3/10/2007

Prop. A is eminent domain in disguise: North County Times, Escondido CA, 2/28/07

Commentary

By John Chamberlain

As a resident of Solana Beach since 1979, I am compelled to offer my view of the pending Proposition A scheduled for a vote of the residents of Solana Beach on March 6. Proposition A is tantamount to the city of Solana Beach exercising (or, at least, attempting to exercise) its power of eminent domain over its residential property owners. Yet, while Prop. A proposes a partial taking of private property for public use, it does so without any notion or mention of the constitutionally required "just compensation."

In eminent domain proceedings, "just compensation" is typically calculated based on the fair market value of such portion of the property taken by the government for public use. It is worth noting that "public use" is interpreted very broadly by court systems - and typically, only a "public benefit" is needed to establish a "public use" standard. In this case, as both the text of Ordinance 357 and as Councilman David Roberts describe, the "public benefit" is maintaining the so-called "community character" and preventing the "mansionization" of Solana Beach.

But to achieve this objective, Solana Beach is purporting to partially take private landowners' existing entitlements by restricting such property owners' right to fully develop their property as land use laws and regulations currently allow. This restriction serves to significantly and adversely impact the value of residents' property - potentially into the hundreds of thousands of dollars per home, if not more.

As a result, Solana Beach is required, by law, to justly compensate property owners for this diminution in property value as required under the California Constitution. Failure to provide this constitutionally required compensation undermines the basic civil liberties afforded to property owners.

In reality, it is the "just compensation" component of eminent domain that imposes and drives market discipline on politicians and other government regulators as they attempt, in whole or in part, to enforce these takings against the owners of private property. I expect my view is shared by many homeowners of Solana Beach. Should this proposition be approved, I can only imagine it will be met with numerous lawsuits to challenge its constitutionality. I hope that before this community divides itself (again), its citizens will use their common sense and vote against this initiative.

Property ownership is a fundamental right of every American and is typically the most significant investment a citizen makes in his or her life. Allowing a local government and/or its current politicians to unduly limit this right without just compensation is not only unfair, it's unconstitutional. Politicians come and go; a lot of us are here to stay.




North County Times, Escondido CA: http://www.nctimes.com

Solana Beach resident John W. Chamberlain is chief executive officer of American Assets Inc., a San Diego-based real estate company specializing in development and management of retail, office and multifamily real estate throughout the United States.