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As cities become more dense and urbanized, it is common for infrastructure to get outdated or insufficient to handle increased demand.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 ...

Posted in Projects

The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) is the nation's largest regional planning agency and is governed by an 86-member Regional Council, made up of elected officials from among the six counties and 191 cities who are members.  SCAG develops  a variety of policy and planning initiatives to create a sustainable Southern California region.  Every four years, SCAG must develop a Regional Transportation Plan, which sets out a vision for the next 25 years. SCAG adopted the most recent plan last month.  In the 2016 Regional Transportation Plan/Sustainable Communities ...

Posted in Court Decisions

Today, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the Property Reserve v. Superior Court case.  Today was also the day the Court began showing live webcasts of oral arguments online, so I was able to not only hear the arguments but see the Justices and attorneys in action.  If the Court provides a link to the oral arguments, I will include that in another post.

My initial reaction from the oral arguments - all of the Justices were very engaged in the arguments and the Court hammered both sides pretty soundly.  If I had to pick a winner, I think they went easier on the State.

The Court did ...

Posted in Court Decisions

If you are an eminent domain junkie like us, then you will appreciate knowing that the City of Perris v. Stamper case (S213468) will be heard by the California Supreme Court on May 5, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in San Francisco. As a quick refresher, this is yet another case where the Court is trying to delineate the role of the judge versus the jury in eminent domain cases. The case considers the constitutionality of a dedication requirement imposed by the City of Perris.  The Court will be addressing two questions:

  1. Is the constitutionality of an otherwise reasonably probable dedication ...
Posted in Court Decisions

One of the most valuable assets many homeowners enjoy is their property’s view. If the government undertakes an activity that eliminates or obstructs that view, is an owner entitled to relief?  In Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills (April 26, 2016, B258459), the California Court of Appeal held that in an eminent domain action (where there is a direct taking of property), view impacts are compensable, but in the absence of a taking of property, a property owner is not entitled to compensation for loss of view.

Background

In Boxer v. City of Beverly Hills, a group of property owners filed an ...

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

There are two interesting projects in San Diego County that are moving forward, both of which involve at least some use of eminent domain.

The San Marcos Creek Specific Plan is proceeding in, not surprisingly, San Marcos.   The project involves efforts to create a new downtown area for the City.  The project has been a long time in the making, with the City adopting its initial specific plan back in July 2007.  A 2015 PowerPoint presentation describes the City's plans for the area.  And just this week, the City filed at least four eminent domain actions as part of its efforts to implement the ...

Posted in Court Decisions

The California Supreme Court announced today that the Property Reserve case will be heard on May 3, 2016, at 9:00 a.m. in San Francisco.  (I'm assuming this is not an April Fool's joke, since eminent domain attorneys have been awaiting this for a long time now.)

The Court will decide whether California's precondemnation right of entry statutes are constitutional.  As has been discussed at length for more than a year in our industry, the decision could effect sweeping changes in how condemning agencies access properties for necessary inspections and testing.  We posted a detailed ...

Posted in Projects

At its March meeting, the California Transportation Commission (CTC) approved funding to improve and maintain California’s multimodal transportation system.  According to the District 2 Press Release, allocations included:

  • $12.5 million for 11 capital improvement projects both on and off the state highway system as part of the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP),
  • $17.8 million for two Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program projects, and
  • $15.5 million for 22 Active Transportation Program projects - the most recent active transportation investment from ...

Eminent domain practitioners are well versed in analyzing a property's highest and best use.  Under these principles, a property being condemned is not necessarily valued based on its current, existing use.  Where the appraiser can show that the property's actual value is based on a different use, that use can often be the foundation for the valuation (assuming that other use meets the four-part test of highest and best use, which is beyond the scope of this post; if you're really bored today, here's a link to Wikipedia's discussion of highest and best use).

In County of Santa Barbara v ...

In the last month, the U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals on two eminent domain-related cases.  The first case, California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose, is one we discussed last year.  If you recall,  the California Supreme Court held that San Jose's inclusionary housing ordinance that required all new residential development projects of 20 or more units to sell at least 15 percent of the for-sale units at a price that is affordable to low or moderate income households did not impose an exaction on developers that constituted a taking.

The U.S ...

Posted in Projects

We have seen a trend where local agencies are choosing to replace stop-sign and signal controlled intersections with roundabouts.  The concept is not new; we see them throughout Europe and on the East Coast.  But until recently, there weren't many out West.  But that is changing and the City of Yucaipa is one of many embracing the new model.  According to this post in the Yucaipa/Calimesa News Mirror, last month the Yucaipa City Council adopted plans for roundabouts at 6 intersections:

  • Yucaipa Boulevard & Bryant Street
  • Avenue E & Bryant Street
  • Avenue E & 2nd Street
  • Avenue E & 3rd Street
  • Avenue E ...
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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 New Legislation

Transparency in government is a staple of American democracy.  The Federal Freedom of Information Act and California’s Public Records Act are two examples of laws that are intended to provide transparency for government’s written information.  But many (if not all) state and local governments have also enacted sunshine laws, which generally require that government meetings be open and public.  In California, the Ralph M. Brown Act was passed in 1953.  Yet, despite having been around for over half a century, many local governments find themselves accused of running afoul of its ...

