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The California Eminent Domain Handbook

Chapter I: The Power of Eminent Domain

What is a "public use" for which the government might be able to take my property?

The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 19 of the California Constitution allow private property to be taken by eminent domain only for a "public use."

Traditional examples of "public uses" for which the government might exercise its power of eminent domain include such things as schools, roads, libraries, police stations, fire stations and similar public uses.

It should be noted, however, that the term "public use" has been interpreted very broadly by the Courts. The project need not be actually open to the public to constitute a public use. Instead, generally only a public benefit is required. Elimination of blight through redevelopment projects, for example, has been held by the Courts to constitute a public benefit which satisfies the "public use" requirement of the Federal and State Constitutions. Recent cases have even allowed the use of eminent domain for the sole purpose of increasing tax revenues. This is true even though the property might be transferred to a private developer and may never be open to the general public.