Standing up to eminent domain: Whittier CA Daily News, 9/20/06

The recent Supreme Court ruling that allowed local governments to take private property for the greater good of the community, i.e. revenue producing commercial projects, sent shockwaves across the nation. California, however, has always been the people's place, and folks in Arcadia have proved that redevelopment muscle doesn't always push out longtime businesses - not if you push back.

There, people rallied behind the treasured Rod's Grill to keep it in its current location on Huntington Drive rather than raze it to make way for an expanded Rusnak Mercedes-Benz dealership.

It took speaking out at public meetings and waging a letter-writing campaign, not only to public officials but to this newspaper, and generally generating publicity about the impending demise of this classic coffee shop and the fact that owner, Manny Romero, didn't want to sell. Members at the Elks Lodge across the street followed suit, refusing to sell.

But time, as the song goes, also was on the side of protesters. They delayed the proceedings just long enough for property values to outstrip the city's means to purchase the two remaining lots of what was originally a deal that included Arcadia Self-Storage and the Church in Arcadia.

Sure, the city could have used eminent domain to take Rod's Grill and the Elks Lodge, but officials rightly backed away from that opportunity, having been taught a lesson by voters when the council considered using eminent domain last year. Council candidates who ran against eminent domain easily won election.

So commendations are offered all around. First, folks have to speak up for what they believe in. Secondly, it's rare when a deal can't be worked out among all parties. So, Arcadia finds itself, by happenstance perhaps, in the role of model for accommodating both needed development and existing businesses and property owners.

Whittier CA Daily News: http://www.whittierdailynews.com