Most of the media surrounding eminent domain — and eminent domain for redevelopment purposes in particular — involves claims of eminent domain abuse and grass roots efforts to limit the government’s ability to condemn property.
In the City of Ukiah, however, local business owners are apparently taking the opposite stance, urging the City to reinstate its eminent domain powers that lapsed in 2001 to deal with a blight situation that business owners believe are hurting them. We initially reported on the issues with the Palace Hotel back in Februrary, but a July 9 article in The Ukiah Daily Journal, "Residents plea for city to take action on ‘black-hole’ Palace Hotel," explains that the public is the driving force behind the current efforts:
Several downtown business owners, frustrated by the long vacant Palace Hotel, urged the Ukiah City Council to reinstate powers of eminent domain for the city’s redevelopment agency during a special meeting Wednesday night.
The problem is that the old hotel property is apparently in a serious state of disrepair, and efforts to cause the property’s owner to rehabilitate it have failed. One resident summed up the public’s mood as follows:
"When I moved here 20 years ago, I heard the Palace Hotel would be rehabilitated, but ever since then, it’s just been more and more blight," said Richard Gardiner, describing eminent domain as a good motivating tool. "A cop rarely has to use his gun, but knowing he has it keeps people in line."
I’ll admit that I’ve never been to Ukiah and I know nothing about the Palace Hotel, its history, or the efforts to rehabilitate it. I do know, however, that since 2005′s Kelo decision, I have rarely seen a news report evidencing such overwhelming support to condemn property for redevelopment.