By Helen Gao

SAN DIEGO – A proposal to amend the city charter to outlaw the use of eminent domain for economic development was shot down by a San Diego City Council committee Wednesday.

Representatives of the Grantville Action Group asked the Committee on Rules, Open Government and Intergovernmental Relations to limit eminent domain use to public projects. In other words, take private property only for parks, roads and other public facilities.

Under the group’s proposal, the city would be unable to condemn private property and transfer it to a private developer to build new projects, such as shopping malls or industrial parks that could generate a higher tax base.

The proposal is modeled after a June state ballot initiative called the California Property Owners and Farmland Protection Act. The measure seeks to rein in the government’s eminent domain power and its authority to enforce rent control.

A majority of the council committee declined to forward the proposed charter amendment (which has no references to rent control) to the full council for consideration. They said they wanted to see how the state initiative fares before taking action.

The Grantville Action Group is fighting the city’s designation of certain commercial areas in Grantville as a redevelopment zone, where eminent domain may be used. Grantville is east of Qualcomm Stadium and north of Interstate 8.

“I do not want the city to come in and seize my property and business in order to hand it over to a larger developer to turn it into something else,” said Brian T. Peterson, president of the group and owner of a veterinary clinic on Friars Road.

In 2004, San Diego’s Centre City Development Corp., the city’s downtown redevelopment agency, condemned a successful cigar shop to make room for a hotel project. That action became part of a national debate over whether government should oust a property owner for economic development.

The San Diego Union-Tribune: