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Eminent Domain is For The Public Use

Mayor Doug Tessitor discusses the concept of Eminent Domain and fair compensation in order to create something for the public use.

“This may sound like a dumb question, but can you explain to me how eminent domain is legal? Whenever it's explained to me, it just sounds like the government taking advantage of a citizen's rights."

Great question!  I’ll try to answer briefly a question that has been the subject of books.

The first legal foundation is found in the U.S. Constitution, Fifth Amendment:  “…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”  Two concepts are evident here; first, the taking of private property for a “public use” and second, the requirement for “just compensation.”  The second legal foundation in California is found in Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution.  This constitutional provision also allows for government condemnation of private property for “public purposes” and requires “just compensation.”

Controversies arise over what constitutes a public use and, of course, what “just compensation” is.

The most questionable acts of eminent domain occur when private property is condemned for purposes of generating new economic activity.  For example, condemning a private farm and then selling the land to a shopping center developer.  The farmer is deprived of his farming activities and the developer profits from his real estate activities.  Assuming “just compensation” was paid, where is the public purpose?  And why should the farmer be disadvantaged in favor of the developer? 

In a land that values private property, individual rights and equality, it is easy to see why the transaction described above raises significant questions.  This type of transaction is too complex to discuss here.

There are other examples of eminent domain that are clearer: transactions that serve public purposes and seek to benefit society as a whole.

And, as important, those transactions that do not place individual rights at a significant disadvantage.

The current Gold Line proposed condemnation of property for the Maintenance and Operations  (M&O) Facility in Monrovia is such a case.

The public purpose is clear.

Traffic congestion on the 210 Freeway, environmental issues and affordable transportation are among the rationales for construction of a light rail system.

The right-of-way for the entire extension is already owned by the Gold Line and follows the existing freight tracks to San Bernardino County.

L.A. Metro, the agency that is charged with operating  the regional light rail system, has mandated the building of an M&O facility that will not only serve the Gold Line but will also serve a regional light rail system.

The chosen location is the closest possible site to the rest of L.A. County’s system.  Again, the public purpose is indisputable.

Now we come to the issue of, “just compensation.”  Half of the 28 acres required for the Gold Line are owned by the Monrovia Redevelopment Agency and it is a willing seller at a negotiated price.

Other property owners have also agreed to sell at negotiated prices. 

One property owner has insisted on a price that is four times the appraised value of his property.  It is this property owner that has caused the “resolution of necessity,” which is the first step in the condemnation process. 

Our laws allow for taking of property for “public purposes” and require the payment of, “just compensation”.  This means not only paying a fair price for the property, but also paying relocation costs; it does not mean paying an exorbitant price for the acquisition.

Fair compensation is the aspect of eminent domain that is least talked about and is the least recognized component of the process.  “Compensation” is a given; “Fair” is the critical word and it must be fair to all parties – including, if not especially, the taxpayers!