Posted in New Legislation

Once again, I sit at my desk wondering how all of this happened.  For more than a decade, I worked as an eminent domain attorney in utter obscurity; I'm not even sure my family knew what eminent domain was.  But then the City of New London, Connecticut tried to take Ms. Kelo's little pink house, and everything changed.  Since the Supreme Court's 2005 Kelo decision, eminent domain has become a mainstream topic, coming up in late night talk show skits, and now, taking center stage in the Republican presidential race.

At last Saturday's debate, the use of eminent domain turned into a firestorm of ...

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 ...

Posted in Events

If you happen to be in Austin this week, stop by and see me at the ALI-ABA Eminent Domain Conference.  It starts Thursday, January 28 and runs through Saturday.  I'll be speaking Thursday afternoon on the condemnation of privately-held utility companies -- an issue that's certainly been in the press here in California recently.  I'll be speaking with Christopher Clough of Barron & Adler in Austin, and he's been "in the trenches" on a number of utility-company condemnation issues in Texas.

Aside from my session, there will be a lot of good presentations, including a national eminent domain ...

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 ...

Posted in Projects

The City of Menlo Park is proceeding with two transportation projects.  The first one, an undercrossing to separate bicycles and pedestrians from rail traffic at Middle Avenue, received the green light from the City Council on December 15.   The City has committed $210,000 and has authorized staff to apply for an additional $490,000 in San Mateo County Measure A sales tax funds to pay for preliminary engineering work on the project.  The City estimates that the design and construction of the undercrossing will cost approximately $11 million.

The City’s second project is the Ravenswood ...

Eminent domain practitioners have been waiting for nearly two years for the Supreme Court to issue its decision in Property Reserve v. Superior Court.  At issue is the constitutionality of California's "Right of Entry" statutes, which allow an agency to enter onto private property for certain inspections and testing without filing a condemnation action.  In Property Reserve, the Court of Appeal rejected an agency's efforts to conduct precondemnation testing and inspections, finding that the statutory procedure essentially amounts to allowing a taking without payment of just ...

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

When the government promises to do one thing and then does another, it usually has myriad excuses.  Sometimes it claims that its staff (the people with whom the opposing side are typically interacting) cannot bind the agency.  Other times, it claims that it cannot contractually agree to things that take away key government functions (e.g., the government cannot contract away its right to condemn property).  But every once in a while, the government gets stuck, even in the absence of a formal written agreement.

In HPT IHG-2 Properties Trust v. City of Anaheim (November 20, 2015), the Court ...

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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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In an unpublished opinion filed this week, the California Court of Appeal confirmed two fundamental evidentiary rules related to eminent domain matters:

  1. A witness intending to testify to an opinion of value must exchange a statement of valuation data; and
  2. A witness will be precluded from testifying to a comparable sale if it is determined by the court that the comparable is not comparable and would confuse the jury.

Before we delve into the case, here’s a basic reminder of California law as it pertains to these two issues:

With respect to the court’s first finding, California Code of ...

Posted in Valuation

Most of us are at least vaguely familiar with the tax on gains from the sale of property.  Many of us know that when property is sold voluntarily and the funds re-invested, the gain may be deferred under Internal Revenue Code section 1031.  What is sometimes overlooked is the taxability of gains when property is sold involuntarily, i.e., condemned.  As we posted several years ago, Internal Revenue Code section 1033 contemplates just such a situation, and provides some advantages over a section 1031 exchange: An owner has more time to re-invest and may actually hold the proceeds pending that ...

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 Redevelopment

Back in May, we provided an update on the status of AB2, the bill which would create Community Revitalization Investment Authorities, (see here).  Things were relatively quiet over the summer but this month has the bill seeing a lot of action: It was passed by the state senate on September 9, passed by the assembly on September 12 and has been sent for final review before hitting the governor's desk for signature.  As we discussed previously, Governor Brown vetoed the last iteration of this bill because the bill vested the program in redevelopment law, and the new bill does not.  While he ...

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 Court Decisions

Generally when the United States takes property pursuant to its eminent domain authority, just compensation is based on the market value of the property on the date of the taking.  However, when acquiring a street, road or public highway, the public entity whose property is taken is entitled to compensation only to the extent that, as a result of such taking, it is compelled to construct a substitute highway.  (Washington v. United States, 214 F.2d 33, 39 (9th Cir. 1954), emphasis in original.)  Where it is unnecessary to replace or provide a substitute, the public entity is only entitled to ...

