Posts in Valuation.

In Freeport Reg’l Water Auth. v. M&H Realty Partners VI, L.P., 2019 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6126 (Sept. 16, 2019), the court walked through a complicated fact pattern involving – in its simplest form – a 40-foot easement for an underground water pipeline.  For our purposes, the key issues were valuing (1) the easement being acquired, (2) the severance damages caused to the remainder parcel, and (3) a temporary construction easement for the pipeline’s installation.  Though it was not technically a eminent domain case because the parties had reached an agreement concerning the ...

In an eminent domain proceeding, the property owner and the condemning agency each typically introduce evidence of just compensation through valuation experts. The jury is then required to render a verdict in between the owner’s (high) valuation and the agency’s (low) valuation. Usually the biggest delta between the sides involves severance damages -- or damages to the remainder property not being acquired. But what happens when the agency’s appraiser does not render a specific valuation opinion, instead simply concluding that any damages are offset by project benefits? Is this sufficient, or is the appraiser required to identify specific dollar amounts for damages and benefits? A recent Court of Appeal decision concludes that the appraiser is not required to identify specific damages and benefits ...

Posted in Events, Valuation

Join Brad Kuhn, Chair of Nossaman's Eminent Domain & Valuation Practice Group, at the International Right of Way Association's Chapter One Annual Valuation Seminar.  The event will be held on Tuesday, February 12, 2019, at the Quiet Cannon Conference Center in Monterey Park, CA.  Brad will be addressing What To Do When the Cookie Isn’t From A Cutter:  Unusual Valuation Scenarios From Eminent Domain.  For current information on the seminar, please consult the IRWA Chapter One website.

Covering Los Angeles, Chapter One is the founding Chapter of the International Right of Way ...

In a recent unpublished Court of Appeal decision, Downs v. City of Redding (October 30, 2018), the Court took up two distinct issues: (a) whether a contractor’s use of property for construction staging constitutes a taking when such use is not authorized by the agency, and (b) whether "just compensation" requires payment of damages for the taking of a tree.  Both of these issues are common occurrences in many of the projects we work on and while the Court’s holdings may not come as a surprise, they are a good reminder of the fairness and equity courts apply to such issues ...

Posted in Projects, Valuation

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

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

One of the unique things about eminent domain cases is that a set of specific procedural rules govern the admissibility of valuation evidence at trial.  A new unpublished opinion from the Court of Appeal, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority v. Byun, explores some of the many things that can go wrong when a party ignores those procedural rules.

At the outset, I must admit to a personal stake in this one; this was a case I handled, and which I argued at the Court of Appeal on May 17 (that the decision came out so quickly after argument gives some sense of how the Court felt about the ...

Posted in Valuation

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

Posted in Valuation

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

Posted in Valuation

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

Retail Petroleum explains that because gas stations ...

Posted in Valuation

In January, I spoke at a conference in Austin about efforts by municipalities to condemn privately-held utility companies.  At the time, I figured it would be a one-off presentation on a pretty niche issue, even for eminent domain attorneys.  But next month, I'll be speaking on a variation of that topic at CLE International's 2016 Eminent Domain Conference in Las Vegas, a presentation that will be the third time this year I've spoken on the topic.

In fact, we've been following this issue since at least 2014, when my partner Brad Kuhn wrote about a takeover effort involving PG&E.  Those ...

Last summer, I wrote about the Appraisal Institute’s controversial effort to promote legislation in California (known as AB 624) that would enable licensed real estate appraisers performing appraisals for non-federally-related transactions to use any nationally or internationally recognized standard of valuation. I commented at the time that it wasn’t difficult to envision a parade of horribles that might result should appraisers be permitted to identify obscure international standards for an appraisal assignment in order to drive value up or down for a litigant.

Not ...

We don’t often see multiple takings-related cases in one week, but last week we saw three.  The California Supreme Court’s decision in Property Reserve was obviously the most important, but the Fourth Appellate District Court of Appeal in San Diego also issued two decisions in the same week.  Although both of these opinions are unpublished and cannot be cited, they act as a reminder for property owners to be mindful of some basic principles of eminent domain law.

The first case, SANDAG v. Vanta, addresses some of the limits on the principle of just compensation and, in particular ...

Posted in Valuation

As we await the California Supreme Court's decision in the Property Reserve case (see related posts here and here), many government agencies are faced with the question of what they will do if the justices deem the current right of entry procedures unconstitutional.  Perhaps technology can come to the rescue.

