The case involving a small boxing gym in National City, California, has garnered national media attention. The owner filed suit challenging National City’s redevelopment plan for, among other things, failing to follow California’s post-Kelo rules on making blight determinations.
We reported on the case last month in A More Personal View of the Redevelopment Fight from National City. The trial ended a few weeks ago, and the parties have been anxiously waiting for a decision ever since. Late yesterday, the court issued its decision, ruling in favor of plaintiffs. According to a press release issued this morning by the Institute for Justice (the firm that represented the owner in the litigation) entitled Major California Property Rights Victory for Landowners in Eminent Domain Abuse Fight; National City Violated Federal Constitution and State Laws:
The Court struck down National City’s entire 692-property eminent domain zone in the first decision to apply the legal reforms that California enacted to counter the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision in 2005. This ruling, which found that National City lacked a legal basis for its blight declaration, reinforces vital protections for property owners across the state, and underscores why redevelopment agencies should be abolished.
The city’s reaction to the decision is, not surprisingly, a bit different. Although acknowledging that the court ruled against the city overall, Mayor Ron Morrison is quoted in the San Diego Union Tribune as identifying a key failure in the plaintiffs’ victory:
The main thing they were trying to do was make it so cities can not use eminent domain for economic development. They failed on that. The judge threw that part out.
Obviously, this is a big decision, and property-rights advocates will trumpet its significance. But for now, unless you live in National City, the decision’s impact may not reach you. Trial court decisions do not create legal precedents that can be relied upon in other, unrelated actions. While it may well be that this decision will find its way to the Court of Appeal, unless and until the Court of Appeal issues a published decision on the issue, the decision does not actually change California law.
That said, I’m sure other redevelopment agencies around the state will take note of what happened in National City; rest assured none of them want to be the target of the next lawsuit/national media campaign by the Institute for Justice.
Note also that this is not the first court decision to strike down blight findings since California’s post-Kelo reforms were enacted. We reported last year on a case in which the court struck down the Glendora Redevelopment Agency’s blight findings. That decision, which was a published Court of Appeal decision, does create legal precedent.
More information later if we get our hands on the court’s actual ruling.