This is a big week for private property rights. Two epic eminent domain struggles are playing out on opposite sides of the country.
First, National City, California, is ground zero for eminent domain abuse. City officials declared several hundred properties blighted even before conducting a blight study that was riddled with problems. The city wants to seize and bulldoze a youth community center (CYAC) that has transformed the lives of hundreds of low-income kids, so a wealthy developer can build high-rise luxury condos:
CYAC has numerous volunteers, including local law enforcement officers, providing free mentoring in boxing as well as academics. The gym is famous for getting kids off the street and back into school. As Rick Reilly explained in a feature in Sports Illustrated (boy, how I miss his inside-back-page column):
You know what, Mayor? National City doesn't need more luxury condos. It needs good men like the Barragans teaching kids respect for neighbors and property, manners you could use a little of yourself.
And if you kick the Barragans out so some slick in Armani can buy a bigger yacht, I hope your car stereo gets jacked—weekly—by a kid who would've otherwise been lovingly coached on their jabs and their math and their lives.
Question: Can you declare politicians blighted?
This week, the gym’s battle is in trial before the Superior Court of California. Represented by the Institute for Justice (who else?), a victory will help protect private property far beyond National City and clarify the use and misuse of blight designations.
Second, moving to the other side of the country, we go to Mount Holly, New Jersey:
Mount Holly is another classic case of "Robin Hood-in-Reverse." Officials have been dismantling a close-knit community known as the Gardens for the last decade so a Philadelphia developer can bulldoze the area and build more expensive residential properties.
Homeowners in the Gardens are primarily minorities and the elderly. The row-style houses are being torn down while still attached to occupied homes, and officials refuse to offer the remaining homeowners replacement housing in the new redevelopment. Further, owners are being offered less than half the amount it would cost to buy a similar home blocks away.
Here, IJ just launched a billboard campaign and did a study that concludes the eminent domain abuse project may result in a loss of a million taxpayer dollars a year, or one-tenth of the Township’s budget.
I previously wrote about eminent domain shenanigans here and you can read more from Cato on property rights here.