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West Sacramento Sun

I-Street Bridge Eminent Domain Disappoints Some

May 07, 2024 10:19AM ● By Angela Underwood, photos by Angela Underwood

West Sacramento resident Ron Birch asked the mayor and council to offer more for his property about to be taken over by eminent domain.


WEST SACRAMENTO, CA (MPG) - Eminent domain regarding the I-Street Bridge project pits some property owners against the city over the price of their land.

During the May 1 West Sacramento City Council meeting, the public hearing before adopting a resolution of the necessity to acquire property from Gail Overhouse and three unnamed owners, along with Ron Birch, brought up unresolved issues that might take a jury to decide on.

The first is price: 22 cents per square foot, to be exact, which Birch said is "unreasonable" for him to accept.

"You are saying that unless we accept 22 cents per square foot, you're taking us to court," Birch said. "Why don't you make your best and final offer before you take us to court?"

Second comes the amount of property that the city needs. Overhouse, who has had 4.2 parcels of land since the '60s, said she was once excited to see growth in the Washington District. Then, the city adopted a resolution in 2020 for the North Riverwalk Trail Extension Project, subsequently claiming eminent domain over a portion of her property by 2021.


Fifteen months later, Overhouse said, she met with West Sacramento Real Property Manager Fred Arnold, a city attorney, and her attorney, to discuss how much the city would offer her for her property. She said that Arnold requested to suspend payment for a portion of her property needed for the Riverwalk Trail Extension Project due to upcoming projects, including the I-Street Bridge.

Gail Overhouse eminent domain

 Gail Overhouse claimed that the city promised to buy her entire 4.2-acre parcel for eminent domain and now only wants some, which will lower her property value.


"We agreed to defer the compensation negotiations for the Riverwalk until an offer for the entire property was made in conjunction with the new I-Street Bridge project," Overhouse said.

But that never happened, according to Overhouse, who said, "We received little to no communication from a city representative to negotiate a fair compensation for our property."

Between the Riverwalk project and the new I-Street Bridge, Overhouse said, the city will use more than 50% of her property, which she found out in May “is not contiguous.”

Overhouse said that was when an appraiser scoped her property and only included a portion for eminent domain, rather than the whole portion initially promised. Birch, who has owned his 2nd Street home for more than three decades, claims the same.

Like Overhouse, Birch said West Sacramento needs to be more transparent about what property they will take. 

"We just completed eminent domain of our property seven months ago for your bike trail and now you want more," Birch said, adding, "We need to know how much you are going to take."

Before the vote, Mayor Martha Guerrero called attorney William Chisum to clarify some claims against the city.

First, Chisum said it is the property owner's constitutional right to a fair price and the city "just can't take property; the public agency must pay just compensation." He confirmed that a qualified appraiser "goes out and looks at the property interests which are the subject of condemnation," and based on analysis of "what comparable properties are selling for," a value is set.

"If the owners dispute that, which they have an absolute right to negotiate, which has occurred, and if the parties cannot agree, the matter goes to court, and then the jury is powered to determine what is the just compensation that the city must pay the property owners," Chisum said.

Mayor Guererro said, "It is our understanding that the property owners are here in defense of what their property is and the value of their property and choose to continue to work it out."

Regarding going to court, the mayor, who said she supports the I-Street Bridge project and toured the properties considered for eminent domain, made it clear that property owners have their rights. 

"It's a process we need to take to give you the authority that you just can't go off and negotiate independently without our authority, so for that, I appreciate that the council has come back to us and asked us for that authority, otherwise it wouldn't be a legal process without our support," Mayor Guererro said.

Arnold made it clear that Overhouse's accusations that they were not paid were not true.

"One of the specific requirements is that the value of the property that we have appraised has to be deposited in the State Condemnation Compensation Trust Fund," Arnold said. "Those amounts are not with the city but the state for the property owners to withdraw."

The monies are available as soon as a resolution of necessity is adopted, which was by the end of the hearing.

Arnold confirmed that the resolution requesting eminent domain access does not preclude negotiations.

"It starts the process and also allows for the acquisition, possession and purchase of the city to proceed with the project while these negotiations are ongoing," Arnold said.

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