Janek August 14, 2011 at 03:21 PM
In general, I am no fan of eminent domain, but in this current economy it could be profitable for a property owner. Mentioned above a land owner sold his property for 4x the worth. He can now go and buy many income producing properties at the current low values and low interest and probably come out far ahead then where he was previously. In this instance I support eminent domain :) But truth is we are usually not in such poor economic times and the government is the typical profiteer from eminent domain and this is where the anger comes from.
Doug Tessitor August 14, 2011 at 04:02 PM
Mr. Janek, Please reread the article. I did NOT say that the land owner sold his property for four times the value. I said he WANTED four times the value and that was what caused the eminent domain process to begin. Fair compensation is the subject of negotiations. When one party refuses to be reasonable and rational, negotiations stall, and the eminent domain alternative is necessary. A court will potentially decide what fair compensation is in this case. Greed - profiteering to you - is never a sound basis for negotiations, especially when the law is on the side of the taxpayers.
Janelle August 14, 2011 at 05:41 PM
I so wish the City of Glendora could/would take over the property supposedly owed by the Bus Co. in the Village. That large parcel of park-like property in the center of the Village that needs a large fountain, more fowers, & maybe even a little grass. Ever notice what a 'prime location' it is ? But no one 'ever' sits there & enjoys it, as it is so 'sterlile'. I very large, large waste of money - wherein it 'could' be a very large, large 'draw' for the citizens of Glendora to actually use, & the businesses in the Village to profit from. Why can't 'something' be done ?
EZDuzit August 14, 2011 at 07:03 PM
Amen, Janelle. That parcel would be much more user-friendly with trees, shade, flowers and maybe one of those fountains with water sprouting out from holes in the ground in grids that kids like to run through...something interactive! Maybe a couple of those "cart" vendors selling snacks or ice cream could be there on weekends??? It would be a way to lure customers to the area and serve the citizens.
gsuburban August 15, 2011 at 03:46 AM
I'd use the word fountain very carefully these days now that the cost of water is high and everyone is so worried about wasted natural resources.
Janelle August 15, 2011 at 04:08 AM
Just like in all the monster Vegas fountains, the water would be re-cycled, so.... the bigger, the better !!
gsuburban August 15, 2011 at 04:14 AM
Evaporation is what they all complain about. Most fountains recirculate.
Janelle August 15, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Never heard anyone complain about 'that'. Patch just high-lighted a story a few weeks ago about a very large fountain behind a Savings & Loan in Glendora - and how beautiful it was. Most of us water several times a week, some daily, with no re-cycling. The amount of evaporation would be minimal for a fountain. The benefits far out-weigh the small amount of evaporation.
Doug Tessitor August 15, 2011 at 02:41 PM
Dear Janelle, The "Transit Plaza" is not owned by the bus company; it is so named because it was built with Prop "A" funds that would have been forfeited if not used. The plaza replaced a few parking spaces and is a huge improvement over what was there before. It provides space for public restrooms in the center of the Village and an attractive open area between the small businesses that surround it. A fountain would have been nice, flowers and maybe even a little grass. Unfortunately, those things require maintenance and take the time of city personnel. It is not a perfect world - but that is just my opinion - and you are entitled to yours.
Christina August 15, 2011 at 09:25 PM
What does it all really matter? the nice little town fell of Glendora is being distroyed any way and for what? if people want the city feel of life move to a big town, don't distroy ours, so much of Glendora is becoming an asfault cemtent over built with empty shopping centers. What about planting more trees etc like around the east side of Barranca? it is so ugly noisy and congested there now.. I guess sadly that part of town is forgotten,,, shame on you that are supposed to be for the better of Glendora,,,
Christina August 15, 2011 at 09:25 PM
What does it all really matter? the nice little town fell of Glendora is being distroyed any way and for what? if people want the city feel of life move to a big town, don't distroy ours, so much of Glendora is becoming an asfault cemtent over built with empty shopping centers. What about planting more trees etc like around the east side of Barranca? it is so ugly noisy and congested there now.. I guess sadly that part of town is forgotten,,, shame on you that are supposed to be for the better of Glendora,,,
Christina August 15, 2011 at 09:29 PM
I 100% agree!! a fountian would be wonderful and who could ever disagree with more trees, flowers etc, I think concrete, and asfault is a big waste of money not to mention ugly!
Terry August 15, 2011 at 09:34 PM
Are you talking about north of the 210 on Baseline? The city added some trees east of Grand on Baseline--where the 210 exit is, but not the part between Barranca and Grand. It would have been nice if that part of Baseline got the renovation, too--it just seems so logical to do that whole stretch of Baseline, not just east of Grand.
Christina August 15, 2011 at 09:46 PM
Im referring to Barrance that goes along Citrus college on the East side.. even Baseline that goes along the freeway is again just asfault as a walkway,, even Azusa has made their pathways nicer in many areas! I was hoping that with the new road work they just completed they would have made it look nicer.. the island that divides Barrance right across the parking area of the college would have looked wonderful with some greenery but what did they do??? they freshened up with what?? MORE black ASFAULT!!! YEA! that looks wonderful and inviting! If I was a visitor to Glendora for the first time.. I would think, is this another ugly grey town in LA???
