Twelve more pieces of property adding up to about 53 acres in the path of high-speed rail are potential targets for condemnation in the central San Joaquin Valley.
The State Public Works Board, meeting earlier this week in Sacramento, approved resolutions authorizing the use of eminent domain to acquire the properties in Fresno, Madera, Kings and Tulare counties. The sites range in size from less than a quarter-acre to almost 10 acres.
270Number of eminent domain resolutions adopted by State Public Works Board for high-speed rail uses since December 2013
794Number of acres encompassed by those eminent domain resolutions
The board, made up of the heads of the state’s General Services, Transportation and Finance departments, also approved rescinding one resolution that it adopted in March for the acquisition of one Kings County property in the Ponderosa neighborhood just east of Hanford.
Eminent domain is a legal process in which a government agency files suit in Superior Court to acquire property for a public project, typically a last resort when the agency and property owner cannot agree on price or terms. A judge determines whether the agency is entitled to the property; in a second phase of the case, a jury decides the fair market value and other “just compensation” due the owner.
The Public Works Board oversees the acquisition of land for state projects. Since December 2013, when the first eminent domain resolutions for high-speed rail came to the Public Works Board, a total of 270 resolutions have been adopted amounting to nearly 800 acres – either entire parcels or portions thereof – in the four-county region.
Also on Monday, the board approved site selection of 68 parcels along the rail path through the Valley – a first step before the California High-Speed Rail Authority can formally begin negotiations with property owners to acquire their land. Among those parcels was the home of Sheryl and Robert Haflich, whose home at the northeast edge of Madera has been stranded in limbo for more than a year. The Haflich property sits in the eventual path of the high-speed tracks. But because it is about a mile north of the boundary of the rail agency’s Construction Package 1 (a 29-mile stretch between Madera and Fresno), the rail authority was restricted from using any of the federal grant money it received for building the train line to buy the property.
The Haflichs are eager to relocate but couldn’t find a buyer because of the rail project. Compounding their problems: the well serving the property went dry 15 months ago.
Now the state plans to use cap-and-trade money, paid into California’s greenhouse gas-reduction program, to buy the property. Sheryl Haflich said Wednesday that she is awaiting the state’s initial offer and expects to meet Thursday afternoon with high-speed rail representatives.