Eminent Domain? Just don’t steal in my name.

Eminent Domain is a hot button and is bound to get hotter. Many cities in the LA Metro area are undergoing a rebirth via use of eminent domain by their redevelopment agencies. This video gives a good start to the discussion. “Eminent Domain is Like Cancer” is the best quote on the topic I have heard in a while.

I like the video and shared with a friend who worked as a paralegal for So Cal Ed for many years. Her take on it, “Of course Anaheim found a way to not use Eminent Domain, they had too. They lost too many cases trying to use it 20 years ago”. Hmmm so all is not good over at the town of Rat after all.

Eminent domain started initially to prevent ones property from being taken without compensation for public use. Intended to provide a mechanism to protect property owners from seizure of their land by a governmental agency, it still allowed some uses like roads, schools or bridges to be built and pay a private property owner a fair use for their property. The problem is that over the last 50 years the courts have consistently held that greater tax revenue is enough to allow eminent domain to be used to take ones home and put up a mall or other business that would generate greater tax revenue for the city.

More after the jump

Few will argue that the need to improve or maintain our infrastructure needs Eminent Domain to achieve those goals for the public good. Where I, like so many others have problems with the process is when its goal is purely economic growth fueled by the need of private businesses and developers that currently don’t own the land being coveted.

Over the last 50 years the courts have continually expanded the use of Eminent Domain. On a national level Kelso v New London heard in the Supreme Court upheld economic development as a legitimate use of eminent domain.

Other court cases in Ohio and Oklahoma since Kelso have put limits on economic development as a factor in Eminent Domain actions.

Almost immediately in parts of the country voters began working on limits on a state by state basis. The New York Times reported the progress in their article: “Voters back limits on Eminent Domain”.

Since the Kelso decision in 2005 the Castle Coalition has monitored Eminent Domain legislation and voter initiatives. They have given California a “D-“for what they term “The state’s abusive redevelopment statutes continue to leave all property owners at risk”.

In California our own Prop 90 limiting the use was defeated by 4% last fall maintaining our low rating in the eyes of the Castle Coalition .

In our own area Arcadia voters last spring voted to NOT allow land obtained through eminent domain to be turned to private business ownership. You can read more details from the Route 66 Foundation HERE and Eminent Domain Watch HERE .

A few more tools being used by the redevelopment agencies is to change the zoning laws that enable a city to more easily condemn a property that is no longer conforming. A better understanding of Eminent Domain and condemnation by Zoning Change can be read in the California Eminent Domain Law Blog . Also interesting information can be found in the San Ramon Talks blog.

There are currently a few petitions being floated in the San Gabriel Valley addressing both Eminent Domain and the use of Constructive Condemnation via Zone Changes to protect ones property. I signed it absent reading all the terms. Why? Because anything that important needs to be given to us to vote upon in my not so humble opinion. If it won’t benefit us then we vote it down and we had a say in the process. If you see them please consider sighing if you think it needs to be at least put to a public vote.

The tremendous growth coming at the LA Metro area needs infrastructure improvements and serious build up. Can’t argue the need for Eminent Domain to get it done for the public good by improving the infrastructure. What do you say LA, is greater tax revenue enough to use those Redevelopment Agency tools to take away someone business and or home? Or is it in that application just stealing in your name?