the SB 1 Sustainable Communities and Adaptation Planning Grant guides, which will provide more than $270 million in planning grants for local communities ...

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When public agencies analyze a potential public project, they often need to gain access to private property for surveys, testing, and to otherwise investigate whether a particular property is suitable for a planned project.  Often, agencies gain access by talking with the property’s owner and reaching agreement on a right of entry.  But where the owner refuses to allow access, the agency must resort to the courts.  For decades, agencies have followed a set of rules that allow them to obtain a court-ordered right of entry with minimal notice and without most of the formality of a ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

Public agencies own significant amounts of property throughout California and the United States.  Sometimes, those properties are not being put to a public use, and the government acts as a landlord, leasing out property to private entities.  But when the government is ready to put the property to a public use, and it terminates the lease, is there a "taking" of private property triggering the need to pay just compensation?  A recent unpublished Court of Appeal decision, California Cartage Company v. City of Los Angeles, addressed this issue and held that the government's termination ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

In California eminent domain proceedings, a property owner is entitled to the "fair market value" of the property being acquired.  Typically, fair market value is determined by analyzing comparable sales or by utilizing an income capitalization approach.  But every once in a while, there is no relevant market data, in which case the law permits determining compensation "by any method of valuation that is just and equitable."  (Code Civ. Proc., sec. 1263.320.)  A recent court of appeal decision, Central Valley Gas Storage v. Southam, explains when this "just and equitable" valuation ...

Posted in Court Decisions

As we've reported in the past, temporary takings are compensable in California.  But such claims are not easy to prove, particularly when you're dealing with the federal government imposing temporary regulations preventing use of property.  A recent case, Reoforce v. United States, demonstrates some of the hurdles an impacted property owner may face.

In Reoforce, the plaintiff discovered a mineral deposit called pumicite on federal land in Kern County, California.  Believing the deposit had potential value for paint and fiberglass applications, Reoforce submitted a mining ...

Posted in New Legislation

Most Californians agree that our State's transportation system is in dire need of additional funding for additional improvements and repair.  The problem has always been where to secure the necessary funding.  In short, it has become more difficult to rely on the federal government, local and regional transportation agencies have become less reliant on the State, the gas tax has not been raised in years, and vehicles have become more fuel efficient, resulting in more miles traveled by more cars without the incremental increase in funding.  This week is a major turning point to ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Before an eminent domain action is filed, public infrastructure projects involve years of planning, environmental approvals, design, and property negotiations.  During this time, property owners and real estate agents/brokers are often faced with deciding what to disclose about the potential condemnation to prospective tenants when attempting to lease out space.  It is a difficult position to be in, as (i) disclosing too much makes it extraordinarily difficult to find a tenant willing to pay market rents with the looming "cloud" of condemnation, and (ii) disclosing too ...

Posted in Valuation

In a previous post, "What is 'Just Compensation' For Gas Station Acquisitions," we explored various methods for valuing gas stations and car washes in an eminent domain action, including a recommendation by a gas station appraisal firm, Retail Petroleum Consultants, to approach such valuation assignments as "special use properties".  Retail Petroleum has issued another useful article, "Value Trends in Gas Stations and Car Washes," which examines recent trends driving the valuation of such properties in California.

Retail Petroleum explains that because gas stations ...

Posted in New Legislation

With only a few days remaining until one of the most controversial presidential elections in history, there has been little focus on the candidates' plans as it pertains to the future of infrastructure development in America.  But both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have big spending plans -- they are just vastly different in their proposals on how funds will be raised and spent.  If you're interested in a detailed breakdown of Clinton's and Trump's infrastructure plans, there is an excellent article by Chuck Devore in Forbes titled "Where Clinton and Trump Stand on ...

Posted in Redevelopment

Redevelopment has quite the lengthy history in California.  Yet it has generally been "All Quiet on the Western Front" since redevelopment agencies were abolished in 2011 as part of Governor Brown's plan to fix the state's budget deficit.  Yes, the legislature breathed new life back into redevelopment last year through Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities (CRIAs), but a widespread return seemed unlikely given the safeguards and restrictions put in place -- particularly as to what can constitute "blight" (a term which previously could be interpreted so ...

Posted in Projects

For years, we've been working with our public agency clients during the environmental and design-phase to minimize right-of-way impacts with new infrastructure projects.  Yet for many agencies, property acquisitions are an afterthought, as the costs of construction and environmental impacts headline agencies' concerns.  That thought process is slowly beginning to change, as agencies are starting to recognize that right-of-way acquisition can significantly delay projects, resulting in construction delay claims, change orders, loss of project funding, and in ...

Posted in Projects

It's an exciting time with the Olympics taking place in Rio De Janeiro.  But what takes place before the Olympics ever gets off the ground involves years of planning, lobbying, and infrastructure development.  That development often requires use of eminent domain.  And in countries without due process and constitutional rights to just compensation, the condemnation process is an ugly endeavor for those impacted.

In Rio, for example, KUSA reports in its article, Rio de Janeiro villages uprooted for Olympics, that leading up to the games, eminent domain was often used "without warning ...

Posted in Court Decisions

For the last two-plus years, we have been waiting for guidance from the California Supreme Court on whether public agencies could utilize the statutory right of entry procedure to gain access to private property to conduct investigations and testing. Such activities are routinely part of the environmental approval process for public works projects, and if agencies are forced to go through a regular condemnation proceeding, projects could be delayed for many months or even years.  Today, the Supreme Court issued its decision in Property Reserve v. Superior Court, holding the right ...

Posted in Projects

As cities become more dense and urbanized, it is common for infrastructure to get outdated or insufficient to handle increased demand.  We see this with roads, highways, schools, and even utilities.  When new infrastructure is needed, many times eminent domain becomes necessary to acquire property in the way of the proposed new project.  But sometimes those properties are historical or, given their longstanding presence, have sentimental meaning to the community.

Such a situation is currently playing out in the City of Oakley.  According to an article in the Mercury News, Oakley ...

California Eminent Domain Report is a one-stop resource for everything new and noteworthy in eminent domain in California. We cover all aspects of eminent domain in California, including condemnation, inverse condemnation, and regulatory takings. We also keep track of current cases, project announcements, budget issues, legislative reform efforts, and report on all major California eminent domain conferences and seminars.

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