A step toward eminent domain: Costa Mesa CA Daily Pilot, 12/15/06

On the Town

By Steve Smith

There are several very important things that every American should expect from his government.

Among them, he should expect that his property will not be seized by the government for the purpose of eminent domain. The prospect of having one's property seized by the government against the will of the owner because it wishes to use it for its own purposes is a move of such horrific proportion that it conjures up images of dictatorships and closed societies.

Several months ago, when Triangle Square — Costa Mesa's failing, ailing mall — finally made it onto the radar of the City Council, one of the options expressed by a council member was to exercise the power of eminent domain.

The comment was not a formal proposal, but the fact that it was mentioned at all brought shudders to many people.

Now, Newport Beach is in the early stages of an eminent domain controversy.

In its too-long effort to find a home for a new city hall, the Daily Pilot reported last month that the city was appraising the tennis facility at the Newport Beach Country Club, a property that was not for sale, in consideration of its development as the site of the new building.

That the City Council has taken this first step is unsettling. That it did so less than two weeks after Newport Beach residents voted decidedly against the general principle of eminent domain is frightening.

One has to wonder why Measure W, the eminent domain vote, was placed on the ballot in the first place if there was no intention of following the voice of the people after the results were tabulated.

The development of a new city hall has dragged on far too long. As it does, costs rise.

It seems to me that there are two logical choices for the new city hall. The first is to build on the existing site. That location is and has been working well for many years.

The other choice is to build on the site near the Avocado Avenue library. I favor this option for a reason that cannot be quantified on a return on investment analysis or put neatly into columns or rows on a spreadsheet.

I just think it would be a better fit with the surrounding area.

Over the last few months, I have spent an unusual amount of time working right across the street from the library site.

There is more of an urban feel there, most of which is provided by Fashion Island's collection of shops and offices as well as the buildings on and near Avocado Avenue.

The city hall project needs to move quickly past the talking stage and into the doing stage. It's time to rebuild on the current site or build on Avocado.

Neither location will satisfy 100% of the city's residents — only one decision will do that. That decision is the one against seizing private property for the purpose.

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