Taking Land But Not Using It — CalTrans Is At It Again

Part II — The Orange County Fiasco

In Part 1 of this discussion, June 19, 2011, we discussed the origins of the California scandal whereby CalTrans, our Department of Transportation got into the excess land business – taking of land ostensibly for a freeway, but actually in excess of what it meant to put to such use. You can read all about it by clicking here. In a rational world, you would have thought that after being nailed by the Little Hoover Commission wasting some $100,000,000 (in circa 1970 dollars) on excess land that CalTrans could neither use nor sell, those folks would have been chastized into straightening out their behavior. But no, it went right on.

The second chapter came in Orange County in 2006, when the Orange County Register ran an expose on CalTrans’ wasteful behavior, whereby it acquired land in connection with the widening of the I-5 freeway, but wasn’t doing anything with it. See Kimberly Kindy & Natalya Shulakovskaya, Highway Robbery, Orange County Register, Oct. 15, 2006, at p. 1 (News), describing how CalTrans acquired large holdings of land which it was not using, selling or maintaining, causing a loss to local taxing authorities of anywhere from $78 million to $100 million. CalTrans also incurred $29 million in liability for inverse condemnation damages  for harm caused to other homes.

For additional coverage of these events, also see Steven Greenhut, California’s Biggest, Nastiest Landlord, Orange County Register, Nov. 26, 2006, at p. 1 (Commentary), and Associated Press, CalTrans Bought Houses, Let Them Decay, L.A. Daily Jour., Oct. 18, 2006, at p. 2.

Just how much money was wasted on this caper by our ever-watchful guardians of the public fisc was never entirely clear (at least not to the likes of us) but it clearly ran into the nine figures.

Your tax money at work.

(The Story of CalTrans’ waste of money acquiring but not using land will continue later)


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