A broad coalition of homeowner groups, small business representatives, labor, environmental, community and ethnic organizations today joined Assemblyman Hector De La Torre (D-South Gate) in unveiling a package of eminent domain reforms that would provide homeowners and small businesses with new, strong protections against eminent domain. Authored by De La Torre, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8 (ACA 8)and a companion statutory measure (soon to be amended) are in direct response to the U.S. Supreme Court's "Kelo" decision. They include a constitutional prohibition on the use of eminent domain to take an owner-occupied home to convey to another private party, as well as new restrictions on the taking of small business properties for conveyance to private parties. ACA 8, the constitutional amendment, is aimed for the 2008 ballot.
"Today we are unveiling a package that would provide California homeowners and small businesses with new and unprecedented protections against eminent domain," said Assemblymember De La Torre, author of the legislative package. "Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous ‘Kelo' decision sparked a nationwide outrage focusing on abuses of eminent domain. This package is in direct response to that decision."
Ken Willis, president of the League of California Homeowners said, "If passed by the legislature and approved by the voters, this package would provide California homeowners long overdue protections from eminent domain for private development. The League of California Homeowners wholeheartedly supports this package and will work with our legislators to place the constitutional amendment before the voters in 2008 and to pass the companion statutory measure."
ACA 8, a constitutional amendment to be placed on the 2008 ballot would:
- Prohibit the State or local governments from using eminent domain to acquire an owner-occupied home (including townhomes and condos) for transfer to another private party.
- Prohibit government from using eminent domain to acquire a small business to transfer to another private party, except as part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate blight and only after the small business owner is first given the opportunity to participate in the revitalization plan.
- Grant a "Right to Repurchase." A home or small business property acquired by eminent domain must be offered for resale to the original owner if the government doesn't use the property for a public use.
The package also includes a companion statutory measure that would provide enhanced protections for small business owners confronted with eminent domain. Key provisions of this measure include:
- If the small business does not participate in the revitalization plan it can choose between relocating or receiving the value of the business. If the small business relocates, it will receive fair market value of the real property (if owned by the small business); plus all reasonable moving expenses; plus expenses to reestablish the business at a new location, up to $50,000; plus compensation for the increased cost of rent or mortgage payments for up to 3 years.
- If the small business does not relocate and instead is bought out, it will receive fair market value of the real property (if owned by the small business) and 125%of the value of the business if the business could not have been relocated and remain economically viable.
"Combined, this package will provide small business owners with strong protections against eminent domain, and ensure fairness and responsible compensation when a small business owner does not choose to participate in the new development project," said Betty Jo Toccoli, President of the California Small Business Association which represents more than 203,000 small business owners through 78 affiliate small business organizations.
Frank Moreno, President of the California Mexican American Chamber of Commerce, said: "This package is about fairness for minority small businesses, and all small businesses confronted with eminent domain. It will ensure these entrepreneurs are adequately represented, given options to participate in the new business plan, and given fair compensation if they choose not to participate."
Tom Adams, board president of the California League of Conservation Voters, said: "This is a responsible and honest eminent domain reform package. It's time to take care of the eminent domain issue once and for all so that California doesn't continue to be vulnerable to special interests who want to use the issue of eminent domain as a stalking horse to undermine environmental protection like Proposition 90 and some of the eminent domain measures we've seen filed with the Attorney General this year."
Californians for Eminent Domain Reform: http://www.eminentdomainreform.com