City of Lake Forest bungles just compensation in their use of eminent domain


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Today’s OC Register article by Erika Ritchie contains a follow up report on the city of Lake Forest using its eminent domain powers to “take” property from a south Orange County family. As the intended use does meet the Fifth Amendment criteria of a “public use” I have not added my two cents into this story until now.

Without repeating Erika’s text let me simply say that Lake Forest wants to build a sports park and needs this parcel of land as part of a land swap with the County.

Where I have a problem with this pending litigation is in the $840,000 “just compensation” offer to the Hernandez family. According to the prior and current Register accounts the Hernandez family had plans to build a world class resort and spa.  We all are aware of the recession which has delayed plans for construction all over Orange County including the adjacent “Great Park.”
Quoting from the Register Mr. Hernandez claims that commercial property is selling for $25 to $45 per square foot. Ms. Ritchie quotes his saying that “They’re offering me $3 per square foot.” No matter how you look at this parcel that’s a low ball figure.

 Three years ago Riverside Calvary Deaf Church owned about two acres of land near a Caltrans proposed freeway ramp. Caltrans initial offer for that property was $450,000, less money than their own assessed valuation. After the church retained an attorney the Caltrans “just compensation” offer escalated from $450,000 to $4.35 million dollars just one week prior to a jury determination of the land’s value.

If the Hernandez family needs to retain an attorney we surely can provide several excellent legal advisors to help them get “just compensation” in this transaction.

Larry Gilbert, Orange County Co-Director CURE and member of the Institute for Justice’s Castle Coalition


About Larry Gilbert