A part of California’s statutory eminent domain law has been declared unconstitutional. The Third Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled in Property Reserve, Inc. v. Super. Ct. of San Joaquin County that pre-condemnation entry statues violate California’s version of the US Fifth Amendment’s taking clause – Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution. This will make it more difficult for condemning authorities to conduct pre-condemnation planning. The Court ruled that any entity wishing to conduct statutory pre-condemnation studies must do so after filing a condemnation action.

California’s eminent domain statutes permit a condemnor to enter a property to conduct surveys, engineering tests and appraisals prior to the initiation of a condemnation action. Most states have similar statutes.

The Property Reserve Court ruled that the condemning authority’s proposed geological tests constituted a taking and found that the pre-condemnation entry statutes are unconstitutional. There will undoubtedly be an appeal.