Terry August 15, 2011 at 10:06 PM
Yeah, seems like Glendora is pretty selective as to which parts of town to improve. Just a few trees in those medians isn't too much to ask.
Christina August 15, 2011 at 10:19 PM
Yes they are Terry... guess they figure that part of town is so close to Azusa is doesn't matter.. The Mayor can put that in his Round table.. Seems they don't have a listening ear nor ever will... so I'm sure more asfault and concrete to come, that's their idea of improvement I guess!
gsuburban August 15, 2011 at 11:47 PM
I have to agree about that area and why it's so neglected but I have it figured why. It's on the boundary line of Azusa so, why do you think it took 20 years for Glendora I presume to finally re-pave Barranca 900 feet south and north of 66? Azusa does much more road work than Glendora does. As far as those center islands are concerned, I have to agree with the previous folks that "concrete" is not the solution. Taking a road way's center real estate and limiting the ingress and egress of traffic is worse than the risk of why some of those islands are erected in the first place. Less is better in most cases on that matter as I have seen many a good streets become far worse to travel once an island is placed. For example, Huntington Dr in Arcadia/Monrovia, worse move ever !
Christina August 16, 2011 at 12:56 AM
The Island is already there, not suggesting a new one although that would be nice like as going down Irwdale Ave. I was referring to the excisting one that's there already, it isn't actually in the middle of Barranca but divides the streets and homes just off Barranca across from the college.. they could do somethng nice there even if it is a little some thing.. instead of new asfault.. and I don't mean letting the weds that grow out of it from the cracks either! not that kind of green!
Ronald E Hummel August 16, 2011 at 01:10 AM
I agree, look at the costs to keep up these center dividers. re; landscape, water, labor, etc.
Janelle August 16, 2011 at 01:38 AM
I own a home in No. Glendora, with very large property - even 3 fountains, two in backyard. Upkeep for the almost 1/4 of an acre is only $50.00 a mth. for every other week service. I have been paying that low amount for over 20 yrs. to various gardeners . 'Maybe" the 50 or so businesses could chip in 'a dollar a month' for a local gardener to tend to the said parcel in the center of The Village, every other week. Beautified, it would bring a lot more business to The Village, and somewhere for the shoppers to take a break from the heat, so they can continue to shop some more. Thank you to Doug Tessitor, for obviously taking the time to read our comments, and for responding !
Christina August 16, 2011 at 02:10 AM
I would even be willing to take of it! if we had more people wilingl t o do a little extra in our own areas it would go along way. If only more people would take pride in our city, I now longer call it a town because it lost that lovely feel..I've lived here over 30 years. I feel that we can no longer call it the "Pride of the Foothills"
Christina August 16, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Good comment Janelle..very good point about the cost..but responding is one thing but positive action is another,, hopefully that will happen sometime soon..
Christina August 16, 2011 at 02:15 AM
Good comment Janelle..very good point about the cost..but responding is one thing but positive action is another,, hopefully that will happen sometime soon..
EZDuzit August 16, 2011 at 02:26 AM
I also have a fountain on my property and a sizable waterfall and pond it drains into. My water bill is not high at all and the maintenance is nil. I only change pumps about once every two years...that's it. I think the toilets, swimming pools, showers, baths,etc in Glendora drain the water supply much more than a public fountain would. Talk to the owners of T.Phillips and ask what it takes to operate the one outside their establishment. I doubt that it's very much. Like Christina, I would be happy to help with maintenance of that area. If you haven't been to Rancho Cucamonga...check it out...many public areas have cutting-edge landscaping, fountains, sculpture,etc. It's really striking and inviting!
Kathy Bell August 17, 2011 at 05:36 PM
The business owners in the Village, whether all of them want to or not, are all paying to be in the BID. That money could be used to help maintain a much needed and nicer "Transit Plaza". The thousands of dollars that was wasted sending out late postcards for the chili event in the Village last year could have helped maintain this area several times over, instead the notice was received by everyone I talked to the afternoon of the event, after it had been going on for several hours. If those notices had been sent out one or two weeks earlier there could have been even more people at that event, generating more customers for those buisnesses. Talk about sterile, it's to bad the Diamond Ridge area isn't more appealing, a few trees, places to sit, a fountain, etc. would make it a much nicer area also. Those businesses all seem to be doing very well, they could all chip in the extra dollars to beautify that area at least a little. But that is just my opinion. On another note, I would like to thank the city. This is the very first Summer that I have not seen water being wasted by the city. Every past Summer you could drive around town and see public green areas being watered during the day, and water running down the streets. A huge high five to whoever is on top of this!!

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