RS Eminent Domain
Date: 03-18-2008 4:51 PM - Word Count: 682

RS Eminent Domain
   Eds: Riverside County PIO Ray Smith is at (951) 955-1130; eminent domain
attorney Kevin Brogan of the law firm Hill, Farrer & Burrill can be reached
through publicist Anne Sage, (310) 396-2400.
   By PAUL YOUNG
   City News Service
   RIVERSIDE (CNS) - Despite a family's pleas, the Riverside County Board
of Supervisors voted today to proceed with a lawsuit designed to seize their
property through eminent domain, in the interest of building a new law library.
   ``Our parents stressed how important it was to keep the property in the
years to come as a source of economic income,'' said Grace Fershao, whose voice
quivered with emotion as she addressed the board. ``It is not a question of the
value of the property ... That is for the courts. I am appealing to you to
reconsider the motion to condemn our property.''
   Fershao appeared before the board with her husband, Victor, and brother,
Dr. Ernest Zinke, all of whom said they did not want to part with the
family's parcels on the west side of Main Street, between 10th and 11th streets
-- directly across from the downtown Historic Courthouse.
   ``I was with my mother when she acquired the properties'' more than 40
years ago,'' Zinke said. ``She considered it the jewel in the crown and had an
ardent belief in keeping the properties in the family.''
   The family contended that the county had shown little interest in
negotiating for a long-term lease agreement for the parcels, which Victor
Fershao said occupy an estimated 25,000 square feet.
   He said that the county failed to look at other potential locations for
the new law library to replace the one at 3989 Lemon St.
   ``Direct your staff to advertise for property in the downtown area, and
I bet you'd be surprised by the number of owners willing to take you up (on
your offer),'' Fershao said.
   The county currently leases what Fershao described as ``every square
inch'' of the family's property, primarily for storage. The site was formerly
the location of several now-defunct businesses.
   In June, after initial negotiations to purchase the property failed, the
county filed a lawsuit seeking to have the family's property condemned in the
public interest, according to their  attorney, Kevin Brogan of the Los Angeles
law firm Hill, Farrer & Burrill.
   Brogan said a condemnation lawsuit often has nothing to do with the
disposition of a property, but is one tool a government agency can use under
the state's eminent domain law to seize private property.
   The county committed several procedural oversights, according to Brogan,
that resulted in further eminent domain proceedings being delayed until last
month, when a judge ordered the county to amend its current condemnation
lawsuit with a ``Resolution of Necessity.''
   The resolution, on which the board voted today, stipulates that ``public
interest and necessity require the ... Law Library Project,'' which is
``planned or located in the manner that will be most compatible with the
greatest public good and the least private injury.''
   Department of Facilities Management Director Rob Field said the space on
which the county wants to build the new law library would also accommodate
more office space for judicial affairs.
   Supervisor Jeff Stone inquired about a long-term lease agreement for the
property instead of outright seizure, but County Counsel Joel Rank dismissed
the idea.
   ``Our intent is to be the owner,'' he said. ``It's always to the
county's advantage to own a property where facilities will be constructed.''
   The board voted 4-1 in favor of the resolution.
   Supervisor Bob Buster cast the dissenting vote, telling his colleagues
that the county had ignored previous opportunities to purchase downtown-area
properties that were on the market.
   ``There should have been a genuine search for alternatives, and there
wasn't,'' he said.
   Brogan said the family intends to challenge the board's action in court.
   He said the county's preliminary offer of $2.35 million was
unacceptable, even if the family was willing to sell.
   ``It's a great piece of property,'' he said.
   The next court hearing will likely fall sometime this summer, the
attorney said.

CNS-03-18-2008 16:51