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Let's talk about eminent domain

Shoutout to our McGeorge Law School intern, Jacob Benitez, for his work on this write-up!

The Item (2) in question: Resolutions Of Necessity Authorizing Eminent Domain Actions To Acquire Real Property For The Arden-Arcade And Carmichael Sidewalk And Street Lights Improvement Project

On July 13th, 2022, the Board of Supervisors voted in favor of 6 eminent domain actions to acquire 6 properties in the Arden-Arcade and Carmicheal area. Acquiring the 6 properties would be for the purpose of a sidewalk and street light improvement project.

A description of the project:

The project construction will cost $2.7 million dollars and is funded by the Federal Highway Safety Improvement Program and Measure A Sales Tax Revenues. The project was included in the Department of Transportation’s 2022-23 budget.

There are 38 property acquisitions involved in the project. Out of these 38 acquisitions, all but 6 property owners refused to sell their properties (or the partial area of their properties). Since an agreement couldn’t be reached, the property may be acquired through eminent domain so that the project could continue.

What does eminent domain mean?

The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution allows the government to take property and convert it for public use. But under the Constitution, when an eminent domain action occurs, the government has to pay just compensation for taking over the property. Either the entire property may be taken or only a partial area.

It is not possible to refuse eminent domain. If the government wants to take your property and you don’t want to sell, eminent domain ensures the government is able to take the property as long as just compensation is given and the purpose of the taking is for public use. Otherwise, it is almost impossible to stop an eminent domain action. Instead, a lawsuit may help the property owner arrive at just compensation and get more money for their property.

What are the 6 areas being taken?

The 6 areas of land are not entire homes or buildings. Rather, they are partial sidewalk areas and curbs to that will be used to facilitate the city's renovations for the sidewalk and street light project.

The following demonstrates the areas being discussed:

The properties encompass a small tract of sidewalk or driveway needed in order to perform the necessary infrastructure improvements. This eminent domain action is partial because the city is not buying anyone’s entire property. Instead, an easement, or right of way, is being granted for the project as a result of eminent domain.

The Department of General services stated:

Eminent domain actions are evidence of the unfair power that the government has over people. Ultimately, if the government wants your property for public use then you are forced to sell your property to them. There isn’t really anything you can do to fight this. In some cases, entire neighborhoods are destroyed just for projects to be abandoned.

However, this project does not seem to be an abuse of this power. Instead, the project for infrastructure renovation is much needed by the community. In addition, no one’s entire property is being taken. After the property is done, the city won’t use the easements to enter the land since the construction would have ceased. The areas of Sacramento listed above are greatly in need of infrastructure renovation, as many streets don’t have any sidewalks or bike lanes at all, creating unsafe conditions for people walking.

Yay! Some good news for pedestrians!

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