High-Speed Rail

Calif. OKs first steps to condemn more Fresno properties for rail route

The California Public Works Board voted 3-0 Friday to adopt resolutions declaring a public need to condemn five Fresno properties to make way for the state's controversial high-speed train project.

The panel, comprised of the heads of the state's Finance, Transportation and General Services departments, unanimously approved the resolutions of necessity -- the first step toward filing eminent domain cases in court asking a judge to let the state take the properties.

Three of the properties are in downtown Fresno: the old Jensen & Pilegard feed and equipment store on G Street between Fresno and Tulare streets; the now-vacant former Sun Maid Furniture Co. building next to Jensen & Pilegard at G and Fresno streets; and a small vacant lot at the corner of Ventura and F streets. The other two properties are in the Highway City area of northwest Fresno: a home at 5265 N. State St., and two parcels at 5425 N. Golden State Blvd.

The Jensen & Pilegard and Sun Maid properties are needed by the California High-Speed Rail Authority for the railroad right of way as well as for a planned passenger station. The F Street lot is to make way for a widened Ventura Street and new underpass to carry traffic under the high-speed tracks through downtown.

The properties on State Street and Golden State Boulevard are slated to make way for realigning Golden State Boulevard north of Shaw Avenue.

Friday's vote brings to 28 the number of properties for which the Public Works Board has approved eminent domain resolutions in Fresno and Madera.

The board also rescinded one of its earlier resolutions for the prospective condemnation of another parcel, the Baz Brothers or Bazerkanian property at 840 G St. between Kern and Inyo streets. The Public Works Board had approved the condemnation of the full parcel in March, but later negotiations suggested that only part of the property may be needed for the high-speed rail right of way.

Court petitions

Friday's actions come days after the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and the First Free Will Baptist Church in Bakersfield filed petitions with the California Supreme Court seeking to overturn a recent appellate court opinion in favor of the high-speed rail authority.

The Sept. 5 Jarvis petition and the First Free Will petition, filed on Monday, both challenge the 3rd District Court of Appeal's July 31 ruling that, unless the Supreme Court reverses it, would clear the way for the sale of bonds from Proposition 1A. That was the $9.9 billion bond measure approved by California voters in 2008.

Those two petitions are in addition to a Supreme Court review sought by Kings County farmer John Tos, Hanford homeowner Aaron Fukuda and the Kings County Board of Supervisors. In their petition, filed Sept. 2, attorneys for Tos, Fukuda and Kings County focus on whether the rail authority's 2011 financing plan complied with provisions of Prop. 1A.

A Sacramento County Superior Court judge ruled last year that the preliminary funding plan fell short of Prop. 1A's requirements that it identify all of the sources of money for the agency's proposed initial operating segment from Merced to the San Fernando Valley. The judge also ruled that the law required the financing plan to include environmental certification for all portions of that operating segment before construction could begin anywhere along the line.

The appeals court overturned both of those rulings.