It could not be more obvious that California needs to reform eminent domain laws, which are often used to punish homeowners and businesses out of favor with City Hall and reward well-connected firms. So I welcomed news that another eminent domain reform initiative had surfaced in Sacramento.
Unfortunately, it turns out to be a sham:
The initiative applies only to owner-occupied homes, not apartments. It defines small businesses in a way that only a small number of them would be protected. It does not protect churches, farms, investment property, vacant land and homeowners who have not lived in their house for more than a year.
When we questioned the League about these problems, we received a rebuttal that argued: "It is not easy for a city to determine that blight exists. A city cannot simply declare a neighborhood blighted." So, proponents admit, that their initiative continues to allow for the taking by government of "blighted" properties, which is the current, unacceptable standard.
ACA8 offers a few tweaks that would protect some homeowners and increase compensation for some small business owners, but passing it would be worse than passing nothing. It would convince the public that reform has taken place, while changing nothing of substance. That is the goal of proponents.
That's from an Orange County Register editorial, which has this nice, sharp, terse description of the initiative's sponsors:
... the League of Cities, the California Redevelopment Association, the League of Conservation Voters and other groups that lobby for maximum government control over private property.
San Diego CA Times-Union: http://weblog.signonsandiego.com