February 25, 2011

Glendale property owner sells under threat of eminent domain

By Glendale property owner sells under threat of eminent domain

Author: Timothy Sandefur

Glendale businessman Ray Patel has decided to sell the Golden Key Hotel to developer Rick Caruso, builder of the Americana at Brand megamall. Two weeks ago, I joined with some of PLF’s property rights allies to protest the city’s plans to use eminent domain to simply take the hotel and give it to Mr. Caruso.

Interestingly, I’ve had several emails and conversations with people who see this as evidence that Mr. Patel was engaged in some sort of nefarious scheme for profit—that his protests against eminent domain were only a clever plan to jack up the price he’d end up settling for. I find this accusation bizarre for a couple reasons.

First, the law on eminent domain in California is so bad now—thanks largely to the fraudulent Proposition 99—that a property owner has no realistic chance of defending his property in court if a city decides to condemn it for a private developer. Under California law today, government can seize a business owner’s property at virtually any time for more or less any reason, and courts will rarely do anything about it. It’s unreasonable to expect Mr. Patel, who has a family to support, to sacrifice himself in what would almost certainly be a losing, and time-wasting court battle. But surely he can still protest the city’s abuse of eminent domain and try his best to insist that the government respect his rights. If a robber points a gun at you, it’s perfectly legitimate for you to curse him out—and then give him the money so he doesn’t shoot you. That’s all that’s going on here.

Second, the reason we oppose the abuse of eminent domain is precisely because we believe it should be a property owner’s right to decide for himself whether, when, and for how much to sell his property if he chooses. If Mr. Patel decides to sell his hotel, that’s his right—and that’s just the point of all of this. While it’s sad to see the threat of eminent domain used against a hardworking businessman like this, it’s his right to decide what to do with his land. It should be everyone’s right. Sadly, California law regularly disregards this right.

We wish Mr. Patel all the best. And we hope Californians remember how vulnerable they are to the state’s out of control redevelopment agencies.

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