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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.