Property Acquisition

Metro is transforming LA County with a rapid, extensive buildout of our transit system to better serve all who live, work and play in the region. When building new projects, we often need to buy or lease land for construction or operations. This property acquisition process is governed by federal and state law.

How is the need for property acquisition determined?

As Metro continues to expand our transit system, we often find the need to buy or lease land from property owners for new transportation projects. Property acquisition can be for a variety of reasons, with the most common ones listed below.

Permanent property needs

Highway, rail, bus and other projects generally require more property to expand capacity and increase service to the public. This could be for new or wider travel lanes, rail or bus right-of-ways, interchanges, ramps, bridges, stations or maintenance yards. In this situation, the property acquired becomes a permanent part of the project and the region’s transportation infrastructure.

Temporary construction staging

When building a project, property is sometimes needed for a period of time to house construction equipment and materials. This staging space includes areas for active construction, equipment and material storage, field offices, parking and other construction-related activities. Staging locations are usually located off-street and immediately next to where the project is being built.

Below ground easements

Some projects need property below ground for tunnels, stations or other facilities. In the majority of these situations, there is little or no impact to the property on the surface.

Who and what determines property acquisition?

The decision whether to acquire property for a project is decided during the environmental planning process. This occurs in accordance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and often results in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Some projects also need federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which can result in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).

During this process, various project alternatives are evaluated and property is identified that might be needed for a project. The final list of properties is not finalized until the very end of the process when the study that’s being conducted is adopted. Public feedback and input is always an important part of these studies.

Will Metro buy or lease my property?

This is often one of the first questions we are asked by property owners and the answer is it depends on whether the project needs property above or below the ground.

Above ground property

For above ground property, the most straightforward method is for Metro to purchase a “fee interest” and become the owner of the property. Sometimes other arrangements are developed such as leases, right of entries, temporary construction easements or permanent easements.

Below ground property

If the project needs property below ground, Metro will purchase a subsurface easement from the property owner. This is accomplished through a one-time payment and an easement deed is recorded. The process is identical to underground easements that a utility or cable company obtains for fiber optic cables, water lines and gas lines.

When will I be told that my property is needed for a project?

In some cases, property owners are notified that their properties are under consideration for a project while studies are ongoing during the environmental process. However, the exact list of properties is not deemed to be final until those studies are adopted. Once those are done and funding is available to begin construction, property owners will be contacted by a representative of the agency building the project, such as Metro or the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

How will I be compensated?

Metro is required to provide just compensation to property owners for the purchase or use of their property. The compensation process consists of several steps, with responsibilities for both Metro and the property owner.

Step 1: Appraisal

The first step in this process is for Metro to obtain an appraisal of the property. The appraisal will consider a variety of factors including location, size, the highest and best use of the property, and the recent sale of similar properties in the area.

Step 2: Offer made by Metro

Once the property’s value is established, an offer will be made to the property owner. Time will be allowed for the owner to obtain their own appraisal if desired, and to have a full discussion with Metro regarding their opinion of the property’s value.

Step 3: Final negotiation and purchase

Metro will seek a negotiated agreement with a property owner whenever possible. If a negotiated agreement cannot be reached, Metro may exercise its power of eminent domain to acquire the property. Initiating eminent domain procedures requires specific approval by Metro’s Board of Directors.

What happens after the project is completed?

When project construction is finished, Metro will return leased properties to the property owner, who may then develop the property in accordance with local zoning regulations. In cases where Metro has obtained fee title, any portions of the property owned by Metro that are no longer needed for public purposes after construction may be sold or made available for joint development subject to local land use regulations and approval pro­cesses.

Will I receive relocation benefits if I am required to move from the property?

If you are an owner-occupant or tenant occupying a property that is acquired for a public project, you may be entitled to relocation benefits. Federal and state regulations provide for payments to help you relocate your business or place of residence. Your relocation benefits will be explained in detail by Metro staff or a consultant hired by Metro. Please note that no one is required to relocate from their property until they have been given at least a 90-day written notice to move.

How can I stay involved or provide feedback?

We invite you to stay involved during the planning and construction of Metro transit projects. You can keep up with developments at, where you can find information about ongoing studies and projects under construction. At various project web pages, you can also leave comments and provide your contact information so that we can keep you informed of upcoming meetings and other important news.

Contact Us


Metro LEP information graphic including phone numbers (323-466-3876, ext 2) in various languages.

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