• Posts by Bradford B. Kuhn
    Partner

    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 ...

Posted in Projects

While much of the focus in California lately has been on eminent domain for transportation projects, there's some new condemnations moving forward in both Northern California and Southern California for social -- or community -- development projects.

  • Down south, the San Diego Union Tribune reports that the Port of San Diego has exercised its condemnation powers to acquire four acres of prime property on Chula Vista's Bayfront in order to construct the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan project.  The Master Plan, approved by the Coastal Commission in 2012, is a joint project ...
Posted in Events

There are a couple exciting International Right of Way Association (IRWA) events coming up next week:

  • On April 26, I will be participating in IRWA Chapter 1's (Los Angeles) 2016 Annual Valuation Seminar.  I will be presenting with Brad Thompson of Mason & Mason on "Project Benefits and Construction-Related Impacts:  Tangible or Speculative?".
  • On April 29, I will also be participating in IRWA Chapter 42's (San Jose) 4th Annual Spring Conference.  I will be presenting with my partner, Artin Shaverdian, and Steve Parent of Bender Rosenthal on "The Value of Transit Proximity:  Assessing ...
Posted in Projects

The wait is nearly over:  for those living on the Westside of Los Angeles, passenger rail transit will be available in just a few short months.  Officials announced this week that the final extension of the Expo Line will open on May 20, extending service from Culver City to just a few blocks from the Santa Monica pier.

This will be the first passenger rail transit service to the far Westside since Pacific Electric streetcars stopped running to Santa Monica in 1953.  The project completes the 15-mile Expo Line between downtown Los Angeles and Santa Monica.  Train trips between downtown Santa ...

Posted in Valuation

When public agencies acquire property for public projects, many times only a portion of the property is required.  And, the government usually seeks various types property interests:  (i) permanent easements for street purposes, drainage, utilities, slope, aerial, or access rights, (ii) temporary construction easements, or (iii) fee interests, to name a few.  One common misconception among agencies is that acquiring an easement is completely different than acquiring the property in fee.  In some cases, it can be vastly different, but in others, depending on the scope of the ...

Posted in Projects

Public transit continues to be a major focus throughout Southern California, with virtually all of the county transportation agencies planning or undertaking important passenger rail projects throughout the region.  Some of those transit projects in Los Angeles and Orange County received a major boost this week, as the Los Angeles Times is reporting that the Obama administration has earmarked $500 million in the proposed federal budget for the next fiscal year for LA Metro's Westside Subway (Purple Line) and Regional Connector projects and OCTA's OC Streetcar project.

LA ...

Public agencies are routinely facing Buy America requirements in their infrastructure projects.  Some of the most difficult situations involve how to satisfy Buy America obligations with public utility relocations.  The rules continue to evolve, making compliance an ever-moving target.  To help provide some guidance, my colleague, Ann-Therese Schmid, recently provided a Buy America update on Nossaman's InfraInsight Blog.

In her blog post, Recent Buy America Developments, Ann informs us that in late 2015 the Federal Transmit Administration (FTA) and the Federal Highway ...

Because billboards are typically near public transit, they are routinely impacted by public projects such as street widenings, highway and freeway expansions, and grade separation projects.  When impacted, billboard companies may make claims for (i) the value of the billboard itself (fixtures and equipment), (ii) loss of business goodwill, and (iii) relocation expenses.  Usually the first two items can be addressed through a successful billboard relocation.  But when happens when a moratorium is in place prohibiting new billboards?  Does a moratorium on new billboards ...

