Posts in Court Decisions.

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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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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 ...

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 ...

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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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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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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 ...

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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 ...

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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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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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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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I wanted to provide a quick update on two recent cases from the California Court of Appeal.

The first, Golden State Water Company v. Casitas Municipal Water District (April 14, 2015), involves what appears to be an issue of first impression in California:  can Mello-Roos financing be used to fund an eminent domain action to acquire a utility company's assets?  In Golden State Water Company, the Casitas Municipal Water District wanted to acquire the assets of the Golden State Water Company for the purpose of taking over the provision of water to many residents in Ojai, California ...

It depends.  A recent decision out of the Federal Circuit tackled this very issue, and the court's decision strongly suggests that a taking could arise under the right circumstances.  (Filler v. U.S. (Fed. Cir. Mar. 10, 2015) Case No. 2014-5117.)  As you probably already guessed by my use of the phrase "strongly suggests," both the lower court and the Federal Circuit in this case found that the plaintiff's challenge did not present the "right circumstances."

After sustaining a work-related injury, an employee of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service visited the ...

California’s infrastructure is aging. There have been numerous reports of water line breaks and gas line leaks, and public agencies have been moving quickly to upgrade their utilities to minimize these risks and satisfy increasing demands. When incidents do occur, when do agencies face potential liability in inverse condemnation? A recent California Court of Appeal decision, Kelly v. Contra Costa Water District (Feb. 10, 2015) 2015 Cal.App.Unpub.LEXIS 924, while unpublished, provides some guidance.

In Kelly, the owners of a self-storage facility in Pittsburg, California ...

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The burning question, is why?  While this is not the first time the U.S. Supreme Court has ever granted a petition for review in the same case, it is certainly not common.  And, it is downright uncommon for the Supreme Court to grant a second petition for review when the central issue in the case is a takings issue.  So what is the Supreme Court planning to do?  Are they going to revisit their 2013 decision and find that they made a mistake, and that the Hornes are actually required to first bring their takings claim in the Court of Federal Claims?  Or, is the Supreme Court ...

In the aftermath of last year’s Rails-to-Trails DecisionMarvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States, 572 U.S. ___ (2014), the valuation of rail corridors may become increasingly necessary.  Typically there are three approaches to valuing rail corridors:  1) Across-the-Fence approach, 2) Comparable Sales approach and 3) Income approach.

  1. The Across-the-Fence approach (ATF Method) -- the most popular approach for valuing rail corridors -- appraises land utilized as a right-of-way by assuming that its market value per square foot is equal to the value of adjacent or ...
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In September 2014, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District issued a surprising decision, finding that even if an applicant maintains that it is accepting imposed permit conditions "under protest" and expressly asserts that it plans to challenge those conditions in court, it waives any such challenge by building the approved project.  (Lynch v. California Coastal Commission (2014) 229 Cal.App.4th 658.)  In reaching this conclusion, the majority found that the protest procedure provided in the Mitigation Fee Act was inapplicable because that Act does not ...

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Agencies acquiring private property for a public project conduct thorough investigations to determine whether the property has environmental contamination.  If contamination is found, the question arises whether evidence of the contamination will be admissible in the eminent domain proceeding.  In California the answer is yes, based on a single case that involved evidence of remediation costs introduced by both sides without objection.  In Redevelopment Agency of Pomona v. Thrifty Oil Company, 4 Cal.App.4th 469 (1992), the Agency sought to condemn a parcel owned by Thrifty that ...

The question now is, is the court's statement merely a bump in the road or a roadblock?  The United States filed the eminent domain action seeking to condemn certain access rights so it could increase its profitability when it sold vacant federal land in Alameda County, California.  In its complaint and declaration of taking, the United States alleged that it needed to condemn the property interest for the "continuing operations" of the Alameda Federal Center.  In support of the taking, the United States relied on the General Service Administration's general authority.  The federal ...

In a published decision, the California Court of Appeal for the Second Appellate District rejected the California Coastal Commission's ("Commission") collateral estoppel argument and found that there is no rational nexus or rough proportionality between the work proposed by an applicant on a private residence a mile from the coast and a lateral public access easement imposed by the Commission as a condition of approval.  Accordingly, the easement condition amounted to an unconstitutional taking.  (Bowman v. Cal. Coastal Com. (Oct. 23, 2014).)

In 2002, the property owner of ...

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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 ...

