Thursday, October 8, 2009

Judge Kenny: Planning Work Can Continue

NOTE: We've moved! Visit us at the California High Speed Rail Blog.

Judge Michael Kenny has issued his tentative ruling in the issue of whether work could continue on the Bay Area to the Central Valley segment of the high speed rail line - and it is a victory for CHSRA:

Petitioners have requested that the writ of mandate to be issued in this case include a stay of all of respondent’s activities dependent on or premised upon the approvals being ordered rescinded. Respondent opposes the request. The Court set a briefing and hearing schedule on this issue.

The Court has considered the parties’ arguments and the evidence they have submitted on this issue. The Court concludes that under the circumstances of this case, staying project-level activities is not appropriate pursuant to Public Resources Code section 21168.9(a)(2) and pertinent case law.

The actions for which a stay is being requested are studies with no potential for adverse change or alteration to the physical environment. Additionally, the Court concludes that such studies do not create such momentum that respondent Authority would be unable to comply with its CEQA obligations as previously determined by this Court.

Accordingly, petitioners’ request that the writ to be issued include a stay is denied.

CHSRA offered this statement in response:

“We’re happy to see that the tentative ruling supports our position that granting a stay on the project is unnecessary since the project is in the planning stage and could cost the state funding and jobs,” said Jeff Barker, the Authority’s Deputy Director.

"We don't believe that anyone is interested in jeopardizing billions of dollars in economic stimulus for California, delaying the creation of tens of thousands of jobs, and forcing taxpayers to shoulder higher costs to build the system," said Barker.

Totally agreed. There was no reason to delay planning work while the CHSRA goes back to address the two items that Judge Kenny said were inadequately examined in the program EIR.

Once again the HSR deniers behind this lawsuit have lost. They basically got lucky on the UPRR ROW issue, which was never a core element of their lawsuit, and their other efforts to stop HSR in its tracks have been consistently shot down by this judge. I have every reason to believe that will continue.


Peter said...

There is especially no reason to force a stop given that CHSRA has in fact been actively working to solve the problems with respect to UPRR.

None of the other findings against CHSRA held any water.

Now, will the plaintiffs appeal? I'm not quite sure what they would gain from doing so. I think it unlikely that a higher court would order a stay, especially if CHSRA would have, in the meantime, circulated a new Draft EIR or a Supplemental.

Martin said...

Not that this result was really in doubt but Great News!

Anonymous said...

What the plaintiffs must really do is ask themselves if they want to keep fighting against the will of the people.
Many on the peninsula are finally coming to the realization that it's more conducive to find solutions rather than keep on fighting.
Good news indeed!

Rafael said...

The judge's ruling is narrow, saying effectively that project-level planning may continue because no dirt has been turned yet. He has ruled that the corrections required at the program level to comply with CEQA can be executed in parallel with ongoing project-level work.

This isn't the ruling on the remedial actions CHSRA will have to take to bring its EIS/EIR process back into compliance. It just refers to the request to halt project-level planning.


Note that CHSRA is executing project-level planning for the Altamont Corridor because AB3034 arguably requires it to at this stage. It's currently being positioned as regional overlay that will eventually become a separate - and separately funded - project to replace ACE with a service based on brand-new tracks dedicated to passenger rail. The scope does not include Oakland nor a new bridge across Dumbarton.

However, in the (unlikely) event that CHSRA cannot secure a ROW down to Gilroy, the project-level work done on the Altamont Corridor at that time could be recycled into a change of plans for the HSR starter line as such.

Perhaps this is why Judge Kenny felt the correction iteration for the program-level EIS/EIR wouldn't cause serious detriment to the timeline of project as a whole anyhow, regardless of what its verdict on the preferred route may be.

This is just my personal reading of the tea leaves, though. The text of the ruling makes no mention of this particular context.

Rafael said...

O/T heads-up:

USDOT Secr. Ray La Hood is signaling Florida lawmakers that they must support (i.e. fund) the SunRail commuter corridor if they want to have a chance of funding for the HSR segment from Tampa to Orlando Airport in the context of ARRA funding.

