The Flywheel

Next Meeting: September 30th
NOTE: New meeting start time of 12:15

’The Taking of Property’, Local & National Examples

Credit: Rick Perry, Trans-Texas Corridor

Timken & Johnson continue their presentation about public taking of real property with notable cases from San Francisco, New Haven and the State of Michigan.

Meeting of Friday, September 23rd

Welcome, Invocation, Thought for the Day

Prez EJ Shalaby called the meeting to order with the ring of the bell. Red Badge Rookie Connie Tritt lead the club in the pledge of allegiance. Herb Cole led the club in a moment of silence for peace and justice in the world. The awareness of this sun-shiny day, contrasting with memories of the cool and gloomy summer, stepped up to become our thought for the day.

Sunshine Report

Mr. Sunshine wasn’t at today’s meeting but his efforts had a well wish card circulating for John Nicol, just as we send John another well wish with this pinning of the Flywheel.


  • EJ announced that Michael Gill has resigned from the club Michael accepted an internet team leader position with Kaiser in Pleasanton and is traveling in the opposite direction from Richmond. We wish Michael the best and hope that when the dust settles on his new job he will check out the Pleasanton Rotary.
  • As Michael was a member of the Board of Directors, EJ asked Nick Despota to fill his vacancy. Nick accepted and was approved by acclimation
  • EJ announced that the club is working to schedule a service day with the Contra Costa Food Bank. This follow-ups on a discussion at our September 9th meeting, when some members voiced their interest in volunteering for short-term projects. To support such generous instincts, we've posted a new page, Volunteer Stints, which lists worthwhile activities lasting a day, or just a couple of hours. The CC Food Bank stint is for third Tuesdays (Shields Reid Community Center) or third Mondays (Davis Park, San Pablo). See our Volunteer Stints page for details.
  • Prez EJ summarized a discussion at the last Board meeting about recent low meeting attendance. The Board is concerned about both club vitality and finances. Without 30 lunch purchases, the minimum required by the Mira Vista Country Club, the club must make up the difference between meeting revenues and our payments to the MVCC. Lately this has amounted to about $600/month, which must come out of our general fund. The Board feels this is inappropriate for a service organization. Possible solutions discussed by the Board included:
  • A prepaid lunch ‘ticket’ requirement.
  • The $5, coffee & cake only, minimum meeting attendance fee.
  • Increasing dues to include lunch expense.
  • Looking for an alternative less expensive lunch venue.
  • Revitalizing the Membership Committee.
  • EJ encouraged the members to continue thinking about this subject and communicate their preferences to him or a Board member. He also encouraged everyone to buy lunch even if you don’t eat it, and to invite guests and potential members to the meeting.


  • Ace Recognizer Don ‘The Menehune’ Lau was out and about but we recognize Don again for his ‘triple crown’ of doing last weeks recognitions, being the Program Presenter AND doing the Flywheel notes, all done with a remarkably good attitude of service, but then that’s Don Lau.
  • EJ then recognized Jim Young for he and Linda’s 41st wedding anniversary and his 65th birthday, all within the last 10 days. Jim and Linda traveled to San Diego to see their daughter’s family and grad kids who are in the process of moving to Singapore, a pleasant but poignant visit as they won’t see them again in person until next May. Jim added the numbers together, multiplied it by two grand kids and rounded up for $206 to the Polio Plus campaign and $18 to the club fund (“Rotarians should always ‘round up’ when giving.”).
  • Markku Pelanne volunteered to be recognized for he and Mary’s 36th anniversary and the wingding celebration they had dining at the finest Denny’s in Emeryville and scuttling off to the local Motel 6 for a relaxing evening.

Happy and Sad Dollars

EJ recognized Herb Cole who was happy he just paid his dues, ‘late but paid’. EJ was happy that Herb did that too, and several members need to follow Herb’s, ‘late but paid’ example which they can do easily by clicking on the PayPal button immediately to the left of this Flywheel article. Does it get easier than this?.

