A fair process

The City Council made the right move by allowing the eminent-domain process to move forward

Historically, members of the Chico City Council have known that the power of eminent domain, which allows the forced purchase of citizens’ property, should be used cautiously and only when the public interest and necessity mandate purchase of the property and efforts to negotiate a sale have failed.

At this point, both of those criteria have been met in the case of the property at 1377 Humboldt Ave. owned by Jerry and Laura Douglas. That’s why the council, at its June 4 meeting, voted, 5-2, to initiate the eminent-domain process.

The city seeks to buy an easement through a corner of the Douglases’ property—a triplex located where Humboldt runs into Highway 99—for construction of a bike-and-pedestrian bridge over Little Chico Creek that connects with 20th Street Park. The bridge will provide students at four schools, and residents north of the creek and east of the freeway—tens of thousands of people—with bicycle access to the park. Alternative routes are either prohibitively expensive or unfeasible.

Two years ago, the city had the property appraised and subsequently made a “best and final” offer to the Douglases, which they refused as being too low. The city then told them they had the option of hiring their own appraiser, to be reimbursed by the city up to $5,000. In October 2012, eight months ago, they hired an appraiser, but they still haven’t seen an appraisal.

The city naturally wants to move forward with the project, which is part of Bikeway 99, the north-south bike corridor funded by a federal grant. Initiation of the eminent-domain process doesn’t put an end to negotiations, but it certainly should get the attention of the Douglases’ appraiser. All parties have an interest in seeing his figures. Soon.

Eminent domain is a powerful tool. In this case, the council is using it with appropriate caution and wisdom.