When Loss of Access to a Public Street Is Compensable: An Arizona Case Study

The International Council of Shopping Centers

When Loss of Access to a Public Street Is Compensable: An Arizona Case Study

Access—The ability to get to one’s property from a public road—is a vital part of property ownership, particularly for commercial land such as shopping centers. Unfortunately, access is often restricted or eliminated by government actions, which can have a significant, negative impact on the value of the land.

On April 17, 2014, the Arizona Supreme Court issued a decision in City of Phoenix v. Garretson1 that could open the door for landowners in Arizona to receive compensation when a government action results in loss of existing access to a public street. Because the rationale for the decision involved a provision of the Arizona Constitution that is common in the constitutions of many other states, Garretson’s impact could be felt beyond Arizona’s borders.


Garretson owns a commercial parking lot, slightly less than an acre, at the southwest corner of Jefferson and First Streets in downtown Phoenix. In 2005, the property was adjacent to the path of the City’s planned light rail project along Jefferson Street. At the time, the property had two driveways onto Jefferson Street, an access point on Madison Street to the south (a minor neighborhood street) and future access to First Street to the east.

In 2007, the City filed an action condemning a temporary right of entry to Garretson’s property, but did not take any land. As part of the light rail project, the City built train tracks and a concrete curb that permanently blocked both driveways along Jefferson. The curbing destroyed access to and from Jefferson, but did not affect access to or from Madison or First Streets.


This article first appeared in the Summer 2014 issue of Shopping Center Legal Update, published by The International Council of Shopping Centers. Click here to read the full article.