Did California's Prop. 99 mean anything?

land-hand-grab-house.gifThat’s what homeowners in Long Beach, Calif., are wondering.The city recently amended the North Long Beach redevelopment plan to renew the redevelopment agency’s eminent domain powers. The agency established the 12,507-acre North Long Beach Redevelopment Project area in 1996. According to the weak reform laws passed in 2006, the city had to renew the agency’s eminent domain power within in the redevelopment area.

It was well-known that the only protection for California property owners that Prop. 99 would provide protection for owner-occupied residences, owned for more than one year. However, it appears that even that simple protection from that attempted reform measure is being challenged or just blatantly ignored by the city of Long Beach.

Since the city renewed the eminent domain powers, residents, whose properties make up nearly 45% of the redevelopment area, have received letters from officials saying that their homes will be exempted only if they meet conditions set forth by the redevelopment agency and receive a certificate of conformance proving so.

The California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights has called the city out on their disregard for Prop. 99’s reforms.

From a fax CAPPPR sent to the city of Long Beach this week:

The certificate of conformance document presented to property owners includes dozens of exceptions to the city’s so-called homeowner protections, including one of the most egregious loopholes that allows a home to be seized by eminent domain if a home’s garage is “full of belongings that a car cannot fit inside.” I think it would be fair to say that many Long Beach residents regardless of income, including members of the city council, may also be guilty of being “pack rats.” Having an untidy garage is not justification for seizing one’s home and a lifetime of memories.

CAPPPR is calling on the city council to temporarily suspend the redevelopment agency’s eminent domain powers while it conducts a full-review of the agency’s conditions for property owners in order to ensure that the redevelopment agency is in full conformity with the law.

What’s at stake? No less than the legitimacy of Prop. 99 and its supporters:

If the City Council believes that the proposed action is in compliance with Proposition 99, then it would be an admission by one of California’s largest cities that Proposition 99 was a sham drafted and financed by redevelopment interests and it was never intended to truly provide Californians “iron-clad” homeowner protections against eminent domain abuse. Your decision will determine whether Prop. 99 was truly as “straightforward and strong” as purported by the redevelopment community.