Many in the real estate industry are embracing technology and drones in particular.  The builderonline.com article "Here's How Drones Will Impact Real Estate Listings" discusses how drone photography will play a significant role in marketing, appraisals and inspections.  ...

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 ...

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 ...

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 ...

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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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 ...

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 Events, Valuation

It is increasingly important for buildings to be energy efficient.  So-called green buildings can not only lead to more efficient energy use, but can also result in significant cost savings over time.  Indeed, green buildings may be more valuable than comparable buildings that are not as energy efficient.  This is an important factor to consider in eminent domain proceedings.  This point was driven home in a recent presentation made by Michael Frost, LEED AP, First Vice President at CBRE in its Palo Alto, California office.  He made the presentation to a diverse group of right of way ...

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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Public projects take years of planning and environmental review usually involving outreach to neighboring property owners and other stakeholders. During this process, potential right of way impacts are identified and property owners (and their potential buyers or tenants) become aware of the planned project. As we have described in the past, this can result in a cloud of condemnation over the property, affecting the value of that property. Property owners often feel they should be compensated for this uncertainty. But it is difficult for owners to succeed on these claims. (Check ...

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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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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Posted in Valuation

Most of us have been inconvenienced by road construction or other public works.  Streets can be more congested, exits closed, and traffic re-routed, making it more difficult to get to the restaurants, yogurt shops, book stores and other businesses we usually frequent.  Not surprisingly, these businesses often see their revenue decline while construction continues.  Does the public agency owe these businesses anything for these losses?

The short answer for most of the country is, usually not.  Courts generally consider construction-related inconvenience part and parcel of living ...

One issue that eminent domain attorneys face routinely involves helping businesses obtain the relocation benefits to which they are entitled under the law, while at the same time pursuing a claim for lost business goodwill.  To us, there is a clear difference between the two, as we are indoctrinated early in our careers into understanding that the two types of relief, while seemingly closely related, are instead largely unrelated in the eyes of the law.

But to a typical business owner facing a forced relocation due to a government acquisition, the issues can appear thorny and complex.  ...

Posted in Valuation

When eminent domain attorneys think of just compensation in the context of an eminent domain case, we're typically thinking about the value of what we can see:  the dirt itself; and anything built on that dirt.  But every so often, a property's real value lies not in what is on the surface, but what sits below the surface.

A recent post by the Biersdorf law firm, Mineral Rights in Eminent Domain Cases, reminds us about this often overlooked issue.  The post contains a nice summary of when and how these issues can arise, and I won't repeat all of what they have to say.  The bottom line is that when a ...

I received an interesting email last week about possible claims against a neighboring property owner who was taking steps in an apparent effort to lower the amount of compensation the agency would have to pay for the property.   I didn't get much in the way of details, but it did get me thinking about how (and why) this might occur, and what someone could do about it.

The first thought that occurred to me is why would a neighboring property owner want to cause the value of property to be lower?  It seems that in most circumstances, the last thing one owner would want is for a low value to be established ...

A recent post on the Biersdorf & Associates Eminent Domain Blog discussed criteria for hiring an eminent domain attorney.  While reading the post, I found myself agreeing with much of what they have to say, and since finding a qualified eminent domain attorney can be a tricky process, I thought I would pass it along.  That said, I disagree with some of what they say, so I also wanted to offer my own viewpoint.

Biersdorf breaks the inquiry down into three steps:

  1. "Experience";
  2. "Are They Looking Out for my Best Interest?"; and
  3. "Set Expectations."

Experience.  The experience ...

Posted in Valuation

A fundamental premise underlying eminent domain laws is that the owner is treated fairly under principles of just compensation.  This means that the owner receives fair market value for the property being condemned.  And, where there is an active, relevant real estate market with ample comparable sales data, this premise can be upheld through traditional appraisal methodologies.

Unfortunately, not all markets include legitimate, open market transactions from which to gather comparable sales data.  This is especially true where market conditions have deteriorated; in other ...

Over the weekend, someone posted a comment on an earlier piece involving the City of Vista's Efforts to Assemble an Auto Mall.  The comment referred to potential tax advantages to owners facing condemnation, and was probably more timely than the person commenting realized.  Here is the main point of the comment:

I have read that Owners forced to sell property though eminent domain have tax advantages on any gain as opposed to if they sell voluntarily.

The comment refers to Internal Revenue Code Section 1033, which provides tax deferral for "involuntary conversions" of ...

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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