Moreover, LaHood indicated might even claw back $500 million on an earlier commuter rail project called TriRail unless the state of Florida or other non-federal entities steps up to the plate with matching funds.

ARRA formally allows for a federal share of up to 100% on capital investment projects. However, given the "re-investment" objective of the stimulus bill and the fact that there are $57 billion in requests chasing $8 billion on the table, LaHood is clearly trying to leverage the ARRA bill into broader commitment to HSR feeder services as well.

I wonder if he'll also ask California to commit to investments in connecting transit over-and-above the $9.95 billion voters have already approved for HSR + feeders.

Anonymous said...

Rafael at 407,
Like BART to SJ? The East Bay "feeder" for HSR service at SJ/Diridon?

Unknown said...

@anon: or the Wilshire subway in LA, or the "regional connector" project that will bring the blue and expo lines directly to LAUS.

There's over $9b+ in "connector systems" already funded and underway. CA is in good shape for getting people to the stations.

YESonHSR said...

Good..common sense and not overblown nimby and bitter "pro-rail" and "greens" that want to stop this project because it did not follow "their" ideas..

Anonymous said...

So the judge ruled that they can continue the study, but that doesn't change the status of the Program EIR which is that its been de-certified by this judge. And this ruling is also not a statement about the remediation (recertification steps) that will be required.

So, I think allowing the CHSRA to continue to study is actually very good news because it allows CHSRA to continue to amass a significant body of data, facts, and detail for the the next version of Program EIR. Think of how much more info they know now having spent these millions on engineering work since July 2008.

So the next version of Program Eir will no longer be able to hide behind the 'we haven't studied that yet, not enough information yet, that information comes out in the project study phase' excuses.

The entire Program EIR before being certified will need to brought up to current known factual state. You can't put knowlege, once gained, back into thin air, and you can't certify an EIR you know to contain bad, out of date, incomplete information - once that information is now in a known state. Once its 'out', it will have to be disclosed.

Proponents are pretty hell bent on thinking the reopening of the EIR will only apply to a narrow strip between SJ and Gilroy - which is an impossible dream on their part. The Program EIR is now wide open, no matter WHAT the reason was for putting back in to an open state.

Anonymous said...

I think it will be quite interesting for HSR watchers pro and con to see just how much ground CHSRA gained in one years time in terms of study, engineering and planning.

The comparison between July2008Program EIR and the new one should be quite striking in terms of the level of detail and analysis brought to the table for a new certification and a new 'preferred route' decision.

(Can't exactly prefer a route without a completed certified Program EIR, now can we?)

Lets see what good use the CHSRA is putting our millions in tax payer dollars to. I for one, CAN'T WAIT!

Anonymous said...

The PAN city council candidate's forum in Palo Alto was revealing. With one exception (Corey Leven), the candidates cravenly tried to outdo each other in denouncing HSR, pandering to their mostly NIMBY audience.

Clem said...

This ruling is a yawner. The judge had previously shot down nearly all the petitioner's Pacheco / Altamont arguments, but the petitioner crafted their writ of mandate as if they had prevailed on all counts.

The Program EIR is now wide open

Speaking of impossible dreams... is that so because you say so, or did you plan to offer some sort of rationale?

Brandon in California said...

good stuff

But, possible litigants do not have much to lose by filing suits... if the judge declares that their attorney fees must be paid.

I understand the purpose of this; however, it irks me that filing suits can/is being used as a tactic to slow a project down. We can only hope that a judge will toss frivolous suits... or, bind possible litigants from filing so many a year or wait a period of time before filing again.

I don't know if that is possible... however, I am certain someone with the expertise will chime in.

Peter said...

@ Anon 5:51

Just because the EIR has been decertified doesn't mean anything substantively different has to be released in a new EIR. The noise and vibration impacts will be more detailed, and HSR will present the more detailed plans of the preferred alignment between Monterey Highway and the UPRR ROW. Probably including the plans of rebuilding Monterey Highway. They will also likely state that there is the potential for some eminent domain takings.

They don't really have to revise anything else.

YesonHSR said...