Every once in a while, infrastructure projects we're working on involve traversing Indian lands.  For those of you involved in such projects, you should take a look at the Final Rule published by the Department of the Interior, which went into effect last month.  The Federal Register summarizes the Final Rule as follows:

This final rule comprehensively updates and streamlines the process for obtaining Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) grants of rights-of-way on Indian land, while supporting tribal self-determination and self-governance.  This final rule further implements the ...
Posted in New Legislation

We've been following the status of highway and transportation funding for quite some time, previously noting that Congress kept kicking the can down the road without agreeing on a long-term solution.  Finally, that is no longer the case, as our colleagues on Nossaman's Infra Insight Blog note that the House and Senate Conference Committees have agreed on a compromise $305 billion five-year surface transportation authorization: the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, which is headed to the White House in the next few days.  Check out Billy Moore's post the Infra ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

For decades, California public agencies have utilized a statutory "right of entry" procedure to gain access to private property to conduct investigations and testing before deciding whether to move forward with acquiring the property. (See Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.010 et seq.) That process was thrown into flux in 2014 with the Court of Appeal’s decision in Property Reserve v. Superior Court, which struck down an agency’s efforts to conduct precondemnation investigation and testing, concluding that any significant physical intrusion onto private property ...

Posted in Valuation

For several years, we've been following an eminent domain lawsuit in Marin County involving Caltrans' acquisition of 34 acres for a $29.7 million interchange project at the Redwood Sanitary Landfill, which would widen the overpass over Highway 101 and install new frontage roads on both sides of the highway to create safer conditions for traffic going in and out of the landfill.  After a 20-day trial, the litigation has finally ended with a jury verdict that appears to be close to a split between the property owner's appraisal and Caltrans' appraisal.

According to an article in the ...

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Posted in Events, Valuation

California's heat-wave continues, and so does the drought.  With water becoming more and more scarce, the topic of water supply and how to value water rights is becoming a key issue in California.  If you're interested in these issues, International Right of Way Association Chapter 57 is hosting is fall seminar this Friday, October 14, titled "Water Supply & Impacts."  There are some great speakers lined up to discuss California's water supply, how to value flowage and drainage easements, and how water can impact a property's highest and best use.

And if you're interested in a ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

It's not every day you're involved in a successful eminent domain case before the California Court of Appeal.  It's even more unusual when the case deals with a number of interesting legal issues, such as the enforceability of a waiver of just compensation, the compensability of a license, the breadth of the "project influence rule" for purposes of a property's valuation, and the substantial impairment of access test.  I was fortunate enough to have dealt with all these interesting issues in a single case, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority v. KBG I Associates ...

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Posted in Redevelopment

We've been closely watching Assembly Bill 2 work its way through the legislature for most of 2015, and last week, it was finally signed by the Governor.  What does it mean?  You can find a detailed analysis by my partner, Bernadette Duran-Brown, in our recent E-Alert, but generally, it means redevelopment is back in California.

AB2 allows local governments to create Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities (CRIAs), which will have the power to issue bonds, provide low-income housing, prepare and adopt a revitalization plan for an area, and acquire property ...

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Posted in Projects

Public agencies in California are once again getting busy with new projects.  It seems at every event I attend all the right-of-way professionals, appraisers and eminent domain attorneys tell me they're fully occupied.  Recent news articles support this conclusion.

For example, according to an article in the Orange County Register, Santa Ana council OKs EIR moving forward on Warner Avenue widening using eminent domain, the City of Santa Ana has adopted a final environmental impact report for the Warner Avenue Improvement Project, which will reconfigure the road from Main ...

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Tags: Projects
Posted in Right to Take

With the improving real estate economy, there have been an influx of new large development projects throughout California.  With these new proposed developments, it is common for local government agencies to require public improvements -- such as streets or utilities -- to support the influx of traffic and people to a previously undeveloped area.  Those public improvements commonly take place off the developer's property, so what happens if surrounding property owners do not want to sell their land to support such improvements for a private development?  Can eminent domain be ...

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Posted in Valuation

Gas stations and car washes are primarily owner-occupied convenience businesses, typically located near freeway off-ramps and at the intersections of well-traveled roadways.  As a result, they're frequently involved in eminent domain acquisitions for freeway expansions or road widenings.  A common question is how should such properties and businesses be valued to satisfy California's requirement of "just compensation"?

