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Reported Abuses

Alhambra, California – The city has declared at least 60 businesses “blighted,” including the Museum of Contemporary Arab Art, in order to pave the way for upscale condominiums and shops.

Antioch, California – A developer has been chosen for the city’s waterfront redevelopment plan, which will most likely include a mix of retail and residential development. Residents’ and business owners’ foremost concern is the future use of eminent domain.

Atascadero, California – Pat and Sue Gaughan received a message from Marty Tracey, the city’s deputy director of redevelopment, threatening eminent domain proceedings on their former gas station in the heart of Atascadero’s downtown core. After much controversy and community uproar, the city council demoted Tracey and voted unanimously to stop eminent domain proceedings. Even though the city council claims it was not forcing eminent domain upon the Gaughan’s, the couple was still forced to sell their private property to a developer.

California City, California – City officials declared over 700 acres of Mojave Desert land, owned by 246 owners, “urbanized” and “blighted” and condemned it for a Hyundai/Kia auto test track. Although the test track has been in full operation for almost six months, about 16 parcels are still in lawsuits or negotiations. The state Attorney General’s office denounced this abuse of eminent domain in a brief filed in July 2005 on behalf of a nearby property owner.

Fresno, California – The city’s redevelopment agency wants to significantly expand its authority to condemn property in the area southeast of Grizzlies Stadium, where the city envisions a large private development. The city currently has eminent domain authority over only half the property it wants to give to developer Forest City Enterprises.

Grand Terrace, California – In 1979, the entire city of Grand Terrace was declared blighted. City officials are now taking advantage of this outdated designation in order to build a shopping center and a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse on top of 16 acres of privately owned, residential land. All property owners on the site have sold except for Jo Stringfield, who worries that the Kelo decision will empower city officials to seize her home.

Grass Valley, California – 10 downtown properties are threatened by the South Auburn Street master plan, which calls for the tearing down of all one-story buildings and an apartment complex for a walkway of retail and restaurants. The owners of the Szechwan Chinese Restaurant and Ballerina Cleaners feel that they were duped into believing that the Planning Commission was taking their concerns into consideration.

La Mirada, California – The City’s Redevelopment Agency is attempting to acquire the 4-acre Alondra North Shopping Center and replace it with 44 single family homes. The city has acquired most of the properties in the shopping center. Brian Ilten operates a printing business in a building he co-owns in the center. Unwilling to sell, the City is threatening to take this property by eminent domain.

Lemon Grove, California – Officials are asking business and property owners in a 7-acre strip near the city’s northern entrance if they would be interested in participating in a proposed redevelopment plan for the area. The city has received a proposal to build new homes and office space there, and while the city has said it does not plan on seizing property for the project, one owner received a written offer from a developer who told her the city would condemn her property if she refused to sell.

Los Angeles, California – In May, the Los Angeles City Council approved a $325-million project at the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, including a fancy new 296-room W Hotel. Businesses to be displaced include the Bernard Luggage store, which has served the neighborhood for 55 years.

Los Angeles, California – On October 11, 2005, the City Council unanimously approved a redevelopment project for the 573 acres around the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, hoping that development will attract a National Football League team to the city. The plan renews the city’s ability to condemn property around the arena for housing, retail and entertainment.

Monrovia, California – City officials are initiating eminent domain proceedings against Bernard Buller to acquire the land he bought 22 years ago at the corner of Duarte Road and California Avenue. The city wants to build condominiums on his property, which now houses 67-year-old Buller’s hobby activities and two tenants.

Monterey Park, California – Acting as the city’s redevelopment agency, the city council is considering the use of eminent domain to condemn three commercial buildings to make way for Atlantic Times Square. The move would displace several family businesses, including a cell-phone shop and an accounting company, all to replace the property with luxury condominiums, other retail shops and a movie theater.