Yes Brandon..WE the taxpayer of the rest of the state get to pay for these fees..and these towns are on the hook for nothing..why because its a state agency..nice

Anonymous said...

Peter... nothing substative? Include whatever the added costs are of all those things, and whatever else in way of detail, fact, data, regulations, physical barriers, rights, claims, conflicts, etc, new ridership, new business plans, regulations, updated automobile fuelefficiency standards, new airline passenger travel trends, updated economic baseline and trend assumptions.. etc etc etc.. basically anything and everything they've learned since July 2008.

Clem, its wide open because once they bring the EIR up to date, including the new costs with all the new route assumptions with all the associated ED factored in - they'll have completely new comparisons to make.

Anonymous said...

Anon 837,
Huhh?! Simply put, you're just spitting nonsense out of your rear!
Really, really reaching to find some sort of "good news" for HSR naysayers and those in denial.

Anonymous said...

It is wide open.

HSR tried to get judge to say that they just had to fix the specific problems and the judget would not agree to that.

HSR will try to just add a few minor details but they will have to circulate and get comments. It will also have to go back before board - the composition of which has changed dramatically.

If they can be convinced that Pacheco will cost $10 bn more, they may actually consider Altamont.

Clem said...

all the associated ED

I'm sorry, but this is totally unsubstantiated.

ED won't show up as even a small blip on the bottom line of this project... partly because there won't be much. I've never heard anyone knowledgeable describe it as a significant obstacle. One expert I've spoken to (who did some ED for BART) dismissed it as a minor procedural matter. Even the ED lawyer at the recent Palo Alto event poured cold water on any hopes that ED lawsuits could be used to force HSR to stop or get too expensive. I have yet to see any credible evidence--despite trying to be open-minded--that legally or financially ED will provide any sort of leverage for opponents of HSR.

Far be it from me to dissuade you from spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt, of course. It's a free country.

Anonymous said...

Won't the courts realize fairly quickly that these people are filing frivolous lawsuits and throw them all out.

Board Watcher said...

What some of you who insist on calling these lawsuits 'frivolous' fail to understand is that this is how CEQA is designed. There is no other recourse. When an agency is required to conduct an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), the report is signed off by the agency itself! There is no CEQA officer who oversees the accuracy of the report and gives a final stamp of approval. The final stamp is executed by the agency. If you find errors or disagree with any part of the report you can (and should) call it to their attention. However, they can easily dismiss your comments. There is no higher authority to go to with your grievances if you feel they’re legitimate and unjustly ignored.

Unfortunately, CEQA is designed in a most inconvenient way such that your difference of opinion can only be raised via a lawsuit. This is costly, time consuming, requires the help of experts, and therefore is not designed for the casual observer. To call such lawsuits 'frivolous' is insulting to those who are forced to take such drastic action.

I had my own issues with the accuracy of the Program Level EIR, but I don't have the resources to file a lawsuit and so my grievances will go unheard. Such is the design of CEQA.

If it's not obvious from my comments, let me make it clear that I'm not associated with the lawsuits in any way. Still, I take issue with people who label those who follow the CEQA process ‘frivolous’ or NIMBY.

I don’t live in those cities, but I did take the time to understand their situation and why they filed the suit. I suggest you do the same before you label their action as NIMBY. There’s nothing more offensive than an I-NIMBY. (I don’t give a fuck - it’s Not In My Back Yard.)

Rafael said...

@ Board Watcher -

California writes laws that allow trial lawyers to maximize billable hours. What else is new?

As for "frivolous" lawsuits, this wasn't one of them. The judge did not throw it out right away and indeed, he sided with plaintiffs on four issues.

That doesn't mean there won't be any future lawsuits that really are frivolous.

Fwiw, I don't have a problem with communities seeking to make HSR work for them. I do have one with people who enthusiastically support infrastructure development, provided it happens somewhere - anywhere - else.

Rafael said...

@ Board Watcher -

I haven't seen you comment before, so perhaps you're not aware of this: no F-bombs please.

Board Watcher said...

Rafael, it's good to see that the offensiveness of that remark wasn't lost on you. It wasn't intended to be a superfluous obscenity. In the future I’ll take more care to m@$k it.

