18 SUPERLAWYERS.COM A TTORNE YS SELEC TED TO RISING STARS WERE CHOSEN IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE PROCESS ON PAGE 20.
Q: On your website you have a quote
from the Fifth Amendment: “Nor shall
property be taken for public use without
just compensation.” Is the greater battle
these days over the word “just” or over
the word “public”?
A: Typically, the fights nowadays are about
what’s just compensation. In California,
redevelopment agencies were abolished
or eliminated over the last few years when
Gov. Brown took office.
Q: Redevelopment agencies?
A: Basically arms of local cities or counties
that were able to designate an area as
a redevelopment area. They essentially
acquire property in its current state—
Q: For private business use?
A: Yes. They’d acquire it, and then
they’d transfer it with some incentives
to a developer. The thought was if they
can improve the area, the property tax
increment will significantly increase,
because property taxes are based on
property values. That was the concept,
but it was going too far in California.
Areas that weren’t blighted, that really
didn’t need it, were being designated just
so these agencies could recoup additional
tax dollars. It ended in California a few
Q: How did it end?
A: The redevelopment agencies shot
themselves in the foot. The way the
legislation was passed, Gov. Brown
essentially gave them an option to
continue in existence. Plan A is we’re
going to eliminate you, but plan B is we’re
going to allow you to voluntarily reinstitute
yourselves if you commit to making a
certain payment to the state every year so
we can use it to fund our budget shortfall.
They challenged the legislation because
they didn’t think they should have to pay
at all. It went up to the California Supreme
Court, which said the Legislature has
the power to eliminate redevelopment
agencies; but it does not have the power,
under some local ordinances, to force
those agencies to pay money to the state.
The end result: Plan A is OK,
redevelopment agencies can be
eliminated; but plan B—that they can
essentially reinstitute themselves by
making a voluntary payment—does not
work. The redevelopment agencies kind of
killed themselves that way.
Q: Think of your biggest project: How
many acquisitions were involved?
A: I did one recently that had 150 property
acquisitions. That was for the San Bernadino
Association of Governments. They were
LEFT: Kuhn’s father, a personal injury plaintiff’s attorney, had one piece of advice for his son
about going into the law: “Don't do it.”
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a lawyerly finesse.
building a new bus rapid-transit project
down their major commercial corridor—a
rapid-bus lane in the middle of the street—
and they needed to widen the street on both
sides. You’re basically taking the frontage off
hundreds of properties that have commercial
businesses. From a number standpoint,
that’s probably the largest.
The one that’s generating the most
buzz right now is the Expo Line, which is
a new light rail transit line running from
downtown LA to a block or two from the
Santa Monica pier. It’s making use of a lot
of old, abandoned, or existing rail line, but
they’re also putting in new stations; and
when you’re talking about a block or two
from the Santa Monica pier, you’re talking
about very, very expensive property values.
Q: How far along is the Expo Line?
A: The portion from downtown LA to Culver
City is open and operational. The portion
from Culver City to downtown Santa
Monica is pretty significantly far along in
construction. We’re wrapping up the last
pieces of the property acquisitions right now.
I don’t know if you’re familiar at all
with Bergamot Station Arts Center? It’s
a nationally renowned art place, and the
Expo Line will have a physical station on
Bergamot Arts Center. In order to do that,
we needed to acquire a portion of the art