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State May Move to Condemn Ranch Site for New Campus

June 30, 1988|JESSE KATZ | Times Staff Writer

If owners of Taylor Ranch refuse to reconsider selling a portion of their land for a university campus, state officials will probably move to condemn the property within 60 days, a top local official said this week.

The official, who asked not to be identified for fear of souring reconciliation efforts, said city, county and state officials had agreed that it might be in the public interest to seize the land.

Jack Smart, California State University's deputy provost, said condemnation is always a possibility but declined to elaborate.

"It can be a lengthy and costly process," he said. "But it's an option that's always present."

Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, public agencies can acquire property through eminent domain if the proposed project is in the public interest, if the land is necessary for the project and if the project serves the greatest public good while causing the least private injury.

If a public agency makes that determination, landowners are offered fair market value for the seized property.

A specialist in eminent domain procedures in the state attorney general's office said those criteria are rarely challenged by landowners. Such challenges would fail because courts generally look favorably on the right of a government agency to condemn land for public use, said Robert H. Francis, a supervising deputy in the attorney general's tort and condemnation section.

Instead, landowners usually contest only the sums offered for their properties, a question often decided in Superior Court.

J. Robert Andrews, attorney for ranch owner Cynthia Wood, agreed that the state had the option to condemn the property, but declined to comment on how or if he would contest such a move.

"They're free to do so," Andrews said. "But I'm not prepared to say here and now what the response of my client would be."

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