Will San Franciscans Get to Vote on Eminent Domain Plan?


by Timothy Sandefur

San Francisco has approved a controversial redevelopment plan for an area of the city called Bayview/Hunter's Point. The plan includes the use of eminent domain, and local residents got together to protest the plan, by signing a referendum petition. It’s hard to get enough signatures on one of these petitions, but these people managed to get enough signatures to revoke the city’s plan to use eminent domain to take their property.

But the San Francisco City Attorney's office has declared the petitions invalid, on the grounds that the petitions did not include the full text of every document incorporated by reference in the ordinance being repealed. What that means is, the people circulating the petitions were supposed to hand out copies of the city's entire "general plan"—a document the size of a phone book—for people to read before signing.

The City Attorney's position is simply not supported in the law. The law states that the full text of the ordinance being repealed must appear on the petition—not the full text of every document referred to by that ordinance. If that were the law, it would be easy for officials to prevent anything from being petitioned against, by simply referring to some enormous document that would be too difficult to circulate to voters.

Pacific Legal Foundation co-founder Ron Zumbrun has more in this column in the Daily Recorder.