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California Cities Can’t Avoid Constitutional Liability for A Taking by Dissolving their Redevelopment Agencies

Loma Linda Redevelopment AgencyFor years local redevelopment agencies were the bane of private property rights in California. Until recently these agencies were clothed with the power to seize private homes through eminent domain and then give that property to private developers like Costco or Wal-Mart, all in the name of community development. That changed in 2011 when the legislature passed Assembly Bill 1X 26 abolishing redevelopment agencies within the state. However, what many view as a major victory for property owners, at least one city views as an opportunity to avoid its constitutional obligation to pay homeowners for property it has already taken.

Elaine Aghaeepour owns a duplex in Loma Linda California. In 2006 the City of Loma Linda’s redevelopment agency purchased land abutting a private road that ran behind Ms. Aghaeepour’s property which provided access to her garages. After the purchase, the City erected a fence over the road blocking access to Ms. Aghaeepour’s property.  Ms. Aghaeepour sued, arguing that the City and the redevelopment agency had taken her property interest in the private road and were required by the Fifth Amendment to compensate her for the taking. Assuming that she proves her ownership interest in the road, her claim of a taking is not controversial.

Yet, when the state abolished redevelopment agencies in 2012, something changed. The City now argues that even if she can prove a taking, the City doesn’t have to compensate her. According to the City, the redevelopment agency is the one who took the property, not the City, and the redevelopment agency no longer exists.

The bizarre nature of this argument becomes clear when one notes that the City created the redevelopment agency, that City Council personnel ran the redevelopment agency, and that the property taken by the redevelopment agency was transferred to the City. Moreover, the law abolishing redevelopment agencies makes the City the “successor agency” to the redevelopment agency’s debts. In short, the City Council was the redevelopment agency, just wearing a different hat.  Nonetheless, the City argues that it can’t be held liable for the agency’s actions.

Given the large amount of property taken by redevelopment agencies over the years, acceptance of the City’s argument could result in untold numbers of property owners being left uncompensated for clear takings of their private property.

Thankfully, the trial court rejected the City’s attempt to avoid its responsibility. The matter is currently before the California Court of Appeal. Ms. Aghaeepour is currently represented by the Los Angeles and Sacramento Appeal Lawyers at Kassouni Law.

The Los Angeles and Sacramento appeals lawyers at Kassouni Law are dedicated to preserving freedoms endowed by the United States Constitution. If you are experiencing a similar legal matter, please call the appeals lawyers at Kassouni Law at 877-770-7379.  They will be happy to assess the merits of your case. 

 

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