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Acquiring right of way for eminent domain infrastructure projects is a complex and time-consuming procedure, and should be considered as early as possible in the project design and environmental review process. In order to meet project deadlines, it is critical to understand the timing and available options for right of way acquisition – and the associated costs and risks.

Our eminent domain and right of way attorneys have decades of experience counseling public agency clients with right of way planning, including overseeing projects’ preliminary acquisition activities. Such oversight and coordination ensure the necessary steps are taken to meet each project's construction schedule, thereby minimizing construction delays and the potential loss of project funding.

When agencies involve us early on in their projects, they routinely experience a high percentage of voluntary acquisitions at a significant cost savings. In those instances, in which agreements with property owners cannot be reached, agencies typically see fewer challenges to their right to take or their attempts to secure prejudgment possession.

Our right of way attorneys prepare a plan of action that involves working back from the acquiring agency's scheduled construction commencement or project operation date. We ensure that sufficient time and attention is allocated to:

  • Forming right of way strategies – including analysis of potential alternatives to condemnation, and oversight of project design – to minimize, where possible, right to take challenges and exposure to claims for severance damages and loss of business goodwill;
  • Preparing and reviewing appraisals, in addition to informing appraisers about legal issues impacting valuation;
  • Negotiating with owners of impacted properties and businesses – including oversight and analysis of negotiations, with recommendations on settlements; and
  • Securing possession of necessary property through the court system – including a strategy on where and how to file actions to address potential court delays.

We provide a significant benefit by working with the project's engineers to ensure compliance with the project's schedule and acquisition of all necessary interests – such as temporary access rights or easements for utility relocations. Working with the engineers also allows for identification of potential design alternatives, such as slight alignment shifts, a reduction or elimination of temporary construction easements, or the inclusion of appropriate access, all of which minimize acquisition costs and reduce damages claims. In addition, we ensure the project plans and bid documents contain necessary construction work rules. This step leads to more realistic construction bids, fewer opportunities for construction change orders, fewer claims from owners of impacted properties and businesses, and a higher likelihood of meeting the project's construction schedule.

Effective precondemnation efforts often eliminate the need for a condemnation action. Specifically, a well-planned appraisal and offer process, coupled with timely relocation counseling, go a long way toward obtaining voluntary acquisitions that avoid condemnation cases. In short, we strive to take steps to acquire right of way without the need for an eminent domain lawsuit. We regularly succeed in creating opportunities for voluntary acquisitions that may have seemed impossible before the implementation of our strategies.

When our right of way attorneys do litigate, we regularly achieve a noteworthy level of success both in California's trial courts and in Courts of Appeal.



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