High Speed Rail & Eminent Domain
If your property may be affected by the California High-Speed Rail project, it is important that you contact Thornton Law Group P.C. for a free consultation about your legal rights.Thornton Law Group P.C. has many years of experience representing property owners, from large corporations to individuals, in eminent domain cases. Our firm will provide the best possible legal guidance to help you obtain full and fair compensation for the value of your property and other relocation expenses. To discuss your particular situation and/or legal concerns, call (559) 400-8999.
The California High-Speed Rail project is a major transportation venture that will connect the northern and southern halves of the state, from San Francisco and Sacramento to Los Angeles and San Diego. While the endeavor proposes to drastically improve transportation throughout the state and create jobs, the legal challenges will be far-reaching as construction will undoubtedly negatively impact property values, environmental conditions, the state’s agricultural industry, and force hundreds of people and businesses to relocate.
Facing Public Works Acquisitions
In order to move forward with the high-speed rail project, the Rail Authority and the California Department of Transportation (Cal Trans) will begin a complex process of selecting and acquiring property for the rail line. Before the Rail Authority can purchase property, however, they must first meet several legal requirements and receive each property owner’s approval.
In Central Valley, California’s main agricultural region, the rail project has already begun to stir up opposition and lawsuits. Many farmers and residents in the area argue that the rail line should stay within government owned property along the Interstate 5 highway rather than disrupt or damage any more vital agricultural land. However, the Rail Authority argues that it will be a necessary investment, especially considering how many jobs the project will generate.
Several farm groups have filed claims against the Rail Authority to alter the proposed route, only to reach settlements in court that have not made any changes to the project.
The California public works acquisitions attorneys at Thornton Law Group P.C. understand that the prospect of losing property to a government agency can be intimidating and frustrating. With our legal guidance and substantial jury trial experience, we can help you obtain the full and just settlement you deserve.
What to Expect in an Eminent Domain Action
In the event that a property owner refuses to sell, the Rail Authority may take the property owner to court in an eminent domain action. It is important that property owners protect their rights with an eminent domain attorney in this situation because the process can be complex and have devastating repercussions for property owners if they are unaware of their legal options.
In order for the Rail Authority to make a financial offer for a property’s value, the agency will hire an appraiser to determine the fair market value. With an eminent domain lawyer on your side, we can help investigate a fair and just value by working closely with a qualified and neutral real estate appraiser who has not been paid by a government agency.
If the agency and the owner cannot settle negotiations, the case will undergo a court-supervised eminent domain process. With an outside authority, such as a court, and an experienced attorney, property owners will have a better chance of obtaining the fair market value for their land.
What Recoverable Elements should the Rail Authority Compensate?
In addition to receiving compensation for the final value of the property, land owners may be eligible to receive the following from the Rail Authority:
- Business Goodwill Lost – Several farms in Central Valley or businesses in urban areas, like San Francisco or Los Angeles, will be displaced by the High-Speed Rail project and must relocate. In some cases, even though a business successfully relocates, it may lose business goodwill or the intangible business value after deducting tangible assets, such as patrons who will not come to the new location. In this situation, business owners will have the burden of proof for establishing and obtaining compensation for goodwill lost in court.
- Relocation Benefits –Businesses that are forced to move by eminent domain are entitled to compensation for the cost of moving the business, equipment and inventory under a Government Code and a complex set of regulations.
What is the The Environmental Impact of California’s High-Speed Rail Project?
Many critics of the High-Speed Rail project say that the rail violates state environmental laws, especially with regards to the Central Valley farmlands. Both residential and commercial developers in California must follow the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), which seeks to prevent as much damage or physical change as possible to the environment.
The Rail Authority continues to contend with the complex process of obtaining approval from the CEQA and other government agencies, seeking exemptions from the approval process in order to allow the project to proceed uninterrupted.
The High-Speed Rail project brings up serious concerns regarding health hazards and the damaging effect on property values involved with such a major construction. The skilled attorneys at Thornton Law Group P.C. will carefully investigate and build a strong case for property owners facing condemnation by the Rail Authority. Proving a significant environmental impact can be particularly complex, but it can be a key step in preventing an eminent domain case from moving forward.
Effective Legal Representation in Los Angeles
The Thornton Law Group P.C. will continue to follow the progress of California’s High-Speed Rail project. If you may be affected, please contact us at (213) 236-9720. Our trial attorneys believe each client deserves personal attention and experienced guidance through what can often be a difficult or confusing ordeal. We are devoted to holding the government agencies financially responsible in eminent domain cases and helping property owners obtain the fair compensation they deserve.