Many residents in California may have heard reports over the years about government entities obtaining privately held land for public projects. One example of this is when older homes are purchased by the government to make way for a new freeway or other thoroughfare. The rights under which this is allowed to happen are referred to as eminent domain It is important for property owners to understand what is entailed in eminent domain and how they might protect themselves if approached by the government about a property they own.
One of the most basic parameters about the eminent domain law is that any land taken by the government must be intended to be used in a manner in which serves the public. There must also be a demonstrable need for whatever project is proposed for the land. Not all land is able to be obtained under eminent domain laws. Property that houses graveyards or factories, for example, may be exempt from the government's reach.
As part of an eminent domain claim, the government will generally obtain and offer an appraised value on the property. This is used to determine how much money the property owner might receive from the government in exchange for the land. Property owners can also offer their own valuations. This can be one area of dispute in these matters.
Examples of recent eminent domain actions in California involve the government's taking of miles of land in the central valley for a high-speed rail project and Sacramento's recent vote to seize some property in the Pocket neighborhood for a bike trail along the river.