Winning in California

Last Thursday April 21, 2011, Steven Denton, San Diego Superior Court Judge, overthrew National City’s 2007 renewal of its redevelopment plan. This plan had given the city eminent domain power over an area that encompassed 692 properties. This is a big win!

The ruling came about because of a suit filed by the Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC), which runs a youth boxing gym. The gym’s attorney is from the Institute for Justice based in Arlington Virginia, which is a nonprofit group that disputes eminent domain powers. The main argument the gym’s attorneys had with the 2007 plan was that the city abused its powers of eminent domain by designating the area as blighted without giving proper documentation and not allowing sufficient time for them to object.
In Denton’s fifty page ruling he stated, “Because most or all of the conditions cited as showing dilapidation or deterioration are minor maintenance issues, the court cannot determine with reasonable certainty the existence or extent of buildings rendered unsafe due to dilapidation or deterioration.” The City responded with the argument that they “tried” to find the gym a new location and they believe they gave them ample amount of time to respond.
National City wanted to make way for a 24-story, mixed-use condominium project. The CYAC was built for keeping local at-risk kids out of gangs. Clemente Casillas, the CYAC President, said, “I hope National City does the right thing now and throws in the towel so we can get back to focusing all our attention on helping to grow the kids in our community.  The city can have redevelopment, but that has to be done through private negotiation, not by government force.”
This is great news for people in California. This is the very first case interpreting the changes to the law since the 2007 response ruling to the Kelo decision. Dana Berliner, a senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, said, “This decision will go a long way in protecting Californians throughout the state against eminent domain abuse.”