NONIMBYS said...

And if they are not Nimbys what are they? "concerned" citizens?? This nation and state has been "concerned" into a gridlocked "talked" about overregulated overpriced construction era because of NIMBYS! this is not 1955..A 1000 foot wide path for a freeway is not being ripped thru for God a n upgrade of a 140 year old railroad ..but NO all this drama!

Anonymous said...

Clem, you're still thinking ED in terms of the current EIR. The new Eir will be showing how to put HSR OUTSIDE the UPRR row, and probably taking or redesigning Monterey Highway, and so much more. Plus, the next EIR will have to show a much more detailed land use, and eminent domain impact for the whole thing.

I'm not talking about ED lawsuits after the fact, I'm talking about using truth in plan, including the required ED, to come up with a realistic cost of the system - which will easily blow them out of the water on the Peninsula. It wont have to get to lawsuits, although when they try to again lowball the land value impacts, their next EIR will get challenged. This is not ED lawsuits - that's many steps down the road.

Peter said...

I'm not sure that rebuilding Monterey comes under the heading of eminent domain.

BruceMcF said...

Anonymous said...
"It wont have to get to lawsuits, although when they try to again lowball the land value impacts, their next EIR will get challenged."

Weren't most of the land value impact challenges lost? There wouldn't seem to be any need to revise those that stood up to the first challenge - a second challenge of the revised EIR that included the same claims that were lost in the first challenge would indeed be verging on the frivolous lawsuit territory.

The first lawsuit was more misguided than frivolous, fighting against the improvement in absolute property values from being in suburban areas with convenient access to oil-independent transport, because of inflated fears of loss in property values adjacent to the line compared to houses a half block or more away.

Peter said...

I agree with BruceMcF that the lawsuit was misguided. The plaintiffs appear to have been laboring under the false impression that they could stop the project from going forward.

This is not something like a hospital being built, or some light rail line being constructed.

This is a MEGA-PROJECT, of state-wide and national significance, and a national priority project.

There's no way in hell that those three relatively insignificant findings in the ruling against CHSRA were going to stop the project.

Anonymous said...

Boardwatcher - I think frivolous refers to those lawsuits they may continue to be filed in a "throw everything but the kitchen sink fashion".

debate route choices and other things that have already been decided and aren't going to change. The only legitimate concerns at this part are how to mitigate effects.

Anonymous said...

and it is very transparent that the real goal is to stop the project to keep it out of their backyards and that is frivolous. They are being disingenuous and its obvious to everyone.

Peter said...

@ Jim

Frivolous lawsuits are those that are filed without any valid cause of action, and which are solely filed for the purpose of delay or to embarrass the defendant.

As we can see, Atherton's was not a "frivolous lawsuit." It actually had some merit, and they even won on a few of their claims.

Now, I'm waiting for the other lawsuit filed by the guy in Menlo Park, trying to assert Union Pacific's rights for his own purpose. I expect that one will be dismissed right off the bat.

Peter said...

And that one will likely be dismissed for lack of standing.

Clem said...

including the required ED, to come up with a realistic cost

My point is that the cost of ED is very very small compared to the overall budget of this project.

Take the peninsula.

Even if the entire peninsula right of way had to be widened to 100 feet (which is very unlikely) only 30 acres of additional land would be needed. Double that to 60 to account for cases where partial takes are impractical. At 4 - 8 million per acre (Atherton / Palo Alto prices, the very highest in the region) that's still less than a half billion dollars for a project with a budget at least ten times that.

Those are some very conservative assumptions; in practice I would estimate ED will amount to less than 5% of the project budget.

South of San Jose, even entirely new rights of way would require only a few hundred acres, and at prices vastly lower than Palo Alto. We're still talking "only" a few hundred million dollars there.

Your claim that ED would amount to a significant slice of the HSR budget remains unsubstantiated.

@Board Watcher, your point is very important. Lawsuits are the only way to "enforce" CEQA. There will be many more, and they serve to make the final EIR stronger.

Anonymous said...

