Celebrating a victory for property owners in California

March 07, 2012 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

This morning, I was among the speakers at the “final” meeting of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform, an organization led for years by California Assemblyman Chris Norby to fight back against the Eminent Domain Industry in California. Late last year, Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation to abolish the state’s Redevelopment Agencies—which had long ago become nests of corruption and cronyism, stealing property from homeowners and small businesses and transferring the property to politically well-connected developers for their own private profit. After decades of activism, MORR members were celebrating their victory over RDAs and planning what steps to take to prevent them from returning.

For me, the highlight was the presentation by Pasadena attorney Chris Sutton, one of the state’s leading experts on eminent domain, who presented us all with copies of a beautiful poster his daughter made announcing the fundamental truth that “Property rights are human rights.” It now proudly hangs on my wall. But, Sutton warned, the abolition of RDAs is only one important step toward restoring the security of property rights in the Golden State.

A group of neighbors who successfully resisted Daly City’s attempts to use eminent domain for private development rounded up the meeting with an emotional presentation to Assemblyman Norby.

Of course, the big danger is that the RDAs will return in some form—or that “successor agencies” that are supposed to wind down the RDAs will instead replace them with some new version of for-profit eminent domain. MORR’s members are heading to the capitol building today to urge officials to make sure that doesn’t happen. But it will take oversight and possibly litigation.

For decades, California redevelopment was an embarrassment and a curse, that allowed the state’s development robber barons to use public power for their own private profit—and that propagated the falsehood that development cannot exist without government oversight. In fact, the best route to economic development is for government to provide strong protections for private property, so that people can enjoy the fruits of their labor and pursue happiness in peace and security. This state has for too long allowed economic decisions to be made, not by consumers and producers, not by customers and sellers, not by citizens exercising free choice, but by bureaucrats who think they have special insight into how society ought to look. It’s time now to give freedom a chance—and to provide permanent security to property owners throughout the state.