After the Supreme Court's Kelo decision that effectively increases the power of local authorities to take whatever poperty they want and hand it over the private developers, a number of outraged politicians began reform efforts to limit takings in their state to true common-carrier public projects. So what has happened to these efforts? Virginia Postrel links to this update on California, but I will give you a hint: They have had about the same level of success that every other effort to limit government power has had of late.
Predictably, local government and redevelopment officials reacted with alarm
that eminent domain could be severely restricted. The California Redevelopment
Association and other advocates geared up to kill the measures and in the
closing days of the legislative session, Democratic leaders ginned up a strategy
to cool off the anti-eminent domain fervor. They unveiled legislation that would
place a two-year moratorium on the seizure of private homes (but not commercial
property), and authorize a study of the practice, thus giving their members a
chance, or so it seemed, to side with the anti-eminent domain sentiment without
doing any real damage to redevelopment agencies.
Quietly, however, the moratorium bills were themselves put on the shelf as
the session ended - with Democrats blaming Republicans. "With every vote, they
tried to derail this prudent response," said Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego,
who carried one of the moratorium bills.
Kehoe's finger-pointing, however, was more than a little disingenuous since
the stalled bills required only simple majority votes and thus needed no
Republicans to go along. Clearly, this was a Democratic action, not a Republican
one, perhaps just a feint to pretend to do something about eminent domain
without actually doing anything to upset the apple cart.
She also points to this story in San Diego:
First came a report on the San Diego Model School Development Agency's push to
seize and demolish 188 homes in the thriving City Heights neighborhood to build
up to 509 town houses, condos and apartments more to its liking. The 30-acre
site is far from the decaying neighborhood normally targeted in redevelopment,
but blithe agency bureaucrats from the Soviet school of central
planning--knowing they could call the area "blighted" if they chose--didn't
Then came yesterday's jaw-dropping story about National City's plan to use
its powers of eminent domain to force the Daily family to sell a parcel the
family leases to the Mossy family for one of its thriving car dealerships. After
the two sides couldn't agree on a sales price, Mossy representatives made plain
they would move their Nissan dealership--and the $1 million in annual sales and
property taxes it generates for National City--unless the city helped close the
deal. The City Council promptly caved in to Mossy's unsavory hardball tactics
and, in its role as the city redevelopment board, began looking into seizing the
land--after a mysterious epiphany in which members suddenly realized the site
suffered from a heretofore undetected case of "visual blight."
Yep, there's nothing like another large car dealership to fight visual blight. Maybe San Diego should tear down the Del Coronado hotel and put a car dealership there too.