During a windstorm, a tree owned by the City of Pasadena fell on Mr. O’Halloran’s residence, causing damage to his home. Mercury Casualty Company paid Mr. O’Halloran for the damage pursuant to his homeowner’s insurance policy, and then sued the City for inverse condemnation and nuisance based on the damages caused by the City’s tree.

Inverse Condemnation

To state a cause of action for inverse condemnation, the plaintiff must allege that defendant substantially participated in the planning, approval, construction or operation of a public project or improvement which ...

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Valuing mineral rights in eminent domain proceedings is inherently speculative and can lead to wide swings in property valuations.  So how do appraisers best deal with the uncertainty involved in mineral exploitation?  The California Court of Appeal recently provided some guidance in San Diego Gas & Electric Company v. Arnold J. Schmidt et al. (2014) 2014 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 5090.  

In Schmidt, the Court allowed the introduction of the property owner’s appraiser’s valuing 115 acres of vacant in San Diego based on the projected future income the property would generate for mining ...

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If you ask ten attorneys what keeps them up at night, at least six of them will recount nightmares about missing a filing deadline.  I know what you're thinking.  How hard can it be?  You just look in the Code, find the applicable limitations period, and then you're off.  However, as with all things law related, it very rarely is that simple.  In a recent decision issued by the Second Appellate District, the court explained why filing deadlines are not the only thing practitioners should have nightmares about.  In Excelaron, LLC v. County of San Luis Obispo

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"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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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In June of last year, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a unanimous opinion in Horne v. Department of Agriculture holding that California raisin handlers could assert a takings claim as an affirmative defense to an enforcement action filed by the United States.  I am happy to point out that in our analysis of the Supreme Court's decision, we explained that "[n]o court has yet found that the Hornes were subject to an unconstitutional taking; rather, the Supreme Court merely held that the jurisdictional argument relied on by the Ninth Circuit to avoid a decision on the merits was ...

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Last week, the Court of Appeal issued a decision that may be one of the ones we look back on as among the most significant of 2014 (at least in the world of eminent domain).  For years (and certainly for the entire 20 years I've been doing this), 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 a condemnation action.  (See Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.010 et seq.)  Often, this happens during the CEQA process, as agencies try to assess the ...

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On March 7th, a U.S. District Court sided with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on whether the Uniform Relocation Act (URA) provides private property owners with a private right of action: it does not.  The Pacific Shores Property Owners Association sued the FAA over improvements the Border Coast Regional Airport Authority is required to make to a regional airport, Del Norte County Regional Airport, also known as Jack McNamera Field.  To meet the FAA's runway safety standards, the Authority had to close roads and acquire nearby lots to make up for the wetlands lost as a result ...

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In the latest in a string of recent U.S. Supreme Court cases that impact right of way issues, on Monday the Court issued its opinion in Marvin M. Brandt Revocable Trust v. United States (Case No. 12-1173, March 10, 2014).  The issue in Brandt involved whether the U.S. Government retained a reversionary interest in the easements it granted to railroads pursuant to the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of 1875. 

The decision would impact, in particular, the "rails-to-trails" program, designed to convert old, abandoned railroad rights of way to bike trails.  Under the program, the ...

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As we reported last month, the United States of America and the Federal Aviation Administration had filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit brought by the City of Santa Monica in federal court seeking to confirm its alleged right to control the fate of the Santa Monica Airport.  Yesterday, the federal court threw out the City's lawsuit, holding that:

  • The Quiet Title Claim was time-barred;
  • The takings claim had to be brought before the United States Court of Federal Claims pursuant to the Tucker Act; and
  • The Tenth Amendment and Fifth Amendment Due Process Claims were not ripe.  

The federal court ...

I saw a couple of California redevelopment-related stories over the past week that seemed worthy of at least a brief comment.

First, a court decision involving a rather bold argument by a public agency.

The City of Loma Linda, like so many California cities, used to have a redevelopment agency.  That redevelopment agency acquired property and embarked on various efforts to, well, redevelop things.  When Governor Brown eliminated California's redevelopment agencies, many projects were left in mid-stream.

In the case of Loma Linda, the redevelopment agency purchased some ...

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Earlier this month, the California Court of Appeal answered a question that had been outstanding for almost two decades: What standard of review applies to beneficial spot zoning? In Foothill Communities Coalition v. County of Orange, that question was finally answered when the Court held that beneficial spot zoning will be valid only when the record demonstrates that the zoning is "in the public interest."