A recent article by Retail Petroleum Consultants, Condemnation: Appraising Gas Stations and Car Washes, How to Ensure Just Compensation for Business and ...

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Posted in Court Decisions

One of the issues often disputed between public agencies and property owners in eminent domain actions is the assessment of severance damages, and in particular, whether damages should be based upon (i) the terms of the resolution of necessity, or (ii) construction of the project in the manner proposed.  This dispute grows from a seeming conflict between a court of appeal decision, County of San Diego v. Bressi (1986) 184 Cal.App.3d 112, and Code of Civil Procedure section 1263.420.  Specifically:

  • Bressi held that in a condemnation action, (1) the jury must determine damages caused by ...
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Posted in Court Decisions

In California eminent domain actions, absent special circumstances (such as an abandonment, successful right to take challenge, or inverse condemnation finding), a property or business owner is typically only entitled to recover litigation expenses (attorneys' fees and expert costs) in one circumstance:  where the public agency's final offer of compensation is unreasonable and the property owner's final demand is reasonable.  In making this determination, the judge is only to consider the final offer and demand that were made at least 20 days before trial.  (See Code Civ ...

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Posted in Valuation

As California continues to expand and improve its infrastructure, public agencies are more frequently running into contaminated property.  A frequent question for eminent domain attorneys is:  "how does contamination impact 'fair market value' in a condemnation action?"  My general advice is that the contamination should be treated just as it would in an open market transaction.  But how is contamination handled in a typical transaction -- and how does it impact value?  Aside from potential clean-up costs, are there lending issues, and is there a general stigma with contaminated ...

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When a public agency acquires a portion of property, under California law the property owner is entitled to "severance damages" -- or damages to the remainder portion of the property that was not acquired.  Usually, determining what constitutes the "remainder property" is relatively straight-forward.  But not always.  And, the determination could have a significant impact on the amount of compensation the public agency must pay, as a property owner is not entitled to compensation for damages to separate and independent parcels that are not touched by the condemnation.

So how is the ...

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Posted in Events

On March 5, Nossaman's eminent domain attorneys are hosting a complimentary seminar, "Taking Your Project from Concept Through Construction."  We have some great topics and an exciting group of experts joining us to cover topics such as implementing best practices for design-build projects during right-of-way acquisition, preparing for CEQA challenges at the condemnation stage, acquiring contaminated properties, and addressing business goodwill claims.  We will also provide a recap of the most important eminent domain court decisions and legislation from 2014.  Attendees ...

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Posted in Projects

There has been a remarkable movement lately throughout California:  local government agencies are attempting to take over investor-owned, quasi-public utility companies in an effort to reduce utility bills to their constituents.  A number of electric and water utilities are facing pressure from agencies to sell their assets -- or face having them acquired through eminent domain.  Does this make sense?

As just one example, according to one recent article by Garth Stapley in the Modesto Bee, SSJID can boot PG&E from Ripon, Escalon, Manteca, the South San Joaquin Irrigation ...

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Posted in Projects

As traffic continues to increase and roadways become more congested, California's transportation infrastructure needs to keep up.  While there has been a concerted focus on alternative methods of transportation (such as rail, bikeways, etc.), street and highway widenings are still a major focus of local government agencies.  The County of Sacramento is no different, as it embarks on the Hazel Avenue and Fair Oaks Boulevard road widening projects.  These street improvement projects typically require right-of-way acquisition, and while the acquisitions are typically small ...

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Posted in Events

The Self-Help Counties Coalition's 2014 Focus on the Future Conference is just around the corner.  This year, it is taking place in Santa Clara on November 16-18.  I will be presenting on the topic "Precondemnation Planning & Early Acquisition Efforts: Best Practices to Acquire Right of Way Without Blowing Your Project's Budget" on Tuesday, November 18 from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.  My panel includes Bijal Patel at Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Chip Willett at Dokken Engineering, Rob Caringella at Jones, Roach & Caringella, and Joey Mendoza at Overland, Pacific & ...

