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Eminent Domain in California

Although few property owners are ever approached by the government to give up what they own, eminent domain impacts all residents through property taxes, economic growth and property security.

The eminent domain process begins with a public project.

When selecting a project location, the goal is to render the greatest public good and the least private injury. If it is determined that all or a portion of the property is necessary for a public project, the government agency begins the appraisal process to determine the property's fair market value. The owner of the property is given notice of this decision and provided with an opportunity to accompany the agency’s appraiser when the property is inspected.

After the inspection, the appraiser completes a determination of the property's fair market value. The agency then makes a written offer to purchase the property, which should be no less than the amount of the appraisal.

Unfortunately, it may be difficult in certain circumstances to ensure that a property owner receives fair market value in the face of an eminent domain process.

Sure, there are improvements that are greatly needed to improve a city’s quality of life: sidewalks, schools, and fire stations all stand to benefit from eminent domain. However, eminent domain power is not without limits.

One way governmental entities in California could improve how it uses eminent domain is tolimit the length of domain proceedings.

Another way the state entities could improve eminent domain is to limit its use for blighted areas. Blight is typically used to describe buildings and residences which are unattractive and unsafe. The local government can use the term to seize any property they deem “blight.” The government can then hand off the land to private developers, who can build expensive condos or whatever else they please.

Why do cities use eminent domain to tear down useable property and force long-time residents out of their homes? One problem is a lack of money. Residents in areas where eminent domain is abused pay extremely low taxes because their homes have below-average market values, and because of tax increase limits. Local governments’ biggest revenue stream comes from property taxes, and when these are limited, they usually find other ways to increase their revenue.

The system is not without its faults, but that does not mean you should not receive due compensation for your property. If you’re worried about having your property seized, please contact our San Diego eminent domain attorneys at Purdy & Bailey, LLP today.

To learn more, call (858) 360-7080 or contact us online.

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