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Understanding the SANDAG Eminent Domain Case


Eminent domain is the power of the government to convert private property for the sake of public use. Due to the Fifth Amendment, a government agency can only exercise this power if appropriate, or “just,” compensation is provided to the original property owner.

Recently, the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) has been aggressively pursuing a downtown city block to replace its existing headquarters. Currently, SANDAG is operating out of a rented building that is costing the government money each month. The new tower SANDAG wants to build may cost over $112 million, but it will also save the government over $26 million in rent over the next 40 years. Also, they may be able to rent out spaces in the tower to increase their revenue stream.

SANDAG’s plans hit a wall last November when the board voted down the proposal. A lot owner didn’t want to sell his property, and some board members were hesitant to utilize eminent domain. The reason why this is controversial is because the use of eminent domain is meant to provide for public good, not just a new government headquarters. As a result, in July 2018, SANDAG revised their proposal to provide underground bus parking beneath their tower to benefit the greater community.

However, multiple entities, including the San Diego County Bar Association, own the lot, which is situated between Union and State. The bar association purchased the land in the 70s to build its permeant headquarters there and has no intention of selling it now. SANDAG proposed to purchase the entire lot for $35.7 million, $12 million of which will go to the bar association. The bar association still isn’t keen on the deal, so SANDAG will keep holding hearings to discuss alternative options to eminent domain.

Retain Legal Representation

Contact Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP if you’re involved in an eminent domain matter. Property owners have a right to just compensation when their properties are taken by eminent domain. With over 30 years of experience, our San Diego eminent domain attorneys can help you establish the value of your property and negotiate on your behalf.

Call Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP at (888) 998-2031 to schedule a consultation.