CALIFORNIA EMINENT DOMAIN LAW

In California, eminent domain law is governed by a detailed statute. Code of Civil Procedure Section 1230.010 et. seq. Private property may be taken only for a “public use.” CCP Section 1240.010. The owner may fight by arguing that a particular use is not a public use, but a private one. See e.g. Los Angeles County v. Anthony (1964) 224 Cal. App. 2d 103. In Kelo v. City of New London (2005) 545 U.S. 469, 125 S. Ct. 2655, the U.S. Supreme Court eviscerated this requirement, as a matter of federal constitutional law by permitting a city to take a private residence and to give it to a private developer. In 2008, however, California voters, responded to Kelo, by passing Proposition 99, which amended the California constitution to prohibit the taking of owner-occupied residences to give them to private parties. California Constitution, Article I, Section 19.

Under CCP Section 1240.030, eminent domain may be exercised to if all of the following are established:

(a) The public interest and necessity require the project.

(b) The project is planned or located in the manner that will be most compatible with the greatest public good and the least private injury.

(c) The property sought to be acquired is necessary for the project.”

The agency seeking to condemn the land must make engage in a good faith consideration of the positive and negative aspects of the proposed project and it make detailed findings, based on substantial evidence, relating to each requirement. Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency v. Izant (1995) 37 Cal. App. 4th 141. The public necessity need not be imperative or indispensable; it need only be reasonable. Kenneth Mebane Ranches v. Superior Court (1992) 10 Cal. App. 4th 276. The agency must examine, among other things, social, economic, environmental and aesthetic concerns. Shell Cal. Pipeline Co. v. City of Compton (1995) 35 Cal. App. 4th 1116. A public hearing must be held to consider these issues, and the property owner must be given notice and an opportunity to be heard. Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency, supra.

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