Turf Battle

September 01, 2006 | By PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION

The Los Angeles City Beat has this story about eminent domain abuse in L.A., including the story of the Bernard Luggage Store at the corner of Hollywood and Vine (a case in which the Pacific Legal Foundation filed a brief in support of the property owner, Bob Blue).

Two major developers, Legacy Partners and Gatehouse, have teamed up to propose a new $500 million project, including a four-star, 300-room W Hotel, nearly 62,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space, 150 condos, and 375 rental apartments–but to do it, they'll have to clear out nearly 30 small businesses from a 4.6-acre site along Vine Street. Including Bernard Luggage.

Most of the business owners accepted payouts and moved on. But Blue owned his building, which also houses a nail salon and an exotic collectibles store, and had every right to stay put. Or so he thought, until the U.S. Supreme Court upended the Constitution in June 2005, and ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that state and local governments can seize homes to make way for private development under the principle of eminent domain.

That ruling meant that Blue–and thousands of small-business owners like him from coast to coast–suddenly saw that their livelihoods or homes could be taken away and handed out as political favors. But Blue has proven to be a tenacious fighter.

"For us, it's never been about the money; it's about principle and property rights, the given rights that our forefathers had established," says Ziggy Kruse, sales manager for Bernard Luggage, whom Blue chose to speak on his behalf since he was engaged in ongoing negotiations with the city and developers.

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