Throughout the United States, old railroad corridors are being abandoned and converted into other uses, such as hiking, biking or other trail purposes. This converted use makes sense, as it is difficult to otherwise compile a long stretch of right-of-way that would be needed to create such trails. But are adjacent property owners entitled to some sort of just compensation when this conversion takes place? The answer is maybe.
Before a railroad operator can abandon its right-of-way, it must first secure approvals by the Surface Transportation Board. When that abandonment process ...
In California eminent domain cases, appraisers typically have relatively wide latitude in determining fair market value for the property to be acquired. However, there are certain rules they must follow, and when an appraiser violates those rules, the appraiser’s opinion may be completely stricken, leaving a property owner or a public agency with no valuation evidence. This is precisely what happened in a new unpublished California Court of Appeal decision, Solano Transportation Authority v. Anderson (2021 Cal.App. Unpub. LEXIS 2129), where the property owners’ ...
Providing listeners a convenient and concise medium to access timely reports on important land use topics, Nossaman’s recent podcast offerings make a great addition to your professional playlist.
First, check out Nossaman’s own Digging Into Land Use Law podcast, which covers the development of all things in, on or above the ground. Recently, I recorded the episode “Valuation and Damages: Assessing COVID-19’s Economic Impact.” Changes in how businesses operate, restrictions on property use and reduced revenues brought on by mandated closures due to COVID-19 have had ...
When a public agency is acquiring private property for a public project, typically the key issue in dispute is how much the agency should pay -- what is “just compensation”? Determining the property’s value and any damages from the acquisition or public project is usually based on appraisals prepared for the public agency and property owner. A recent article written by Lauren Alexander, on behalf of the Owners' Counsel of America (a network of experienced eminent domain attorneys dedicated to defending the rights of private property owners across the US), highlights the top 10 ...
While inverse condemnation liability in California originates from the California Constitution, determining when it applies -- and under what circumstances -- is based on a lengthy morass of case law that has been described by one court as “seemingly inconsistent and irreconcilable.” If you’re interested in learning more about the subject ...
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 ...
When a local government agency impermissibly spot zones a property, thereby depriving it of all economically beneficial uses, can the property owner seek to invalidate that zoning decision, or is the owner left with a claim for damages under the theory of a regulatory taking? In a recent published California district court decision ...
At some time or another, most of us have experienced sitting in our cars at a railroad crossing waiting for what seems like the longest freight train in the world go by. And it always seems to happen when you’re late for an appointment or for once trying to make it home in time for dinner. If you live or work in the San Gabriel Valley, sitting in traffic waiting for the freight-train to go by is likely a daily occurrence.
With vehicle and rail traffic projected to increase, in 1998, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments (SGVCG) decided to do something about the safety and traffic ...
Eminent domain attorneys struggle with a concept foreign to most civil litigators: figuring out the roles of the judge and jury. Even most non-attorneys know the basic rule of trial: the jury is the "fact-finder." But in eminent domain cases, things are a bit different.
The jury still acts as fact-finder, but only in one arena: the quest to determine the amount of just compensation to which the owner is entitled. This narrow scope means that the judge ends up ruling on all issues of law, plus mixed issues of fact and law, plus pure issues of fact to the extent those issues don't go to the issue of ...
The Press Democrat is reporting that Sonoma County has agreed to pay $815,000 to acquire by eminent domain a family's 6.5-acre property next to the Charles M. Schulz airport for a runway extension project, settling the contentious case on the eve of trial. According to the article, Landowners, Sonoma County settle airport expansion lawsuit, the County valued the property at $135,000, while the owner's appraiser reached a valuation conclusion of $1.5 million. Why the large spread in appraisals? Apparently because of a dispute over the property's highest and best use.
To provide ...
Although best known today as the voice of bumbling Mayor West on Comedy Central’s Family Guy, Adam West’s real claim to fame was playing the caped crusader in the 1960s television series Batman. Batman and the Boy Wonder regularly matched wits with the Riddler, a villain who would deliver clues to his elaborate criminal plans by deceptively simple riddles. A recent unpublished decision, City of Southgate v. Jauregui (Court of Appeals of California, 2nd District, Division 4, No. B228334) both poses and solves a deceptively simple riddle, worthy of the Riddler himself.
Riddle me ...
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 ...
Yesterday, Professor Gideon Kanner, a well-known eminent domain scholar, wrote a critique of my post about Avatar on his "Gideon's Trumpet" blog. It is an interesting response, in that it spans two full pages of printed text, and his fundamental point seems to be that he agrees with my premise that Avatar is not a film about eminent domain.
How, then, does he spend two pages responding to my January 26 post, "Is Avatar Really a Political Commentary on Eminent Domain Abuse?" Well, he begins by "trumpeting" the fact that he writes from an "unabashedly property-owner oriented" ...
A few weeks ago, my wife and I went to see Avatar. With two young kids, we rarely see movies in the theaters, and we picked this one based on its advertised special effects, not any belief that it was the "best" movie among our choices.
As I watched, I never really thought of it as an expression of outrage over eminent domain abuse. Looking around the Internet, however, the movie seems to have been picked up by eminent domain reformists as a big budget example of eminent domain gone bad. But is it, really? Let's look at some facts ...
The public outcry over eminent domain continues. Claims of "eminent domain abuse" fill today's popular media; a January 21 article by Steve Cook, Eminent Domain is Alive and Well, claims 2 in 3 Americans oppose eminent domain.
What so often gets lost in the shuffle is that most of the outrage focuses on a narrow aspect of eminent domain: redevelopment efforts that involve condemning private property and transferring it to another private owner. This is what sparked debate in the Kelo case, and it is making major headlines in New York, where the "Atlantic Yards" drama involves ...
So it's the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and I thought I should spend some time thinking about what I'm thankful for (apart from Cal's victory at Stanford last Saturday). Here's a list of three things an eminent domain attorney can be thankful for:
1. I Live in a Country With Eminent Domain. I know, who spends time being thankful for eminent domain? But think about it. In many places, the government just takes property, paying nothing. Even in this country, before it was this country, when the Pilgrims took land from existing Native American tribes just after inviting them over for a ...
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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