Riverside limits its power of eminent domain: Riverside CA Press-Enterprise, 2/20/07

By Doug Haberman

The Riverside City Council on Tuesday enacted a law severely limiting when the city Redevelopment Agency can use eminent domain to buy owner-occupied single-family homes.

Public agencies use eminent domain to acquire private property for public uses such as roads, parks and libraries.

A 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling said the government also could use it to acquire land for developers whose projects would create jobs and boost tax revenues.

Ten residents spoke out Tuesday.

"We need to know that we have a sense of permanence in our area," University neighborhood homeowner Margaret Johnson said.

The new law prohibits the agency from buying any owner-occupied single-family residence through eminent domain unless the house is encumbered with a lien stemming from a code violation, has been boarded up for more than a year or has become a public nuisance.

In the portions of La Sierra and Arlanza where the Redevelopment Agency has jurisdiction, a house must be boarded up for three years before the agency can use eminent domain to buy it, under terms of a 2006 legal settlement.

The new law also requires the agency to pay fair market value for any property it buys through eminent domain.

The agency has never used eminent domain to buy an owner-occupied single-family house for economic development, city officials said.

"It's not something we're going to do," Councilman Art Gage said.

Riverside CA Press-Enterprise: http://www.pe.com