National City, California – The city’s redevelopment plan was recently upheld after small business owners objected to a blight analysis the city commissioned, which designated 86% of the acquisition area of the redevelopment zone as blighted. The preliminary proposal to expand the city’s condemnation powers over the businesses and vacant properties in the zone for future housing and retail development was approved in July 2005.

National City, California – City officials are using eminent domain to force three downtown property owners off of their land for a 24-story condominium project called Park Village at 11th Street and National City Blvd. The City is condemning a dry cleaner, a car lot, an auto repair business and a Community Youth Athletic Center.

National City, California – The Daily family leased its 41/2-acre block in the famed Mile of Cars auto park to Mossy Nissan, which wanted to purchase the land and expand. Once the Dailys entered into negotiations with Mossy, the dealership nonetheless went to the city and threatened to leave unless it condemned the property for them. The city obliged, fearing the loss of one of its lucrative businesses. On September 13, 2005, the Dailys sold their property to Mossy in a last minute deal, hoping to avert condemnation.

Oakland, California – The city of Oakland has condemned and recently evicted both Revelli Tire and Autohouse for a large housing development as part of the city-subsidized Uptown Project. John Revelli’s family has owned the tire shop property since 1949.

Ontario, California – The city has begun eminent domain proceedings against four property owners on Euclid Avenue to acquire the land for a residential development and park. In addition to the six businesses that will be forced out, the city is negotiating with three other property owners who will likely be condemned as well if they do not want to move.

Pittsburg, California – In November 2005, city officials approved one of the community’s most ambitious redevelopment efforts. The Black Diamond project, which aims at bringing commercial offices and housing to the city’s downtown area, will require the condemnation of the historic Scampini building—against the will of the owners. Developer AF Evans has refused to include the building in its plans.

Redwood City, California – Citizens for Accountability, a taxpayer group, is calling for a grand jury investigation of the city’s financing of a retail-cinema project that’s scheduled to open next year. In April 2004, Superior Court Judge Quentin Kopp ruled that the city unlawfully seized and razed private property for the project. The group alleges that the city financed the project illegally, misusing funds by lending $20 million to the redevelopment agency.

Riverside, California – In July 2005, the city council brought in Thrifty Oil Company to build a downtown, four-story medical building with restaurants and retail establishments. The only problem is that neither the City nor Thrifty owns the land for the proposed commercial project. The man who does own the property is an orthopedic surgeon who has already started construction on an office building of his own. City officials are still considering taking his redeveloped office building by eminent domain and handing it over to Thrifty—citing the need for development as justification for the taking.

Riverside, California – Hyrosen Properties, which owns a 13-acre strip mall at Adams Street and Highway 91, is competing with California Baptist University to redevelop its own property. Hyrosen wants to remodel the center without any financial assistance from the city, while Cal Baptist has proposed a $110 million project of shops, restaurants, offices, and a hotel, that could require millions in redevelopment funds. Hyrosen may face condemnation – for the eighth time since it built the plaza in 1967 – if the city chooses Cal Baptist’s proposal.

Rubidoux, California – Constance Clemmons is resisting the sale of her spacious home of 35 years on 1 1/2-acres for the Emerald Meadows Ranch development of homes and commercial space. The Riverside County Planning Commission approved the project in August, despite pleas from property owners to spare their homes. Eight homeowners originally resisted selling their properties, but now only three remain in negotiations.

Sacramento, California – Developers Moe Mohanna and Joe Zeiden have competing bids to develop the 700 and 800 blocks of K Street in Sacramento. Zeiden’s proposal requires the condemnation of up to 14 properties, most of which are owned by Mohanna, an Iranian immigrant who vows to fight any seizure of his property. City Council is trying to defuse the situation by splitting up the two blocks between the developers.

San Bernardino, California – In August 2004, the City Council voted to reinstate the power of eminent domain over 433 acres of homes in the Uptown and Central City neighborhoods for possible future private development.

