Cities Turn Too Quickly To Eminent Domain Rather Than The Market
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
CONTACT: John Kramer; Lisa Knepper
June 6, 2007
Arlington, Va.—Big city mayors looking to spur economic development without abusing eminent domain should look to Anaheim, Calif., and a new report released today by Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle. “Development Without Eminent Domain: Foundation of Freedom Inspires Urban Growth,” was published by the Institute for Justice, the nonprofit public interest law firm that litigated the Kelo eminent domain case before the U.S. Supreme Court. “Development Without Eminent Domain” is the second in a series of independently written reports that exams the issue of eminent domain from the perspective of experts across the nation.
Pringle’s report explains how Anaheim’s leadership brought economic vibrancy to their city without resorting to any takings of private property. It also explores the successes and failures of other cities around the nation in economic redevelopment.
“Some urban infill advocates question if development can really occur without the government taking property through its eminent domain powers; without eminent domain, they ask, can first-ring suburbs compete with outlying suburbs?” Pringle said. He explained, “In Anaheim, my City Council colleagues and I decided that we would not agree to any development plan that proposed the use of eminent domain. We believed strongly that any economic development needed to happen without the government violating the private property rights of our residents and business owners.”
Pringle stated in the report, “If local officials regularly made zoning requirements more flexible and acknowledged market principles, new projects could move forward without taking away rights from existing landowners.” The mayor cited the Platinum Triangle area of Anaheim as an example of how this view can be practicably applied. Among other commonsense solutions, the city rezoned the area to allow easier development, took responsibility for clearing environmental impact statements, simplified the permitting process and reduced arcane building requirements. Pringle reported that as a result of these more-responsive and responsible government policies, “[T]he area is blossoming with more economic activity than ever imagined. And today, as housing and commercial uses move forward, there has been an increased demand for more intense high-end office space.”
“Anaheim’s success created through free market negotiation and wise public policy rather than the force of eminent domain is a lesson for other cities,” said Chip Mellor, president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice. “Anaheim shows that respect for the rights of property owners and economic development can go hand in hand with better results for cities, property owners and private developers.”
The report demonstrates that when governments employ eminent domain for private development projects, the results are often complete failures. For example, Pringle points to a development in nearby San Diego: “Just south of Anaheim, in San Diego, the City Council voted to condemn Ahmad Mesdaq’s popular and successful Gran Havana Cigar Factory for a hotel chain. Mesdaq opened the elegant cigar and coffee lounge in 1994, and in 2002 purchased and renovated an 8,000-square-foot building on the corner of Fifth Avenue and J Street. By 2003, Mesdaq had invested millions and established a thriving neighborhood business that supported his entire family. But the city claimed it was in a blighted area, so in April 2004, it voted to condemn Mesdaq’s building for a Marriott hotel. The courts upheld the condemnation and ordered him to vacate in June 2005. The building was demolished, but the land is now being used as nothing more than a parking lot.”
“In the wake of the Kelo decision, state and local governments need to protect private property,” said Pringle. “They need to reform their blight laws, reduce government’s reach into people’s lives, while at the same time improving municipal services and making it easier for people to interact with their government.”
The first report in this series, “Eminent Domain & African Americans,” was written by Columbia University Professor Dr. Mindy Fullilove and examines how eminent domain destroys the social fabric of urban African Americans.