In December, we reported on Sierra Madre's decision to allow voters to decide whether the City should possess the power to condemn property for redevelopment purposes. On April 13, 2010, voters will decide the issue by ratifying or rejecting City Ordinance 1304, but for now, the measure has triggered some colorful debate.
On February 27, Susan Henderson offered a Mountain View News article "Eminent Domain Measure -- Yes or No?" She purports to analyze the measure in the broader context of recent eminent-domain-reform efforts, including California's Proposition 99, passed in 2008 in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's much-maligned 2005 Kelo decision. She ultimately concludes that the measure is irrelevant, and amounts to mere political "grandstanding" by Sierra Madre's Mayor MaryAnn MacGillivray.
On March 1, "Eric Maundry," aka City Council candidate John Crawford, responded in a Sierra Madre Tattler piece entitled "Has The Mountain Views News Come Down On The Side Of Eminent Domain?" In addition to several somewhat silly attacks on Ms. Henderson and her analysis, Mr. "Maundry" contends that the measure has real teeth, prohibiting the City from all eminent domain for redevelopment purposes -- i.e., eminent domain where the goal is to turn the condemned property over to another private owner for redevelopment.
The dispute appears to be part of a larger political controversy in Sierra Madre, where an ongoing debate over growth issues has apparently become the cornerstone of the upcoming election. I'm smart enough to stay out of that larger debate, but I do want to comment on the eminent domain issue.
As to eminent domain and the impact of Ordinance 1304, I have to side with Mr. "Maundry." The ordinance goes well beyond the limited restrictions Proposition 99 offers state-wide, and should, if approved, create a real barrier against eminent domain for redevelopment purposes. Especially with respect to businesses, no current federal or state prohibition exists on condemning property for redevelopment purposes, as long as the condemning agency makes proper blight findings. Ordinance 1304 would change that, at least in Sierra Madre.
Is prohibiting all eminent domain for redevelopment purposes a good thing? I'll leave that to Sierra Madre residents to decide on April 13.
Rick Rayl is an experienced litigator on a broad range of complex civil litigation issues. His practice is concentrated primarily on eminent domain, inverse condemnation, and other real-estate-valuation disputes. His public ...
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