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Political Fix by Gloria Penner

Danger Ahead: Two Powerful Ballot Propositions

Warning : this blog must be read before you vote in the June 3 rd primary! I know it's not easy to read about eminent domain . It's certainly not as compelling as reading about a candidate's stumble or an impressive bio or track record. But your vote on Proposition 98 and Proposition 99 could have enormous consequences for California's renters, homeowners, and other property owners. So have another cup of caffeinated coffee. Turn off the radio, TV and cell phone, and focus with me for the next few minutes.

Just to review, eminent domain allows government to take private property without the owner's consent for just compensation, usually determined by market value. This is in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution . Until 2005, that generally was interpreted to mean that government could take your home or farm for public use such as a road or park or rail line. But, that year a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Kelo v. City of New London ) broadened eminent domain to include transferring private property to another private owner to further economic development.

Big change! Now small businesses or little houses could be condemned under eminent domain to make way for revenue-enhancing hotels or condo developments. This happened in downtown San Diego recently when a cigar lounge was scraped under eminent domain to make way for a Marriott hotel. And in National City, a popular athletic center was under pressure from a condo development.


Paul Friedman from La Jolla, CA
April 22, 2008 at 09:08 PM
Dear Gloria: You set out the issue fairly well, though stopping short of giving reasons that eminent domain is a valuable government tool, and not drawing the obvious conclusions from the list of supporters. Having grown up in NY, where rent control was well entrenched, I am quite supportive of maintaining the right to control rents. If this were just about the unfairness of private interests making money on property secured by eminent domain, then this wouldn't even have been put into the proposition. But it was, by people whose interests are clearly suspect. I would prefer if Prop 99 said that the constitutional basis should be maintained--that eminent domain could be used for public purposes only, but it doesn't. At least it protects homes while allowing this mechanism to continue to be usable by government. Perhaps a pox on both of these propositions, since they miss the issue! pjf

Julie from National City
April 22, 2008 at 10:14 PM
Thank you for alerting everybody to this hidden agenda in Prop. 98.