Clem, the actual cost of ED may be comparatively low, but the political cost of exercising ED could be very high indeed.

Peter said...

I doubt the political cost of ED would be very high. This is not a situation analagous to the ED takings in the Supreme Court case a few years ago, where the city exercised ED against an entire neighborhood of lakefront houses in order to build a research facility that the city was going to sell to a private corporation.

Here, we are talking about a vastly larger project in terms of scope with benefits that greatly outweigh the burdens of exercising small amounts of ED against slivers of properties. The fact that those houses were built next to an existing railroad will, in this context, definitely be a factor NOT in favor of people who are crying wolf.

Anonymous said...

Peter, are you referring to the infamous Kelo decision??? The SC decision prompted a fiery political backlash and a widespread political movement to pass legislation reinforcing property rights.

As for the city's economic development plans, they haven't worked out in the slightest. Too bad for the homeowners to have their homes taken and then the land is undeveloped.

Peter said...

Yes, that is exactly the decision I was referring to.

I know there was a huge political backlash to THAT scenario.

However, I just don't see how it applies to the situation at hand. HSR will not be condemning entire city blocks, the few slivers of property won't be condemned in order to be handed over to a private entity, and given the importance of the project, there is very little that legislators will be willing to do to stop it in order to avoid eminent domain.

Rafael said...

@ Peter, anon @ 11:29am -

Kelo was a completely different situation in which a mayor exercised eminent domain against homeowners on behalf of a private developer. The bitter irony is that the land that was taken has in fact not been developed at all to date.

California is a transportation infrastructure project that voters have explicitly endorsed and have authorized the state to take on debt for. It's precisely the sort of thing that the legal instrument of eminent domain was created for, though it still needs to be exercised with great restraint.

Clem's right, though: while ED is a huge deal for homeowners and businesses whose land is taken, it's a relatively small line item in the overall budget. In practice, that means CHSRA can afford to make generous offers before resorting to ED. Not all public land acquisition is adversarial.

Bianca said...

Rafael makes an excellent point: Eminent domain is a last resort.

If CHSRA knocks on your door and tells you that they'd like to acquire a strip of your back yard, or even your entire property, that's not eminent domain. And outright purchases of land, at fair value, aren't politically difficult at all. From a simple logistics perspective it's probably cheaper to offer 10 or 20 per cent over market value just to get a deal done quickly than to spend months dickering over it.

Eminent domain only comes into play if a property owner really digs in their heels and refuses to sell.

Anonymous said...

@peter, I'm referring more to any subsequent lawsuits than to that one in particular. In other words, if they keep at it for no other reason than trying to block the project in any way they can. I also am not using "frivolous lawsuit" in the legal sense. I'm talking about what we all know is really going on.

legalities aside we al know they are just fos. and any of us who have lived in cali for 40 plus years know its the usual drill. Sorry but I'm not willing to overlook the truth of what's going on.

in an unrelated but good news story -- there are two very good nominees to the amtrak board on the table, one has been I think a partner in the new york region's oldest law firm and the other one vice president of the words largest real estate firm.

This bodes well for amtraks future ability to combine high powered leadership with transit and development. A good combination if you ask me.

Combined with amtraks serious goal of being the nations number one provider of hsr services and you can se we are no longer your father's oldsmobile.

move over bacon, its sizzlean.

Next we will take over the world.

Anonymous said...

I agree that generous cash offers are the best way to acquire private land, and it doesn't cost that much in the overall budget. CHSRA has to be flexible, however, because if they do resort to eminent domain, they do face political costs and a potentially long legal battle which adds very real financial costs to the project. CHSRA has to be prudent, but Kopp and Diridon are neither prudent nor wise.

Peter said...

@ Jim

Well, the nice thing is that, as we saw come out of the Atherton suit, at least the judge in that case was unwilling to delay the project, despite the fact that the plaintiffs prevailed on a few points.

I don't see other judges delaying the project, either.

Anonymous said...

The judges know what's going on and most good judges are probably sick of it overall.

Anonymous said...

I mean overall in the greater california experience not just as it relates to hsr.

Bianca said...

