April 25, 2008

Editorial:

Proposition 98 and 99: Eminent Domain propositions are found lacking

The issue of Eminent Domain for local communities is an issue that is all too familiar and is one that does not bring a smile to those who have had to deal with it.

In Logan Heights, the community is dealing with eminent domain issues as the Southeastern Economic Development Corp has expanded their reach as part of their redevelopment plan. In National City eminent domain is an ongoing issue as the city is trying to reclaim property for future use by a private company. In Chula Vista the threat of eminent domain has been used. And in Vista, eminent domain issues continue to impact the community.

Both Prop 98 and 99 deal with government control over private property and overlap on the topic of “eminent domain.”

Eminent domain is used by state and local governments to buy property for public uses such as roads, schools or parks, or to promote public goals like affordable housing or economic development. The government usually builds these public projects, however, sometimes the government transfers this property to a private developer or a nonprofit organization to do the building instead. Eminent domain only comes into play when property owners are not willing sellers.

Proposition 98 is called ‘Eminent Domain Limits on Government Authority Initiative Constitutional Amendment’. It bars state and local governments from taking or damaging private property for private uses. Prop 98’s definition for private property includes homes, farms or businesses. The proposition allows that governments could only force the sale of private property if it will be owned and used by the government to benefit the public or to protect public safety.

Prop 98 then goes on and prohibits rent control and similar measures, eliminates deference to government in property rights cases, and changes condemnation rules.

Proposition 99 is called ‘Eminent Domain Limits on Government Acquisition of Owner-Occupied Residence Initiative Constitutional Amendment’. This proposition is rather straight forward and limited in its authority, it bars the use of eminent domain to acquire an owner-occupied residence for conveyance to a private person or business entity. It creates exceptions for public works, public health and safety, and crime prevention.

Unfortunately neither proposition works. Prop 98, while protecting private property and private businesses, goes too far in wiping out rent controls. Prop. 99 while straight forward does not go far enough. It is strictly limited to homeownership and does not address the rights of business ownership. All too often now we are seeing governments take one private, usually small, businesses away to benefit another; usually bigger businesses, and according to the Legislative analysis, Proposition 99 will have little overall affect.

We recommend a NO Vote on both propositions and look forward to meaningful and common sense resolution to the Eminent Domain issue. Unfortunately neither 98 nor 99 do the job.

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