Monday, April 15, 2013

Eminent domain Utilized for California High-Speed Train

Michael Henry
Eminent domain Utilized for California High-Speed Train

In 2008 Proposition 1A, also known as the “Safe, Reliable High-Speed Passenger Train Bond Act,” was passed by California voters, putting California on the forefront as the first state to approve a high-speed train system in the United States.  The Act provides funding for the high-speed train by issuing $9.95 billion in bonds and also calls for federal and private matching funds. (   Recently, “The consortium of Tutor Perini Corp. of Sylmar, Zachry Construction Corp. of Texas and Parsons Corp. of Pasadena offered the low bid of less than $1 billion,” for the construction of the first segment of the high-speed train system linking the east side of Madera to downtown Fresno.  (Sheehan)  With construction scheduled to begin in the summer of 2013 there still remains a few substantial hurdles to begin the long construction process.  Here, I will focus on the most relevant issue to this course, being the acquisition of land through eminent domain.
Once the California High-Speed Rail Authority agrees to the contract proposal, they will begin the process of acquiring 356 pieces of property to complete the 28 mile segment. 75 of which must be acquired by September 2013 to remain on schedule. (Sheehan)  A majority of these properties, if not all, will be acquired through the government’s power of eminent domain.   Federal government can exercise eminent domain under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution, while California derives this power from Article I, Section 19 from the California Constitution. (CAL. CONST. art. I § 19)  Local governments also obtain this power through enabling acts, also created by the United States Constitution. The enabling act allows state governments to pass powers to local governments, thereby enabling local governments to the power of eminent domain.  (Diaz/Hansz)
In order for any piece of land to be taken by the government through eminent domain, there must be certain specifications met.  These specifications include just compensation and public use of the property.    Just compensation is usually met by providing landowners market value at highest and best use for the subject property.  Public use is usually justified by the intended use of the property after condemnation has occurred.    Landowners are protected by due process, which allows them to sue the government in a formal court proceeding, giving landowners the chance to sue or stop the condemnation of their property.   (Diaz/Hansz)
As the California High-Speed Train Authority continues to move forward to finalize the contract proposal for construction, they also continue to delay the land acquisition process.   This could pose a threat to their current budget, especially if a large portion of landowners are not willing to accept the proposed terms, mainly due to price discrepancies.   In order to prevent further delays the California High-Speed Train Authority could motion for quick-take power.  Quick-take power is, “A formal process of the exercise of eminent domain in which the government takes possession before the adjudication of compensation.” (Duhaime)  When quick-take power is utilized, the land is taken before compensation is paid and a formal court process ensues to provide equitable relief to landowners.
As the high-speed train system moves forward we are sure to find an abundance of eminent domain cases arise in the subject areas.  Without a doubt this is indeed a public use, but just compensation may be disputed by land owners.  When landowners disagree with the compensation they are to receive, they may begin the due process phase in order to protect their rights.  In order for the California High-Speed Train Authority to stay true to their deadlines and avoid any deficit spending, do not be surprised if they exercise the quick-take power.   With more than 356 pieces of property being taken from landowners for one 28 mile section, we will surely see more eminent domain cases arise as other segments of the high-speed train continue forward as planned. 

Works Cited "What Is Proposition 1A?" California High-Speed Rail Authority. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

CAL. CONST. Art. I § 19. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Castle Coalition. "Current State Constitutional Provisions About Eminent Domain | The Castle Coalition." Current State Constitutional Provisions About Eminent Domain | The Castle Coalition. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Diaz, Julian, and J. Andrew. Hansz. "Chapter 7." Real Estate Analysis: Environments and Activities. Dubuque, IA: Kendall Hunt Pub., 2010. 164-167. Print. "Quick Take Definition:." Quick Take Definition. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

Sheehan, Tim. "Winning Bid to Start High-speed Rail Far below Estimates." California Watch. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr. 2013.

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