Strobel Family Investments Eminent Domain Case


Burien v. Strobel Family Investments


IJ Client Robin Oldfelt, one of seven Strobel sisters, in front of the family property at issue in the case. Oldfelt is the Member Manager of Strobel Family Investments.


May the government take your property simply because it doesn’t think it is upscale enough? What if the government doesn’t actually need your property but takes it just to make “damn sure” it’s eliminated?

Seven sisters in Burien, Washington, asked the Washington Supreme Court to answer these questions. The Strobel sisters petitioned the Court to review a decision upholding the City of Burien’s condemnation of their property for a fancy new “Town Square” development. The property, which had been in the family for a quarter of a century, was the long-time home of a popular diner-style, family restaurant.

The City, however, had other designs for the Strobel family’s property. Determined to drive out downtown mainstays in order to make way for fancier condos, shops, and restaurants, the City decided to condemn the property. But because simply condemning it and handing it over to the City’s Los Angeles-based developer would have been politically unpopular, the City got crafty: It decided to place a road right through the building. To be precise, the City Manager told his staff to “make damn sure” the road went through the building. The staff complied, siting—then re-siting—the road until it went straight through the building. Then the City condemned it.

Despite the trial court’s concern that the Strobel family’s property was not at all necessary for the City’s project, that the City deliberately targeted the property because the property didn’t fit its “vision,” and that the City’s conduct may have been “oppressive” and an “abuse of power,” the court allowed the condemnation. According to the court, it was required to give virtually absolute deference to the City’s determination that the Strobel family’s property was “necessary” for the project. The Washington Court of Appeals affirmed.

Represented by the Institute for Justice, the Strobel sisters asked the Washington Supreme Court to take up their case. Their goal was simple: to ensure that the law provides for genuine judicial review of condemnation decisions in order to prevent the type of flagrant governmental abuse that happened to them.

Sadly, on December 5, 2006, the Washington Supreme Court declined review of the sisters' case. As a result, Washington courts continue to smile and nod whenever the government says it needs someone's property, and local governments continue to have free rein to purposely target properties to reflect their elitist views of what a city should look like.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Fighting Eminent Domain Abuse In Washington State Washington

Client Photo - none available

Client Video - none available

Lateast Release: Washington Supreme Court Refuses To Hear Eminent Domain Abuse Appeal (December 6, 2006)

Legal Briefs and Decisions

Launch Release: Family Appeals Eminent Domain Abuse Fight To Washington Supreme Court (September 27, 2006)

Petition for Review (pdf)

Case Timeline

Condemnation Actions Filed:


June 2005

Court Filed:


King County Superior Court



King County Superior Court--August 5, 2005

Washington Court of Appeals--June 12, 2006



Petition for Review to Washington Supreme Court rejected

Next Key Date:



Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

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Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Making “Damn Sure” Property Rights Are Protected, Liberty & Law (December 2006)

Article: Property Rights: A city's limits

Article: Burien condemns property in eminently unfair manner

Article: In Burien, a well-aimed road tests property rights

Article: Home-away-from-home vs. development

Article: Another Eminent Domain Outrage (see second story)

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