Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Good News: Eminent Domain Smacked Down in National City

If you're like us, you think property rights are pretty cool, and you can't stand the concept of eminent domain. For those not in the know, eminent domain is the policy instrument by which governments seize private property they consider "blighted", and turn it over to developers. As you might guess, this process is a tad vulnerable to corruption and cronyism, to say nothing of the fact that it's just wrong to steal someone's land. As an example of eminent domain in action, National City in San Diego County recently tried to take over a large chunk of private land to turn over to a condo developer. Fortunately, a Superior Court ruling last week put a stop to it.

National City's eminent domain claim was challenged by, among others, the Community Youth Athletic Center, a boxing gym for high-risk youth. What's especially significant here is that California's 2007 eminent domain reforms appear to be working, insofar as they aimed to put a greater burden on government to prove "blight". National City, evidently, assumed that their word would be good enough, as they failed to provide (in the judge's words) "specific, quantifiable evidence about the location and prevalence of the alleged blighting conditions." In addition to being a boost to property-rights advocates, the ruling also nods in the direction of government-transparency watchdogs, as National City was found to have violated the Public Records Act. And, of course, a group of kids from troubled backgrounds get to keep a popular community center.

Damon Root from Reason Hit & Run has his own take here.


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