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Posted in Events

The Southern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute will be holding its 47th annual Litigation Seminar on November 13, 2014 at the City Club in Los Angeles.  I'll be presenting on the topic "The Perception of Advocacy and Consequences for the Appraiser."  John Ellis, MAI, from Integra Realty Resources, Steven Fontes, MAI, from Mission Property Advisors, and Lance Hall, from FMV Opinions, Inc., will also be on my panel and will provide excellent insights into appraiser bias and its impacts on a valuation assignment.

At the seminar, my colleague Bernadette Duran-Brown will also ...

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Posted in Events

For those of you interested in hearing from eminent domain experts across the United States on hot topic condemnation issues, I hope you'll join us at the ALI-CLE's 32nd Annual Eminent domain and Land Valuation Litigation Program.  The Program will take place February 5-7, 2015, at the Hotel Nikko in San Francisco.  I'll be presenting on a panel with Dwight Merriam (Connecticut) and Mark Murkami (Hawaii) on "Denominators and Bright Lines:  The Search for the Relevant Parcel in Eminent Domain and Regulatory Takings."

If seeing me doesn't get you interested (understandably), hopefully ...

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Posted in Projects

Good news California:  local projects are continuing to receive federal funding.  Caltrans announced last week that the U.S. Department of Transportation has granted nearly $35 million in TIGER funds to six local and regional projects throughout the state.

The projects receiving funding include:

  • East Side Access Improvement Project ($11.8 million): This Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority project will create a network of bike lanes and sidewalks for bicyclists and pedestrians to access the new Regional Connector/1st Central Station in Los Angeles ...
Posted in Events

If you're a right of way professional, your fall schedule could be quite busy.  I'm having difficulty keeping track of all the upcoming events, so I thought I'd put them all in one place.  Here's what we have on the agenda:

  • September 5:  Mobility 21's annual Southern California Transportation Summit.  The event will take place at Disneyland Hotel, and will feature an array of fantastic speakers from various local public agencies, including Riverside County Transportation Commission (RCTC), Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA), the California ...
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Tags: Events
Posted in Projects

As public agencies continue to expand and build infrastructure throughout California, I've noticed a few recent themes.  First, many projects are supported by federal funds, usually through the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).  And second, agencies are becoming more creative in exploring joint development opportunities with the private sector to enhance their projects and the surrounding community.

To the extent you are part of, or work with a public agency, and are involved with a federally funded project involving a potential ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision last year in Koontz v. St. John's River Water Management District received quite a bit of national coverage in the development world.  If you'll recall, Koontz held that the nexus and proportionality standards that apply to the government's attempt to exact land in exchange for a land use permit similarly apply to monetary exactions.  While the decision may have caused a change in the entitlement process in other states, this was generally already the rule in California under the Mitigation Fee Act.  So deciphering just how Koontz would impact ...

Posted in Court Decisions

"Motions in limine" are motions made shortly before trial, and they're typically filed in an attempt to limit the introduction of evidence to the jury.  They are a powerful tool in eminent domain proceedings, and can be used to limit an appraiser's comparable sales, valuation methodology, or even the expert's entire testimony.  In a recent unpublished California Court of Appeal decision, Verizon of California v. Carrick (2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5030), the Court even approved of the use of an in limine motion to determine whether a party had a compensable interest in the property ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Californians who have owned their properties for years understand the benefits of Proposition 13: their property taxes are based upon the property's purchase price (with only small allowable annual increases), as opposed to the property's current value.  But upon a transfer, the property gets reassessed at its current value.  Consequently, people in California often wind up with higher property taxes when they sell one property and buy another, even if the new property costs exactly what they received for the sale of the old property.

