Eminent Domain

On June 23, 2005, the United States Supreme Court decided in Kelo v. City of New London, Connecticut. Kelo allowed a public development corporation to take private homes for a hotel, conference center and other commercial uses. California’s eminent domain laws differ significantly from the Connecticut law. Legislative hearings were held in August, October, and November 2005 to consider whether reforms to state eminent domain laws were needed. Testimony did indicate a number of specific concerns regarding potential misuse of California’s eminent domain and redevelopment laws, existing well prior to the Kelo decision. In response to the testimony, a package of bills were developed and enacted. These included SB 53 (Kehoe) tightening the parameters on how a redevelopment agency uses their eminent domain process. It requires redevelopment plans to specify when, where, and how redevelopment officials can use their eminent domain powers. Allows plans to ban the condemnation of specified types of properties and allows plans to ban condemning property in specified locations. Prohibits a redevelopment agency from amending its plan to extend the use of eminent domain unless the agency is able to make a new blight finding which conforms to the Blue v. City of Los Angeles Court of Appeals court case; SB 1210 (Torlakson) making procedural changes that are designed to give additional power to property owners in eminent domain actions, as well as changes to the redevelopment law that could reduce the prospect for conflicts of interest or the use of eminent domain to take property in a redevelopment project area after the blight in the project area has already been remedied; SB 1650 (Kehoe) prohibiting a public entity from using a property for any use other than the public use stated in its resolution of necessity, unless the entity first adopts a new resolution that finds the public interest and necessity of using the property for a new stated public use. The purpose is to bring fairness to private property owners when public entities use eminent domain to condemn property and to bring accountability back to the process.

Proposition 90, on the November 2006 ballot, which was placed on by initiative bars state/local governments from condemning or damaging private property to promote other private project uses.