For more than 55 years, attorney Mark Hurwitz practiced law in a downtown building he owned. His property included an adjacent area for parking one or two cars.

Hurwitz learned the city planned to erect a curb to block access to his parking area. So he filed a lawsuit to obtain an injunction to bar the city from constructing the curb.

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The injunction was granted by the court. But the city ignored the injunction and constructed a curb blocking access to Hurwitz’s parking area.

Later, the city held a public hearing and determined the Hurwitz parking area was a public nuisance. Hurwitz argued the space had been accident-free for more than 50 years.

Then the city sought eminent domain condemnation to permanently block the parking area. The dispute went to trial.

The city expert testified the value of the parking area was only $1,000. But Hurwitz’s expert testified it was worth at least $150,000 because it was in the downtown area where parking spaces are very difficult to find.

The judge instructed the jury they could award Hurwitz $1,000 or $150,000 for the value of his parking area, which the city took by eminent domain condemnation.

If you were on the jury, would you award attorney Hurwitz $1,000 or $150,000 for the loss of the downtown parking space adjoining his building?

The jury awarded Hurwitz $150,000, and the judge confirmed the jury award.

The evidence shows the city violated the court injunction barring blockage of Hurwitz’s parking space, the judge began. He was not required to seek a legal remedy for an event that already occurred, the judge noted.

The city’s construction of the curb, as part of its downtown improvement plan, was clearly a “taking” of Hurwitz’s use of his private property parking lot without compensation, the judge explained. The declaration by the city the parking area is a public nuisance was pretextual, he emphasized.

“If we were scorekeepers, the city’s conduct might be graded this way: Plus 10 for chutzpah, minus 1,000 for jumping the gun,” the judge commented. The $150,000 jury condemnation award to attorney Hurwitz for loss of his valuable parking space is approved, the judge ruled.

Based on the 2004 California Court of Appeal decision in Hurwitz v. City of Orange, 19 Cal.Rptr.3d 213.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center
).

***

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