Norm's Nonsense

-After the dentist finished examining the woman's teeth, he says, "I am sorry to tell you this, but I am going to have to drill a tooth."
The woman says, "Oooh! I'd rather have a baby!"
To which the dentist replies, "Make up your mind. I have to adjust the chair.".


Property Rights, Law & the Federal Constitution

Jim Young then introduced today’s guest speakers, Heidi Timken Esq. and Leslie Johnson Esq. who are the Timken and Johnson in the all woman, real estate specialty law firm of Timken Johnson Hwang (TJH) of Walnut Creek. Heidi and Leslie had over 50 years of real estate law experience at the world class firm of Miller Starr & Regailia before launching their own firm specializing in real estate law. TJH handles all manner of real estate legal issues but is known for its work in eminent domain including eminent domain litigation.

Heidi began by noting that the government’s Constitutional right to take private property is the most extreme right conferred on the government by law and it is mitigated only by the constitutional requirements that the property (and it can be real or personal property) must be taken for a “public purpose” and the defendant/property owner must receive “just compensation”.  In the context of lawyering eminent domain cases are different because the government, usually the plaintiff, becomes the defendant of its right to take property and the property owner, usually an injured plaintiff now becomes the defender of their property rights and values. The ladies made several observations about the uniqueness of eminent domain cases:

  • “Lightning only strikes once”. Eminent domain comes out of the blue, people are ill prepared to consider the issues and it will probably never happen to them twice.
  • The legal issues are not focused on the government’s right to take which is absolute, but on the issues of public purpose and just compensation.
  • While ‘just compensation’ has always and will always be an issue, ‘public purpose’ recently has become a major point of litigation.
  • Property rights are ‘a bundle of sticks’ and the government could take all of the sticks, outright condemnation, or only a few of the sticks like an easement through the back 40 that means you won’t be able to develop it but you can use it in a way that doesn’t infringe on the easement.
  • If you ever receive a government ‘offer to buy’ your property and don’t like it, call a specialist attorney immediately because the issues are esoteric and the costs are high, even if you prevail because there is no assurance of an award of attorneys fees, as there is in civil law.
  • There are three large classes of ‘property taking’; Condemnation, whole or partial ownership of all or some of the ‘bundle of sticks’ with a payment for value. Regulatory Taking, sometimes called ‘inverse condemnation’ when there is no change in land ownership but the government denies particular land uses that affect its value. ‘The elimination of blight’, which is the concept under which Redevelopment Agencies (at least in California) take property for redevelopment.

The ladies went on to discuss the infamous condemnation in the case, City of New London Conn. vs Kelo. In this case the City of New London was unhappy with the tax revenue they received from their harbor front property so they condemned all the homes in a large swath of property for the purpose of economic development, i.e., taking a person’s property and giving it to someone else because they will pay more money/taxes for it. Mrs. Keho, whose modest family home, owned for generations, was condemned, fought all the way to the Supreme Court saying that the city getting more money ‘is not a legitimate public purpose’. In a shocking decision that is still reverberating in real estate circles, the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled that Keho was wrong and the City of New London does have the right to take property for ‘economic development’.  The ladies went on to say that New London did take the property, leveled all the homes and buildings and cut a deal with drug make Pfizer to build a big campus on the location.  The deal with Pfizer collapses and the condemned property is now a fenced off vacant lot overlooking the New London harbor. This story has legs though, was written into a book and it is currently being made into a movie called “The Little Pink House” starring Brook Shields as Mrs. Keho. More on that later.

As you might imagine, Rotarians had a lot of comments and questions. Many of those questions focused on Regulatory Taking which is going to be the topic of this continuing program this Friday the 30th. So come to this Friday’s meeting with questions you may have about eminent domain and a ready ear to find out about what Regulatory Taking really is and what, if anything, you can do about it.

- Jim Young, Rotating Editor