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Time to reform eminent domain legislation

Posted: May 16, 2008 2:19 a.m.
Updated: July 16, 2008 5:03 a.m.
To The Editor:

Propositions 98 and 99 on the June 3 ballot need everyone's attention because the eminent domain law is one of the most disgusting, outrageous and revolting pieces of legislation ever written and passed into law, and runs parallel with another piece of legislation called Mello-Roos tax.

What makes both of these pieces of garbage legislation outrageous is that they have been abused over and over, year after year, hurting many people in the process, but are loved by many profiteering developers.

Understanding what eminent domain is and how it works is simple. It is a legal stab in the back to citizens by a government, whether it be state or local. Example: If you live in a house, and if it is not an urban
blight, and a developer wants to build a hotel, or whatever, on your property, and the developer convinces the government that they can receive more of a tax base on a hotel as opposed to your home, the government can then take your house away from you, no matter how long you have lived in it, through eminent domain and pay you what they call "just compensation," and they can do this within a few months with what is known as a "quick take," leaving you out on the street.

I will elaborate. Let's say that six months prior to today your house was worth $80,000 more than it is now, due to the economy, and you know that in time it will go back up to that value. You lose out because the
government does not take this concept into account, and it acts on what the value is now. Sound fair?

A case in point. I remember some years back there was a family in the Santa Clarita Valley who had lived, and I think still do live, on a family piece of property that had been in their family for about 100 years.

A developer was building a housing tract behind their land but did not want to build a road to his development on the side of their property.

Rather, he wanted to build the road right through the middle of their property leading into his, and in order to do this the developer went to the government to ask that the land be taken through eminent domain - in other words, to take their property away from them for his road.

Because the story was printed in the paper, there was such an uproar by the citizens of Santa Clarita that the government backed away from this action. If the government didn't back away and instead favored the
developer, eminent domain would have taken away part of their property and paid them what the government felt was the "fair market value."

Of course, a property owner is not required to accept the so-called fair market value and can challenge the matter in court, and with this option one has to hire an attorney and pay the attorney's fees. No matter how you look at it, the property owner loses.

To date, 41 other states have taken the initiative to reform eminent domain, and it is now our turn to do likewise and have our voices heard.

Vote yes on Prop 98 and Prop 99.


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