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Sounding Board: Eminent Domain II

Daily Transcript Question: "Should the cities in San Diego County use a combination of eminent domain and rezoning as public policy tools to achieve higher density development in their communities?"

Eminent domain and rezoning are basic tools to be used to implement long range planning policies: they are not policies in themselves.

Community plans and redevelopment plans guide the use of these tools. The city's planning policies are contained in the community plans and redevelopment plans and may occasionally require eminent domain or rezoning for implementation.

In that case, if higher density is an adopted policy of the plans, these tools may be in order but only if all other means have been exhausted.

-- Mark W. Steele, FAIA, AICP

President, MW Steele Group

We are a free country.

Our forefathers fought to the death to ensure that we each have the right to live life free of fear that the government will step in and take away the fruits of our labor.

I find it very troubling that the US Supreme Court recently dealt a low blow to that sense of security by seemly extending the rights of the government to take property from any of us and then give that property to another private person for private commercial development.

Because this ruling is so shocking and properly the subject of severe criticism, I believe it will either be addressed by Congress or substantially limited in application by the courts.

In the meantime I would encourage governmental leaders to follow the spirit of the Constitution and not abuse the power of eminent domain. Implementing this type of policy partnerships with private parties could also lead to corruption.

We all understand that city leaders are charged with planning the healthy development of our communities. The correct tool for that planning is through appropriate zoning, not by taking Mrs. Smith's home away from her so it can be transferred to a private developer for who in exchange has agreed to implement the city's plan.

-- Douglas Tribble

Attorney, Pillsbury Winthrop

Private property should not be taken to be given to another private property owner.

Eminent domain, or the threat of eminent domain, takes away our freedom of private property ownership which most citizens view as sacred.

Redevelopment, and its tool eminent domain, has been abused by this city already. For example, a large union print shop and a Washington Republican senator in the same block received their 30-day notice to be eminent domain before zoning was even changed.

If a union shop and a Republican senator's properties aren't safe from eminent domain, is anyone's?

We need our light industry businesses and the good jobs they provide, as much as we need housing. In addition, many of the areas the city wants to rezone shouldn't be rezoned for housing because of toxic contamination, also some are located on flood plains, or have high decibel levels etc.

Another problem is a majority of the housing being built is high-end and displaces the lower income housing which basically is older apartments.

Another problem with using eminent domain is areas that the city wants to become Redevelopment Projects Areas. Many of these projects areas such as North Bay Redevelopment have called unblighted areas like sections of Point Loma "blighted." This is a farce and plays into the hand of large developers and insiders as a way of doing land grabs.

The City Redevelopment Agency uses density as an excuse to use eminent domain.

One of the reasons the city is broke is that the non-redevelopment areas subsidize most of redevelopment project areas, schools and services, shorting their own communities.

According to watchdog Mel Shapiro, because of the structure of redevelopment, we lose $50 million in tax funding a year for police services.

Redevelopment taxes need to be closely looked at and changed. The Redevelopment Agency and their power, a more privatized form of government with power to eminent domain, needs reining in or some or all of the redevelopment projects eliminating.

The Redevelopment Agency should not be able to use eminent domain.

--Kathleen Blavatt

Co-founder of the San Diego Coastal Alliance & candidate for City Council District 2.

New Section: Sounding Board

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