General Question

justin's avatar

Do school districts have eminent domain authority?

Asked by justin (179points) February 22nd, 2010 from iPhone

I’m thinking specifically in California, but interested in general. Can school districts use eminent domain to assemble land for a new school?

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8 Answers

ETpro's avatar

I don’t know the law regarding Califirnia, but in most jurisdictions that I know of, a school district would need to submit its request to the city or county government it was within, and they would exercise eminent domain on its behalf if they felt the cause was justified.

bostonbeliever's avatar

I’m with ETpro on this one.
the school district itself is not a government, but government funded organization so it can’t use eminent domain itself.

justin's avatar

Well, redevelopment agencies, transportation agencies, and others can have eminent domain authority. It’s my understanding that schools (in California) don’t need building permits from local jurisdictions, they get approval directly from the state. So I was curious if they get eminent domain authority as well.

ETpro's avatar

The power under US law resides with the legislative branch having jurisdiction, but can be delegated by legislative action.

YARNLADY's avatar

Yes, school districts in California have the power to use eminent domain.

thriftymaid's avatar

Public school systems, yes.

marinelife's avatar

“If the property owner is willing to give written consent to enter his property for appropriate testing, this is obviously a time saver. If a property owner refuses, school districts must go to court to compel an order. Code of Civil Procedure section 1245.010 et seq. Because of the time delays inherent in court procedures, this could add several months to the process and delay appropriate testing, site surveying and sampling required for DTSC compliance, CEQA compliance, any necessary land surveys and appraisal inspections.

An unwilling seller compels a school district to comply with the eminent domain requirements, which considerably slows the fast tracking process. For condemnation, a resolution of necessity must be adopted by a two-thirds vote. Condemnation cannot occur without certification of appropriate CEQA documents (typically a site specific EIR), DTSC compliance, and a pre-condemnation offer based upon a qualified appraisal.”


This article is on the use of eminent domain for school buildings in general:

“Various types of building projects can fall under the umbrella of eminent domain, including:

* Road construction
* Road widening and improvement
* Public use buildings

Public schools
fall under the final category. For instance, Florida’s Marion County School District
currently plans to build an elementary school, and later a middle school, in order to reduce overcrowding, which has grown severe in the southeastern part of Marion County. Eminent domain will play a major role in acquiring land for this future construction, and it’s essential for property owners to know the laws and their property rights under those laws.”

grumpyfish's avatar

As far as I know, CA Public Schools could use ED to acquire land, but I have never known one to do it.

Public schools in California do need to go through the local building authorities as well as the state DSA (Division of State Architect) for approval. The local building authorities are generally the easier part—as long as you meet the local zoning regulations (e.g., not overheight, apropriate setbacks, etc.) it’s pretty OK.

DSA consists of three review boards: Fire & Life Safety (FLS), Accessibility, and Structural.

The Structural folks require everything that’s wall or ceiling mounted and weighs more than 20# to have an engineered or pre-approved attachment method, and everything floor mounted more than 400# to do the same. There’s a list of “Deferred-approval” items, like elevators, that get engineered by the contractor. This is largely in response to the ‘94 Northridge quake where there was much more damage to public buildings than to private buildings and they wanted to increase the structural safety of these buildings.

FLS I don’t deal with much, I know they review exiting and sprinkler systems, but I don’t deal with them directly.

Accessibility is sort of the wildcard. California code (Chapter 11B) calls out the specific requirements, but DSA writes its own rules as well. The different DSA offices will have different things that they care about, and you can even get pre-approval of a given accessibility plan, but when it goes in for formal approval it can be totally sunk. (I’m not a big fan of the DSA Access reviewers, you can tell)

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