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How Viagra Crushed a Little Pink House (Part II)

Posted by Brenda Higgins on November 14, 2015

It has been more than a decade since the decision that approved a city’s taking of Susette Kelo’s home.  As stated in Part I, memories in Sacramento are short.  Not one member of the California State Assembly stood to speak against AB 2, the new law re-authorizing such takings of private property. The new name of these Sheriff-of-Nottingham agencies is CRIA, Community Revitalization Investment Authority, the purpose for any city or municipality to create such an agency is clear.  The purpose is to ‘take’ from ordinary home owners and give the property to their wealthy friends and developers.

Not just in California though, other states have similarly exercised voluntary amnesia about how badly the Kelo case went for both the homeowners who lost at the Supreme Court, and the city who lost ultimately, holding the bag on a bunch of vacant land.  Similar fights have gone on in New Jersey and in Colorado.

Glendale, Colorado, pursued a plan to take a family owned Persian rug store and turn it into an entertainment complex.  The family pushed back, and the city ultimately decided it did not need that specific property to move forward with its plan.  However, the city had designated the property as “blighted”.  The family sought to have the designation removed, but the city refused, saying that there were conditions on the property that had not been improved since the “blight” label had been attached.  These were not new conditions, but existing conditions, pursuant to the city’ definition of “blight” which could have been anything from poor lighting, deteriorating structures, poor street layout, environmental contamination or an unsafe condition.  The family filed suit against the city on October 27, 2015 to have that label removed from their property.  There is no resolution yet.

In Atlantic City, Charlie Birnbaum owns a home near a casino, that has been in his family for 45 years.  Last spring, the Casino Redevelopment Authority, sought to obtain Charlie’s home and bulldoze it, making way to expand the Revel Casino.  However, there are already multiple other vacant lots surrounding the casino that have not yet been used, and the casino has filed bankruptcy twice, and has now closed.  The city is still seeking to take Charlie’s house from him.  Charlie does not live there anymore, he uses the property for his piano teaching and tuning business.  He has vowed not to surrender his family home without a fight.  He has also asked to know what will be done with the property, in effect, he wants to know, is there a good reason to give up this family treasure.  There is still no answer, because they do not have a plan.

Remember, from the Part I of this post, that our local representatives, Chang and Kim, were on the very quiet bandwagon to reimplement Eminent Domain practices in our state.  There really is not way of knowing why they voted in support of this, feel free to ask them, if they have some friends in building associations or development that encouraged their vote in this direction. Also worth considering though, is what you likely saw on your own newsfeed this fall, while this vote was quietly making it’s way through Sacramento.

You may have seen headlines indicating that both the Chargers of San Diego, and the Raiders of Oakland, are considering a move. Also noteworthy, the ongoing pandering with the Anaheim City Council and Arte Moreno, the owner of the Angels. They are going to need property, and these professional sports teams are favorite pet-projects of politicians elected to small city offices.  These projects are always pitched under the ‘revenue’ enhancement argument, about how great it will be for the sales tax income of the city, but make no mistake, welfare is welfare even if the welfare recipient is a wealthy owner of a sports franchise, and they will not stop at simply given tax breaks and donating land, if they want your land, they are going to take your land.

This is a likely direction for the ugly growth of Eminent Domain powers in your neighborhood.   Be on the lookout, political favoritism and outright takings are coming to a neighborhood near you.  No one’s property is safe.

One Response to “How Viagra Crushed a Little Pink House (Part II)”

  1. edrakochy said

    Brenda, Thanks for a really good two-part series on the Déjà Vu all over again of redevelopment and eminent domain. Just when you thought we eliminated all the zombies, they keep coming back. You can probably tell I liked Craig Alexander’s article too. It’s pretty clear this is not about party lines in Sacramento. It’s about crony capitalism. Ling Ling Chang wants Bob Huff’s State Senate seat like a zombie craving a live human and she will sell her soul, just like Bob, to all the developers and developer PACs to get what she wants. Heck she raised over $600K for a lil’ ol Assembly seat in 2014. So just like in the Pfizer story, private property owners and taxpayers are the losers and the politicians and developers are the winners. I am grateful that Yorba Linda voters overwhelmingly passed Measure BB in 2008, which prohibits the use of eminent domain for economic development.

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