Wednesday, 08 February 2023

Caltrans considers using eminent domain for safety project

UPPER LAKE – Caltrans is negotiating with landowners along Highway 20 to purchase parcels the agency said it needs to complete a safety project to widen the highway, and it's possible that eminent domain could be used in the process.


Phil Frisbie Jr., Caltrans' spokesman for its operations in Lake and Mendocino counties, said Caltrans is planning a $9.4 million safety project to widen the two-lane highway, provide 8-foot shoulders, and upgrade culverts and public road approaches.


The project, which runs between Upper Lake and Nice, originally was scheduled to be constructed next summer, but had moved ahead rapidly enough that Caltrans expected to start work this summer, said Frisbie.


However, Caltrans originally needed to acquire 46 property parcels along the road's right-of-way to have the area needed to complete the improvements, said Frisbie.


Negotiations have put the project back on a 2008 construction schedule. “We are still hoping to have this go out to bid spring of 2008,” said Frisbie.


Now, they're down to three parcels and three landowners, Frisbie explained. “We hope that we will still be able to settle directly with them.”


However, the agency is preparing to file eminent domain proceedings should they be unable to resolve the negotiations, said Frisbie.


“The courts have not been involved at this point,” said Frisbie. “We are just proceeding with the paperwork.”


Because of the nature of the negotiations, Caltrans would not release the names of the property owners in question.


Supervisor Denise Rushing said she was called by two of those property owners who were concerned about how much of their property Caltrans intended to take.


One landowner, an older man, is losing a significant portion of his land, which is covered by heritage oak trees and located along a blind curve that Caltrans wants to eliminate, Rushing explained.


Rushing said she has spoken with Caltrans and they're negotiating with the man in order to settle the matter without resorting to eminent domain.


A woman who was set to lose a larger portion of her land also contacted Rushing and Assemblywoman Patty Berg's office, who sent a representative to sit in on the negotiations, Rushing said.


In the case of both property owners, said Rushing, “They felt the Caltrans offer was inadequate.”


The property owners also were concerned about the process being used to take their property, said Rushing.


Frisbie said Caltrans would rather settle amicably with the property owners, but will move forward with eminent domain if necessary.


“We are still fully working with the landowners, still hoping for a quick resolution,” he said.


E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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