I am not against eminent domain in all cases. Sometimes it is necessary for a government to force a property owner to sell so the government can build a worthwile public project. But I was alarmed by the Supreme Court decision last year to allow governments to take property for private commercial use. Already, Los Angeles is using the Supreme Court precedent to take local businesses and give the land to a hotel developer. The LA Times has a good editorial today on the plan:
The corner of Hollywood and Vine hasn't always been as glamorous as it is famous. But for six decades, the Bernard Luggage store has been at or near the legendary intersection, through years when the star-studded sidewalks were dirty, businesses struggling and the prospect of revitalization remote.
Now things have picked up. Streams of free-spending club-hoppers pour out of the Metro, and red carpets are regularly unrolled on the boulevard for concerts and TV tapings. Bernard Luggage is again at the hottest intersection in town. So after everything has been spiffed up, along comes the Los Angeles Community Redevelopment Agency to declare the area "blighted" and evict property owners such as Robert Blue, whose family has owned Bernard Luggage for 60 years. To build a luxury hotel.
It's a heavy-handed government grab for private property — to make way for a private project. There may be some rare instances in which such grabs are appropriate. This isn't one of them.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that government can take private property from one person and give it to another. The prospect is chilling, and over-reaching redevelopment is now a greater danger, especially by elected officials who often rely on contributions from the same types of folks who build big projects. Unlike the development at issue in the Supreme Court case, the Hollywood and Vine project is not taking anyone's home, just commercial property — in which Blue, his family, his employees, his tenants and his neighbors have invested their lives.