The California High Speed Rail project has been slowly, but surely, picking up its pace of property acquisition in the Central Valley. So far, the State Public Works Board has adopted 192 resolutions of necessity declaring the CHSRA’s intent to file eminent domain actions in court to acquire properties.  Last month alone, CHSRA approved resolutions of necessity for 16 more parcels and approval was pending for 14 more parcels. This month, the State Public Works Board considered the adoption of resolutions for 23 more parcels.

Although CHSRA has a long way to go in acquiring the bulk of the land it requires in the Central Valley, many Central Valley residents and businesses are currently facing acquisition and relocation, and are entitled to seek compensation for both. For acquisition of commercial property, including farms and nonprofit organizations, owners may be challenged with relocating their businesses, including equipment and personal property connected to the functionality of the business.

In an effort to aid in the process of relocation CHSRA has created two programs for businesses, farms and nonprofit organizations. The first program, the Relocation Advisory Assistance Program, is to aid commercial property owners in finding suitable replacements for their property. The second program, the Relocation Payments Program, is intended to aid in getting commercial property owners reimbursement for certain costs such as moving and related expenses, reestablishment expenses, and in lieu payments.

The relocation program may pay for actual reasonable moving expenses and related expenses, with limitations, that can include:

  • transportation of personal property
  • packing and unpacking
  • disconnecting and reconnecting personal property related to the operation of the business
  • temporary storage
  • expenses related to finding a replacement location
  • license, permits and fees required for the replacement location
  • some professional services used in the relocation process

However, difficulties can arise for commercial business owners who have equipment or other personal property which is complicated or impossible to either move or replace. In a recent article in Right of Way magazine, relocation expert Darryl Root explained the importance of understanding the regulatory authority of the Code of Federal Regulation part 24 which governs Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition programs. CRF §24.301(g)(3) reads:

Eligible actual moving expenses. Disconnecting, dismantling, removing, reassembling, and reinstalling relocated household appliances and other personal property. For businesses, farms or nonprofit organizations this includes machinery, equipment, substitute personal property, and connections to utilities available within the building; it also includes modifications to the personal property, including those mandated by Federal, State or local law, code or ordinance, necessary to adapt it to the replacement structure, the replacement site, or the utilities at the replacement site, and modifications necessary to adapt the utilities at the replacement site to the personal property.

Root emphasizes that relocation professionals should be attentive to appraisals that include the value of equipment or other personal property as part of the real property. Some personal property, however, does not add overall value to real property and it may be a disservice to the business owner to include the personal property as part of the real estate value. It should be noted that this may not apply to properties where the highest and best use of that property is the existing business. In these situations Root states that the fair market value of the property may properly include the personal property as part of the real property. Therefore, if the displaced business sells its property to the displacing agency with the determination that the highest and best use of the property is the existing business, and personal property is included as part of the real property appraisal, then some relocation payments may not require to be paid to the displacee.

Root suggests that it is important to speak to a relocation professional to understand all of the consequences, regulations and financial impacts of relocating a business and personal property related to the operation of the business. We’ll take it a step further. The various items of compensation to which property or business owners are entitled in acquisitions under threat of eminent domain are complex and interrelated. It is a potential minefield, and trying to deal with CHSRA (or any other government agency threatening eminent domain for that matter) without full knowledge and understanding of the laws and regulations governing such acquisitions can put owners in the position of potentially leaving tens of thousands an even hundreds of thousands of dollars on the table. At California Eminent Domain Law Group, we are experts in understanding these laws and regulations, and putting them to work for owners rather than against them, to maximize the overall compensation to which property and business owners are entitled. We can be reached for a free initial consultation at (559) 697-6779, or see our website at