Anonymous at 12:15 said:

CHSRA has to be prudent, but Kopp and Diridon are neither prudent nor wise.

I'm not here to defend Kopp and Diridon, but I am so tired of anonymous posters bringing them up like bogeymen. Do you really think that Ron Diridon or Quentin Kopp are going to get involved in the minutiae of negotiations to acquire a single parcel of land every time that happens along the hundreds of miles of route between San Francisco and Los Angeles? That is awfully far down in the weeds for them.

And I hate to break it to you, but:
if they do resort to eminent domain, they do face political costs and a potentially long legal battle which adds very real financial costs to the project.

Eminent domain proceedings are usually very straightforward. The facts in this scenario look nothing like Kelo. This is a public project, for public purposes, and by the time a property acquisition reaches the eminent domain stage it's too late to do much about it.

And while there may be some localized sympathy for homeowners who refuse to negotiate and lose their property through eminent domain, keep in mind that even if the government takes your land they have to compensate you fairly for it. It's not as if the property owners are left with a mortgage but no house.

HSR is a statewide project, and it is going to benefit a very large portion of the state's population. It's not clear to me how a scenario where a landowner refuses to negotiate with CHSRA and winds up having their land taken, and paid for, through eminent domain leads to huge political costs.

A whole street of entire houses was taken out in Berkeley to underground BART. I'm not noticing any huge political cost from that decision. That is a much larger parcel of land than anything needed along the Caltrain ROW.

john said...

@ Bianca

"A whole street of entire houses was taken out in Berkeley to underground BART."

An excellent point and something surly lost on those similar NIMBY's who seek to tunnel HSR in Palo Alto and tout the Berkeley subway as the epitome of NIMBY victory. Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.

Anonymous said...

Hey Bianca, you're just as anonymous as me unless you put your real name and address. How do we know your name is Bianca?

Peter said...

"A whole street of entire houses was taken out in Berkeley to underground BART."

This is something that has been pointed out in the past by the Authority. They have stated a number of times, I believe, that tunneling requires more eminent domain than at-grade does.

On Tuesday the only real discussion of ED was regarding possible subsidence for the tunnel alignments discussed.

Peter said...

@ Anon

Maybe her real name is Jack.

Using the "Anonymous" handle is frequently just a method for delivering cheap shots that no one takes seriously. Even "Toys" gets more respect than anons.

Andre Peretti said...

The SNCF boasts of never resorting to forced expropriation. I don't know about the US, but in France it is very impopular. It always leads to litigation. Judgments are then appealled, which may delay a project for years. Local politicians will side with the "victims" and so will the local media with reports on the nice homes that the technocrats intend to bulldoze.
That's why the SNCF prefers win-win deals. Owners win by being over-compensated, the SNCF wins by not having its projects delayed.
There is one case where this didn't work: the Aix-Nice TGV spur. There was such a campaign against the "traitors" ready to sell land that the SNCF couldn't buy a single acre. Rather than litigating, it has abandoned the project.

Bianca said...

Anonymous at 2:08, I don't care what your handle is, you can call yourself "Thomas Paine" or "Inigo Montoya" or "The Grand Poohbah of Jokey Handles"-- knock yourself out.

As Peter said, there are a lot of potshots taken by anonymous posters, and often multiple anonymous posters in a single thread, and while *you* may know which anonymous comments are yours and which are not, the rest of us don't. And some threads really start to look like Uncle Walter went off his meds.

So pick a handle, anything, to make the discussion just a bit more coherent for the rest of us.

Uncle Walter said...

Dangnabbit. Where did my blue pills go?!

Board Watcher said...

It's not as if the property owners are left with a mortgage but no house.

Take a closer look. For some unknown number of property owners, they’ll be left with no house, no mortgage AND no possibility of re-buying in the area. Without going into the merits of Prop 13, it has the effect of handcuffing long-term homeowners – especially fixed incomers - to their current properties. The range in yearly property taxes for equal value homes along the narrowest sections of the Caltrain ROW is at least $10K. In other words, a long-term homeowner who gets displaced will have to pay an additional $10K in taxes per year if they buy a new property of equal value. You can look this up using tools like Zillow.