When an owner is forced to "sell" as a result of the ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Just a few months ago, the California Court of Appeal handed down a significant decision in Property Reserve v. Superior Court which nearly eviscerated public agencies' ability to make use of the statutory "right of entry" procedure to gain access to private property to conduct any significant investigations and testing.  The Court held that any notable physical intrusion onto private property constituted a taking, meaning the public agency needed to proceed with an eminent domain proceeding.  The decision caused an uproar among public agencies across the state.  Well, pump the ...

Posted in Events

This week marks the nine-year anniversary of the Kelo v. City of New London decision.  Since I've been practicing as an eminent domain attorney, Kelo is unquestionably the most well-known and stirring court opinion, creating widespread reform to the use of eminent domain across the country -- even on the opposite coast in California.  Last time I checked, about 45 states had passed some sort of eminent domain reform in response to the Kelo decision.

If you're interested in learning more about the Kelo decision, stay tuned for the film Little Pink House, which is being produced in ...

Posted in Projects

Eminent domain litigation can be expensive.  Not just the cost of acquiring the property (which is valued based on its highest and best use, and the "highest price" a willing buyer would pay), but the attorneys' fees, expert appraisal fees, and court costs all add up as well.  We're seeing the impact of such costs in the City of Adelanto, where the City has changed course on its plans to acquire a property by eminent domain.  

According to Brooke Self's article in the Victorville Daily Press, Adelanto halts eminent domain efforts, the City of Adelanto once planned to use eminent domain to ...

Posted in Redevelopment

Despite being destroyed and dismantled, redevelopment in California has been born once again, this time reincarnated under the name of "Infrastructure Financing Districts."  Last week, Governor Brown signed into law AB 471, which amends section 53395.4 of the California Government Code to allow infrastructure financing districts to finance a project or portion of a project located within a redevelopment project area or former redevelopment project area.

Infrastructure financing district law now provides a mechanism to finance projects that would have otherwise ...

Posted in Right to Take

It's not too often you see one government agency threaten another agency with eminent domain.  But it does happen.  A recent article by Barbara Henry in the U-T San Diego, Encinitas has few options on Pacific View site, highlights on such dispute taking place right now.

According to the article, the City of Encinitas very much wants to acquire the Encinitas Union School District's 2.8-acre property that formerly housed the Pacific View Elementary School.  But the School District has rejected the City's overtures, turning down a $4.3 million offer to purchase.  Instead, the School ...

Posted in Projects

California's infrastructure received another push in the right direction last week as the California Transportation Commission (CTC) allocated $152 million to 36 projects statewide -- bringing its total transportation funding for 2013 beyond the $3 billion barrier.  

Some highlights of projects receiving funding this year as 2013 winds to a close:

  • Los Angeles received (i) $26 million to improve the Port of Los Angeles, (ii) $20 million to widen the I-5 freeway from the Orange County Line to the I-5/I-605 junction, and (iii) $28 million for the Exposition Light Rail Project ...
Posted in Events

The Southern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute will be holding its 46th Annual Litigation Seminar this Friday, November 15.  The list of topics sounds fantastic:

  • It's Just a Simple Rent Re-Setting in a Ground Lease
  • If the Glove Doesn't Fit . . . Make it Fit (Abuses in the Tax Appeal Process)
  • Hot Topics in Eminent Domain
  • Planning for and Managing Large Acquisition Projects -- Lessons Learned
  • Uneconomic Remnants -- Are They Always?
  • We Just Need Your Property on a Temporary Basis -- For the Next 4 Years
  • Decisions, Decisions, Decisions (A Review of Recent Major Valuation Cases)
  • The ...
Posted in Projects

Eminent domain litigation can be expensive.  Acquiring small strips of property often costs more in legal and appraisal costs than the value of the property itself.  Sometimes public agencies have no choice but to condemn these minor acquisitions, as property owners cannot be found, will not negotiate, or otherwise take unreasonable positions.  But when property owners are willing to reasonably negotiate, public agencies need to think hard about these cost savings and weigh them against setting a precedent for other acquisitions.  