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Last week, Jeremy Jacobs posted an interesting article about the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent decision in Horne v. Dep’t of AgricultureNo. 14-275 (U.S. Jun. 22, 2015), and its potential application to Endangered Species Act (ESA) jurisprudence.  (See Raisin ruling seen as lifeline for endangered species, published by Greenwire on August 19, 2015).  In Horne, the U.S. Supreme Court held, in an 8-1 decision, that the forced appropriation of a portion of a farmer’s raisin crop qualified as a clear physical taking requiring compensation under the Fifth Amendment to ...

Posted in Projects

Despite efforts by Congress to finally approve a long-term highway bill that would have secured funding for key infrastructure projects for the next several years, last week Congress managed only to kick the issue down the road a few more months.  It approved a three-month extension of the existing bill, meaning federal highway funds will continue through October 29.  But come October, funds will once again be at risk of drying up if Congress does not enact another bill.

Not surprisingly, neither party is particularly thrilled with the three-month extension, and for good reason.  As ...

Six weeks ago, I wrote about California Assembly Bill 624 and the Appraisal Institute’s effort to change California law that presently requires all licensed appraisers to comply with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP).  While the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) would still mandate that USPAP be followed for federally-related transactions (i.e. appraisals for a financial institution that is federally insured), I observed that a licensed appraiser in California performing an appraisal for a ...

As an eminent domain attorney, when I think about a "takings" claim, I always think about a claim involving someone's real property.  Has the government trespassed onto private property, has it imposed regulations that deny the owner an economically viable use of the property, etc.?  But every once in a while, we get a reminder that "takings" do not always involve real property.  Rather, any private "property" may be taken.

Thus, we get cases like last month's U.S. Supreme Court decision in Horne v. Dept. of Agriculture.  There, the government sought to force raisin growers to turn over a ...

Posted in Court Decisions

2013 was a banner year for developers under the takings clause, as both the U.S. Supreme Court and California Supreme Court issued decisions expanding the developers’ ability to challenge exactions as unconstitutional. In Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Management District, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the essential nexus and rough proportionality standards that apply to government property exactions also apply to monetary exactions that are tied to a governmental approval. And in Sterling Park v. City of Palo Alto, the California Supreme Court held that when a public ...

Posted in Events

Next week, Nossaman's eminent domain group will be attending the International Right of Way Association's Annual Education Conference in San Diego.  While we've been attending the conference for several years, we're excited to have it taking place in our own backyard, and we know that our friends and colleagues at Chapter 11 will do an amazing job with it.  If you're going to be there, make sure you take some time to visit with us.  There will be plenty of places to find us:

  • On Sunday and Monday, we will be hosting a booth in the exhibition hall.  In addition to it being a great opportunity to seek ...
Posted in New Legislation

Two days ago, the Appraisal Foundation issued a memorandum to Appraisal Regulatory System Stakeholders that warned of the Appraisal Institute approaching members of Congress to sponsor legislation that would essentially dismantle the current national appraiser regulatory system.  The Appraisal Foundation states that provisions being suggested by the Appraisal Institute include the elimination of the Appraisal Subcommittee and the removal or significant dilution of the Congressional authority of the Appraisal Foundation."  It asserts that removing the existing ...

Posted in Court Decisions

In California eminent domain cases, a property or business owner is entitled to recover litigation expenses (attorneys’ fees and expert costs) when the public agency’s final offer of compensation is unreasonable and the property owner’s final demand is reasonable.  (See Code Civ. Proc., § 1250.410.)  But what happens when the government agency’s offer is subject to approval of a federal agency, the City Council, or the Board of Supervisors?  Is this a reasonable offer under Section 1250.410?  This week, the California Court of Appeal in City and County of San Francisco v. PCF ...

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As the old adage goes, the three most important things to consider with real estate are location, location, and location.  But any developer who has lived through a real estate cycle, and any public agency that is under a funding deadline or working through a project’s environmental approvals, knows that timing may be even more important than location.  Indeed, timing considerations often create competing interests between public agencies and developers.  On the one hand, before commencing right of way acquisition, public agencies are required to comply with complicated ...

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It appears the state assembly is trying to get California back on the redevelopment wagon...again. (For a brief history lesson on redevelopment, see below.)  Assembly Bill 2 (AB2), which passed the assembly earlier this month, would create new entities called Community Revitalization Investment Authorities that would have the same legal authority as redevelopment agencies, i.e., the power to issue bonds, provide low-income housing, prepare and adopt a plan for an area, and among others, acquire property using the power of eminent domain.  The legislature explains that the ...

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 Projects

Right of Way Certification is a key project milestone; not only does it mean a project is ready for advertising but obtaining certification by a certain date is often a prerequisite for funding.  Tying certification to dollars means it’s crucial that agencies acquire property and/or obtain orders for possession in a timely manner.  As we’ve discussed here before, this can mean filing an eminent domain action while still negotiating with property owners, something many agency boards are reluctant to do.

The latest example of the perils of prejudgment possession comes out of Butte ...

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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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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