You guys are trying hard to depersonalize the train-vs-resident issues. Why? Are you afraid of what you might find if you took the time to understand? Call them NIMBYs because of a few people’s behavior and now it’s easy to hate them all. Sorry, but that’s a lazy way to defend your HSR enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

"Sorry, but that’s a lazy way to defend your HSR enthusiasm."

What did you expect? This is a bunch of Californians who like to wallow in labels. Progressive. Repug. Things like that.

Simple minds require simplification.

Bianca said...

Board Watcher said: For some unknown number of property owners, they’ll be left with no house, no mortgage AND no possibility of re-buying in the area.

It's not my intention to be callous or cavalier. Are you aware of the Replacement Housing Program? "This program allows individuals who are at least 55 years old to sell their residence, buy a new one of equal or lesser value, and transfer the old residence's assessed value to the new home. The new home must be purchased within two years of selling the previous one and must be in the same county. The program is available to anyone 55 and older, regardless of income or wealth. "

The Caltrain ROW is wide enough for most of the length of it. According to the CHSRA, very little land needs to be acquired. Of the little land that needs to be acquired, it is perhaps possible that there is a homeowner who might be unable to avail him or herself of the benefit of the Replacement Housing Program, but now we are talking about a very small number of people indeed.

Furthermore, it seems to me that if someone has been a homeowner long enough that the difference in property taxes is a serious hit, that's a factor they ought to build into their negotiations when the CHSRA comes knocking.

Alon Levy said...

Board Watcher, the problem of property taxes in California is similar to rent in New York, where rent controls are only in place for people who have lived in the same apartment since the 1970s.

I'm not sure about California law, but in New York, whenever the government demolishes a building it needs to not only compensate the owner, but find comparable housing for the tenants. If the new housing is more expensive due to lapsed rent control, the government needs to pay the difference for three years.

Such a scheme could work for the Peninsula, with CHSRA paying the difference in property taxes for a few years. Using your numbers and assuming a five-year program, it works out to $50,000 per house, which is much less than the cost of eminent domain in the first place.

mike said...

In other words, a long-term homeowner who gets displaced will have to pay an additional $10K in taxes per year if they buy a new property of equal value.

Ummm, doesn't Prop 13 allow long-term homeowners to transfer their tax basis to a different property of equal or lesser market value in the same area?? That's what I've been told, by people who should know...

Anonymous said...

O where O where is all the "bad news" post/links from the nimbys and others about todays ruling??
quite arent they...heehhee

Clem said...

Without going into the merits of Prop 13, it has the effect of handcuffing long-term homeowners – especially fixed incomers - to their current properties.

Paging Joe Simitian: there ought to be a law... to allow residents displaced by eminent domain to keep the same property tax rate in their new residence.

Anonymous said...

"doesn't Prop 13 allow long-term homeowners to transfer their tax basis to a different property of equal or lesser market value in the same area?? That's what I've been told, by people who should know..."

No. You must be thinking of Prop 58 and 60, and not all CA counties allow it.

Besides, it's not just the tax, but the fact that houses probably cost 10x what they did when they bought their place.

Alon Levy said...

Anon: CHSRA would be paying current market value, which is based on how much similar properties are selling for now, not on how much the property cost thirty years ago.

mike said...

No. You must be thinking of Prop 58 and 60, and not all CA counties allow it.

Prop 60 is exactly what I was thinking of, and it applies in both San Mateo and Santa Clara counties, which are the only two relevant counties in this discussion!

Besides, it's not just the tax, but the fact that houses probably cost 10x what they did when they bought their place.

Um, which part of "market value" do you not understand? The state wouldn't pay them their Prop 13 assessed would pay them the market value (and probably somewhat more, to induce them to sell voluntarily rather than exercising ED). By definition, it would be enough to buy other similar homes in similar neighborhoods. Or they could just cash out and move somewhere cheaper, if they so pleased.

BruceMcF said...

Uncle Walter said...
"Dangnabbit. Where did my blue pills go?!"

C'mon, Walt, be a sport - take the red pill instead.