San Diego, California – Ahmad Mesdaq’s elegant and profitable cigar and coffee bar, Gran Havana Cigar and Coffee Lounge, was condemned in June 2005 to make way for a Marriott Renaissance Hotel. Another Marriott is located within view of his property.

San Diego, California – The county of San Diego is suing the city of San Diego over the proposed redevelopment of the Grantville area near Mission Gorge. The county argues that the project is a misuse of the state’s Community Redevelopment Law because the properties within the project area are not blighted. In fact, property values in the Grantville area have risen 54.29% over the past five years.

San Diego, California – Officials in San Diego are using the threat of eminent domain to force the relocation of a 116-year-old family owned laundry company called Alsco to make way for condominiums and new retail.

San Diego, California – Business owners along El Cajon Boulevard between 69th and 70th streets are worried that the city may condemn their properties for future private development. A large developer has proposed a condominium complex on their properties, but rescinded the plan.

San Diego, California – The San Diego Model School Development Agency was created to steer the development around a new school planned in City Heights. In addition to the 120 homes that were demolished to make way for the school, the agency has now proposed acquiring 188 more homes on the surrounding 30 acres in order to build new apartments, condominiums, and townhomes. Residents like Jody Carey and Dennis Wood are furious that after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on improvements, their homes could be condemned.

San Jose, California – Under the city’s Strong Neighborhoods Initiative Redevelopment Project, Naglee Park – a neighborhood of million-dollar homes – and about 20 other downtown areas have been declared blighted. While the city has no imminent plans for the area, talk of a high-density housing complex coupled with the Kelo decision has homeowners worried.

San Pablo, California – On July 18, the City Council endorsed the condemnation of the Circle S Mobile Home Park and a Salvation Army store. The two properties are located in an 18-acre site that the city is trying to acquire for a housing development.

San Ramon, California – The city wants to re-establish its power of eminent domain over the 128-acre Crow Canyon Specific Plan area on San Ramon’s north side. Ted Mendelson owns Mendelson Auto Body Inc. on Beta Court, and is one of several business owners who fear a residential overlay on that street would result in condemnation of their properties in favor of expensive housing.

Santa Clarita, California – Many business owners’ shops in downtown Newhall could be leveled to make room for a proposed “pedestrian friendly” marketplace. City commissioners recently voted unanimously to recommend the plan to the council, and Senior Planner Jason Smisko said eminent domain could be an option to acquire the project site.

Santa Cruz, California – The redevelopment agency wants to seize Ron Lau’s property – the site of his family’s restaurant, two other businesses, and a hole in the ground caused by a 1989 earthquake – and replace it with condominiums. Dedicated to developing a “green” project, Lau has presented a number of proposals to the city for the vacant portion of his property, but the City Council has rejected all of them, opting to seize the property instead. Lau and his two children are fighting the condemnation.

Vasalia, California – City officials used eminent domain to take ownership of a downtown theater last year, a building that was in escrow to be sold to Restoration Inc, a north Visalia church. The city decided the theater should be used as a playhouse instead of a church and condemned the property to get its way. In November 2005, a judge ruled that city’s use of eminent domain was legal, calling “the arts” a public use—even though a deal had already been forged by the property owner and the church.

Woodland, California –Yolo County recently attempted to seize a $60 – $100 million ranch by eminent domain so that the county could continue the ranch’s current farming practices, but under public ownership. The taking was proposed to be financed by a local tribe’s gambling profits. A coalition of farming and taxpayer groups fought against the condemnation. In September, 2006, after 2 years of legal battles, the County agreed to give up their claim to the ranch.

Yorba Linda, California – The city has purchased 36 homes, businesses, and other properties with plans to pursue at least nine more for a residential and retail project in its town center. The new development will transform the rural, tranquil neighborhood into the most dense area in Yorba Linda. Property owners fear that the Kelo decision will aid city officials in their acquisition efforts.

For more California and national examples of eminent domain abuse, visit www.castlecoalition.org.

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