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California Eminent Domain Report "…nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation."

Eminent Domain Controversy in Signal Hill

Posted in Redevelopment, Right to Take

In an all-too-familiar tale these days, a redevelopment agency is seeking to acquire property as part of its efforts to alleviate blighted conditions in the city, and owners are reacting strongly to the agency’s plans to utilize the power of eminent domain where owners are reluctant to sell. 

According to a November 5 article in the Signal Tribune, "Property owners condemn Signal Hill RDA’s use of eminent domain," the situation in Signal Hill pushes all the buttons on both sides of the issue:

  1. The redevelopment agency touts numerous successful projects, including converting "many contaminated oil-production and industrial sites into successful retail centers and thriving residential communities";
  2. The agency’s claim of success in its redevelopment efforts have been well documented; the agency’s "Las Brisas" project received the California Redevelopment Agency’s 2006 Award of Excellence for turning an area "characterized by a high crime rate, vacant and boarded up buildings, and mismanagement by absentee landlords" into a " neighborhood consist[ing] of 90 attractive affordable residential units, courtyards, a park, and a community center that includes an on-site police substation, a childcare facility, a public meeting area, social services offices, and a computer lab";
  3. The redevelopment agency might not, in a perfect world, be at the stage where it really wants to condemn the properties now, but its power of eminent domain expires on November 17;
  4. One of the properties being condemned actually lies outside the redevelopment area, but (according to the city), its acquisition "will benefit housing in the city’s redevelopment project area";
  5. The properties being sought include a number of operating businesses that may not themselves appear blighted at all;
  6. The acquisitions are taking place under horrible market conditions, causing at least one owner to claim it is "unfair to offer him fair market value for the property at a time when the real estate market is depressed and causing his property to have a 50-percent diminished value"; and
  7. Even though the acquisitions will happen now, in this down market, the agency apparently does not intend to use the properties for five years or more, leaving business owners and property owners wondering why they should be forced out now (see item 2 above).

Does the agency need to acquire these properties for much-needed redevelopment?  Perhaps.

Will it use the properties to improve the city?  Hopefully. 

But for the imminent expiration of the agency’s power of eminent domain, does the agency need to acquire these properties now?  Almost certainly not. 

  • melissa guy

    eminent domain was never intended buiness for business.our entire lives are being disrupted by an out of control city, the mayor, city councel, city manager, who all think the same,and have no use for small business owners or property owners.our businesses and our properties are our income many of us have no other ability to make a living.there are two empty car lots now and still they take our land for another car dealership.if they take our property on st louis ave, it will be devastaing to my family.i feel really bad for the seven property owners this go around as they only recieved a few months to deal with this issue and they have already lost there propety. our taxes we pay at a very high rate does not seem to satisfy the city of signal hill they want it all, and they are taking it all and all we can do is watch as this madness takes place. what is going on in this country? melissa guy