California eminent domain law requires that if property taken isn’t used for the intended public use “within 10 years” of the adoption of the resolution of necessity, then the condemnor must offer to sell the property back to the (former) owner. Unless, that is, the condemnor adopts a new resolution “reauthorizing the existing stated public use.” In Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles, No. B297655 (July 30, 2020), the California Court of Appeal put some meat on the bones of the statute.

We suspect that this situation doesn’t arise all that often. Thus, from the eminent domain perspective, this one seems more interesting than important. But we also think that muni law mavens may find this important, because the court’s analysis focuses on local law:

This appeal presents four cascading questions:

First, does a public entity desiring to retain condemned property under section 1245.245 have to “adopt” its initial and reauthorization resolutions within 10 years of each other? We hold the answer is “yes.”

Second, and if there is such a 10-year deadline, which definition of “adoption” does section 1245.245 use—the date when the resolutions are initially adopted, are finally adopted, or become effective? We hold that section 1245.245 uses the date of “final adoption.”

Third, which law governs the inquiry into whether a resolution has been finally adopted—the local law governing the public entity at issue, or a standardized definition imposed by section 1245.245? We hold that local law fixes when a resolution is “finally adopted.”

Lastly, when are resolutions finally adopted under the local law applicable here—namely, the city’s charter? We hold that a resolution is “finally adopted” once the city council has enacted the resolution and it has either been (1) approved by the mayor, or (2) vetoed by the mayor, but overridden by the city council.

Slip op. at 2-3.

Bottom line:

Because the city in this case finally adopted its initial and reauthorization resolutions 19 days past the 10-year deadline, section 1245.245 requires the city to offer to sell the property back to its original owner. The trial court’s writ so ordering is accordingly affirmed.

Slip op. at 3.

Is there anything in the statute — or elsewhere — that ties the hands of the condemnor if it does not make the 10-year new resolution window? In other words, let’s say the condemnor misses the window, offers it back to the former owner, who then buys it back. Is there anything preventing the condemnor from simply rebooting and taking the property again from the new/old owner?

We’re asking because we don’t know (and it’s Friday and a brief is due, so we don’t have the time to find out for ourselves today).

Rutgard v. City of Los Angeles, No. B297655 (Cal. Ct. App. July 30, 2020)