For example, if it will cost an agency $20,000 in ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Eminent domain actions are unique in that "the court, rather than the jury, typically decides questions concerning the preconditions to recovery of a particular type of compensation, even if the determination turns on contested issues of fact."  (See Emeryville Redevelopment Agency v. Harcros Pigments, Inc. (2002) 101 Cal.App.4th 1083, 1116.)  This is consistent with the general rule in eminent domain that the jury’s role is only to determine the amount of damages, leaving other questions to be resolved by the Court.  While these factual disputes are typically decided by the judge ...

Posted in Projects

According to Jason Henry's article in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, West Covina contests condemnation of properties at Westfield Mall, Lakes Drive, the City of West Covina plans to contest an eminent domain action filed by the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) to acquire land near Westfield Mall needed for the expansion of the I-10 Freeway.  

Caltrans' proposed acquisition will eliminate a California Pizza Kitchen, the former Bob's Big Boy building, an AT&T store, as well as a row of parking spaces along the I-10 near Lakes Drive.  The City claims that Caltrans ...

Posted in Projects

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).  That freeway project still has not been built, yet Caltrans continues to own the properties.  There have been plenty of negative news stories about the amount of money Caltrans has spent on the upkeep of those residences (see Gideon's Trumpet), but apparently Caltrans' property ownership may finally come to an end.  Not because the I-710 freeway is actually going to be ...

Posted in Projects

According to an article in the Desert Sun, CVAG OKs plan to help fund passenger rail, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments ("CVAG") recently approved an agreement with the Riverside County Transportation Commission for a new rail fund that will devote a portion of local transportation funds to expanding passenger rail service.  It will likely take at least a year before the agencies are able to report on possible station locations and schedules, but the long-term plan is to have connections through the valley with Los Angeles.

A prior study proposed stops in three cities ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Property owners are routinely hiring attorneys well in advance of a public agency's filing of an eminent domain action.  Many times, the representation begins before it is even certain whether the agency will actually move forward with acquiring the property.  And sometimes, claims for inverse condemnation may ripen during the public agency's construction of the project on other nearby properties.  When this overlap exists between inverse condemnation and potential future eminent domain actions, owners should be careful to assess how the attorney will be compensated.  A recent ...

The Southern California Chapter of the Appraisal Institute holds a great conference each year covering a variety of hot-topic issues.  The 2013 Conference will be held this Thursday, September 12, 2013, and my partner Rick Rayl and I will be presenting on the future of redevelopment in California.  So, if you're interested in what's played out over the last year for redevelopment agencies, what lawsuits have been filed, what projects are moving forward, and what the future holds for all the property that is now owned by the successor agencies, come join us.  

The rest of the Conference is ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Eminent domain cases typically revolve around a "date of value" – the date on which property is valued in determining the amount of just compensation the condemning agency must pay.  That date is set by statute; typically, it is the date on which the agency deposits the amount of "probable compensation" to be awarded.  But sometimes, the agency's activities, such as project planning and acquisition efforts, negatively affect the value of the property.  In such circumstances, property owners may attempt to hold the agency responsible for such declines in value by claiming (1 ...

Downzoning property is always a thorny issue:  on the one hand, zoning changes are typical, "police power"-type governmental activities; on the other hand, they can significantly impact property values, and in some cases can result in governmental takings liability.  When a property owner experiences a change in zoning, there are typically two theories that can be pursued:  one is so-called "spot zoning," and the other is a regulatory taking.  

Under the first theory, "spot zoning," a property owner can have a zoning designation invalidated if it can prove the government targeted the ...

It appears the raisin handlers' luck in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Horne v. US Department of Agriculture has spawned a new federal takings challenge by another group of fruit growers.  This time it's a group of tomato growers asserting a takings challenge against the federal government, with a bit of a twist.  (And yes, I had to check, but both raisins and tomatoes are technically fruits -- see the things you learn?)

According to an article in the Packer, Tomato growers say eminent domain applies to 2008 crop, tomato growers are suing the federal government for $40 million in ...

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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