Recent legislation passed by the State of California moved the State closer to the return of the old redevelopment agencies and the power of the government to seize private property through the use of eminent domain.
Earlier this month the Senate and the Assembly passed Assembly Bill 2, which was approved by Governor Jerry Brown just four years after he championed and signed legislation to dissolve more than 400 redevelopment agencies. This bill gives local governments the ability to create entities called Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities for the purpose of redeveloping areas that are deemed economically and socially depressed.
These entities are allowed to issue bonds for the purpose of raising money to invest in infrastructure and economic revitalization projects. The bill allows Community Revitalization and Investment Authorities to be created by the city, county or district government if various conditions are met.
Before an authority can be formed, the area must have a median household income that is less than 80 percent of the statewide median. If this condition is met, three out of four other conditions must be met:
- Unemployment that is at least 3 percent higher than the statewide median unemployment rate, or around 9 to 10 percent;
- A crime rate that is 5 percent higher than the statewide median crime rate;
- Deteriorated or inadequate infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, water supply, sewer treatment or processing and parks;
- Deteriorated commercial or residential structures.
Opportunity to Help
Many proponents of the bill argue that this is a great opportunity to help economically disadvantaged areas. Republican Senator, Anthony Cannella of Ceres, said, “This will grow jobs, reduce crime, repair deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure, clean up brownfields and promote affordable housing.”
Many senators believed this bill was the only economic development opportunity some cities had. They fought to protect redevelopment rights after Brown’s decision to dissolve redevelopment agencies.
Property Rights Threatened
Many opponents of the bill argue that this bill is another attempt by the government to pass a land grab bill. The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights posted on their Facebook page, “the bill will make it easier for the government to seize homes, businesses and places of worship by eminent domain.”
Republican Senator, Jim Nielsen, the only senator to speak in opposition of the bill said, “[The government] absolutely exploited and will continue to exploit – under the provisions of this bill – the seizure of property under eminent domain.”
Opponents of the bill warn against the loose requirements to create authorities and the conditions that define an area. They argue that two of the four requirements are subjective and someone can easily argue that infrastructure or various properties are deteriorating. These loose requirements, in fact, are reminiscent of the old requirement of a finding of “blight” when redevelopment agencies were the tool allowing the use of eminent domain to take private property and turn it over to private developers.
In 2005, in Kelo v. New London, the Supreme Court ruled that the government could take private property for the purpose of economic development. This extremely controversial ruling lit up a political firestorm that resulted in 44 states, including California, passing laws that would limit the government’s ability to use eminent domain. Governor Brown in fact used the public outrage over the Kelo decision to advance his agenda of dissolving redevelopment agencies.
Just four years later, however, the bill approved this month seems to be a 180 degree turn in the other direction. Whether the new legislation will result in new abuses of eminent domain remains to be seen. But given the history of redevelopment, it seems that we are once again likely to see eminent domain abuse in California.
If you are a property owner or business owner affected by eminent domain, you can learn more about your options by calling California Eminent Domain Law Group at (866) EM-DOMAIN.