In 1996, Associate California Supreme Court Justice Stanley Mosk stated in a concurring decision that although courts are traditionally deferential with respect to zoning ...

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Landowners routinely have to give up something in return for a government agency’s granting a discretionary permit. However, there are limits, as the government agency cannot typically demand conditions that are not proportional or related to the impacts that would be created by the proposed project. These limits are referred to as the nexus and rough proportionality standards set forth in the well-known United States Supreme Court cases of Nollan v. California Coastal Commission (1987) 483 U.S. 825 and Dolan v. City of Tigard (1994) 512 U.S. 374.

In Powell v. County of ...

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On October 31, 2013, the City of Santa Monica filed a complaint in federal court against the United States of America and the Federal Aviation Administration ("FAA") with the hope of confirming its alleged right to control the fate of the Santa Monica Airport.  Both sides agree that:  (i) the City leased the airport property to the United States in 1941 to support the war effort, (ii) the United States made substantial improvements to the property, (iii) the United States terminated the lease in 1948, (iv) the 1948 instrument terminating the lease contained a reversionary clause, and ...

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In the second flooding decision issued by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in the past two weeks, the court held that there was no physical taking because the property was never actually flooded and no de facto taking because no federal entity or regulation prohibited the plaintiffs from using their property.  (See Stueve Bros. Farms, LLC v. United States (No. 2013-5021, Dec. 11, 2013).)

In 1941, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed the construction of the Prado Dam on the Santa Ana River near Corona, California.  Because the Army Corps anticipated that operation of ...

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As you may recall, last December we reported on the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United States, in which the Supreme Court held that government-induced flooding of limited duration may be compensable.  (See Supreme Court Holds Temporary Flooding Can Be A Taking.)  The Supreme Court explained that the relevant factors in determining whether a temporary flooding rises to the level of a compensable taking include:  (i) the degree to which the invasion is intended or is a foreseeable result of authorized government action, (ii) the ...

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In August, I reported on the decision in City of Perris v. Stamper, in which the Court of Appeal weighed in on the ever-shifting line dividing the judge and jury's roles in eminent domain cases. At the time, I poked a bit of fun at a former colleague,Rick Friess, who won the appeal but was still complaining that the Court didn't see everything exactly his way.

Well, it appears that my good friend hasn't quite given up yet. Last week, the California Supreme Court decided to hear the case, meaning Rick will have one more crack at his dedication argument. The Supreme Court is limiting its review to ...

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Yesterday, the California Supreme Court decided one of two pending cases dealing with inclusionary housing, holding that when a public agency requires a developer to convey units at below market rates and make substantial cash payments, the developer may challenge these conditions under the California Mitigation Fee Act.  (Sterling Park v. City of Palo Alto (Oct. 17, 2013) 2013 Cal. Lexis 8112.)  The California Supreme Court’s decision clarifies the scope of the Mitigation Fee Act, confirming that inclusionary in-lieu fees are subject to the essential nexus and rough ...

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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 ...

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The Supreme Court is apparently not done with its recent interest in takings decisions.  Following the decisions in Arkansas Game and Fish Commission v. United StatesHorne v. Department of Agriculture, and Koontz v. St. Johns River Water Mgmt District, the Supreme Court announced today that it will hear another takings case, Marvin M. Brandt Irrevocable Trust v. United StatesThe Supreme Court's blog describes the issue in Brandt as follows:

Whether the United States retained an implied reversionary interest in rights-of-way created by the General Railroad Right-of-Way Act of ...

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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 ...

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As reported by our colleague Robert Thomas on inversecondemnation.com, the California Supreme Court granted the California Building Industry Association's (CBIA) petition for review in California Building Industry Association v. City of San Jose.  The case will be the first test in California post-Koontz on whether the nexus/proportionality requirements apply to general regulations such as affordable housing exactions.

The CBIA filed the petition after the Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District reversed and remanded the Superior Court's decision ...

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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 ...

I'll give you a hint, this is a bit of a trick question.  Give up?  Okay.  Whenever you name a State agency, of course. 

In Lavine v. State of California (pdf), a property owner filed a lawsuit after the Regional Water Quality Control Board adopted, and the California State Water Resources Control Board approved, a ban on on-site septic systems in Malibu.  (Case No. B238030, Aug. 20, 2013, Unpublished.)  The plaintiff owned a single-family residence in Malibu that utilized an on-site septic system; no public sewer system was available to residences in the area.  Although the ...

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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