Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Canada Declares U.S. Blighted

News from the not so distant future,

Canada Declares United States Blighted

Art Vandeley-Staff Writer

Canada, long concerned with it's dirty, hard drinking, overweight, natural resource wasting, Mexico touching neighbor to the south, has declared the entire continental United States blighted.

"We have been looking to redevelopment the US for quite some time," explained the Canadian prime minister, Paul Edgar Philippe Martin. "The entire territory is in serious blight and this is the most prudent course of action."

Besides having four first names, Martin looks forward to cleaning up the former super power. Plagued by dirty streets, bad food and unsavory people commonly known as "rednecks" and "yuppies", Martin cites that the time is ripe to bulldoze America's dilapidated cities in favor for newer and quainter shopping villages.

American's will be giving compensation for their land acquired via eminent domain. "They early American settlers gave the indigenous Indians shiny beads for payment for the land, so we figure that will be good enough once again."

Monday, May 30, 2005

Supreme Court Update

There is a Supreme Court case right now that might stop all eminent domain stuff and all projects like it, if they choose to make a broad decision. It was already argued, so we're just waiting for them to issue a decision.

Here is a part of the oral argument that looks kind of promising. Mr. Horton is the attorney for the City that is trying to take people's land for no purpose other than economic development:


JUSTICE SCALIA: What this lady wants is not more money. No amount of money is going to satisfy her. She is living in this house, you know, her whole life and she does not want to move. She said I'll move if it's being taken for a public use, but by God, you're just giving it to some other private individual because that individual is going to pay more taxes. I--it seems to me that's, that's an objection in principle, and an objection in principle that the public use requirement of the Constitution seems to be addressed to.

MR. HORTON: But as I say, Your Honor, if public use and public purpose are the same thing, which they are unless you're going to overrule Holmes' decisions from 1905 and 1906.

JUSTICE SCALIA: It wouldn't the first of Holmes' decisions to be overruled.

JUSTICE GINSBURG: Well, I think you'd have to take some substantial chunks of language out of Berman as well, because Justice Douglas spoke very expansively in that case.

MR. HORTON: Plus I think Holmes was right when he said that to say that the public actually has to use the property is not an appropriate meaning of the phrase, so I would not think you'd want to revisit that case, even if you want to revisit some other of Holmes' decisions.

JUSTICE SCALIA: Mr. Horton, I'm not proposing that the state has to use the property itself. I'm simply proposing that its use not be a private use which has incidental benefits to the state. That is not enough to justify use of the condemnation power.

MR. HORTON: Well, I don't think--

JUSTICE SCALIA: You can give it to a private entity, you can give it to a railroad, to some public utility. But the use that it's put to by that railroad and public utility is a public use. That's why it's a public utility.
It's quite different to say you can give it to a private individual simply because that private individual is going to hire more people and pay more taxes. That, it seems to me, just washes out entirely the distinction between private use and public use.

MR. HORTON: Well, I don't agree, Your Honor, because I think, you know, I think if a person is without a job and if a person is not able to get basic services that they need from the town because the town can't afford it, that's just as important as a trains running on time or eliminating blight.


You can see the two points of view here: Scalia and the more conservative judges are into property rights, Ginsburg and the more liberal judges are into preserving the power of government to help out poor communities. The real problem with the latter argument is drawing a line: where and how do you draw a line between blight and non-blight? To what extent can the government condemn private property in order to fund basic services for those who can't afford them?

The 5th Amendment says private property can only be taken for public use. But the City's argument, that is supported by current case law, is that public use and public purpose are one in the same. The landowner's attorney pointed out that if they are one in the same, then there is no meaningful distinction between condemnation for public use and private use (and a taking for private use is unconstitutional).

The Court is basically 4 to 4 with 1 swing vote in terms of conservative versus liberal, so it could definitely go either way.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Village of the Dorks

"The official symbol of Seaport Village, a 45-foot-high replica of the turn-of-the-century Mukilteo Lighthouse of Everett, Washington is taller than any other building in the village."

You can't make this stuff up, lol.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Blight Makes Right?


Here is an excerpt:

All a city need do to justify creation or expansion of a redevelopment area is to declare it "blighted".

This is easily done. State law is so vague that most anything has been designated as "blight". Parkland, new residential areas, professional baseball stadiums, oil fields, shopping centers, orange groves, open desert and dry riverbeds have all been designated as "blight" for redevelopment purposes.

To make a finding of blight, a consultant is hired to conduct a study. New redevelopment areas are largely driven by city staff, who choose the consultant with the approval of the city council. Consultants know their job is not to determine if there is blight, but to declare blighted whatever community conditions may be.

Blight has been discovered in some of California's most affluent cities. Indian Wells, a guard-gated community with an average $210,000 household income, has two separate redevelopment areas.

Understandably, many homeowners fear an official designation of blight will hurt property values. Small property owners fear redevelopment's use of eminent domain. Building permits can also be denied if an applicant does not conform precisely to the redevelopment plan. So, local citizen groups often challenge the blight findings in court. Others are challenged by counties and school districts which stand to lose major property tax revenue if a new redevelopment area is created.

Recent state legislation has tightened definitions of blight, particularly those involving open and agricultural land. Yet, enforcement is lax, legal challenges costly and most agencies were already created long before recent reform attempts.

Once the consultant's blight findings are ratified, a city may create or expand a redevelopment area. Voter approval is never asked.

Citizens can force a vote by gathering 10% of the signatures of all registered voters within 30 days of the council action. Where this has occurred, redevelopment nearly always loses by wide margins (rejected in Montebello by 82%, La Puente by 67%, Los Alamitos by 55%, Half Moon Bay by 76%, for example).

The requirements to force a vote are difficult to meet, however. In the vast majority of cases, a popular vote is never held. Rather, the consultant's findings of blight are quickly certified. A law firm is then retained to draw up the paperwork and defend against legal challenges.

A growing number of law firms specialize in redevelopment. Like the consultants, they are members of the California Redevelopment Association, a Sacramento-based lobby. They are listed in the CRA's directory and advertise in its newsletter. Their livelihood depends on the aggressive use of redevelopment and increasingly imaginative definitions of blight.

To eliminate alleged blight, a redevelopment agency, once created, has four extraordinary powers held by no other government authority:

  1. ) Tax Increment: A redevelopment agency has the exclusive use of all increases in property tax revenues ("tax increment") generated in its designated project areas.
  2. ) Bonded Debt: An agency has the power to sell bonds secured against future tax increment, and may do so without voter approval.
  3. ) Business Subsidies: An agency has the power to give public money directly to developers and other private businesses in the form of cash grants, tax rebates, free land or public improvements.
  4. ) Eminent Domain: An agency has expanded powers to condemn private property, not just for public use, but to transfer to other private owners.
These four powers represent an enormous expansion of government intrusion into our traditional system of private property and free enterprise. Let us carefully consider the costs of this power and if it has done anything to eliminate real blight

To read more click here

Would Redevelopment Hurt Tourism?

Here is an e-mail I received from my friend in central California:

Just read your blog; VERY scary. The ironic thing to me is that myself and others up here see Leucadia as the last bastion of old-school, down-home, beach funkiness. We come down there every year and spend our money in the local restaurants, surfshops, markets, etc. for the exact reason that it is NOT Carlsbad (blechhhhhh) and still retains some culture and character.

Man, if Leucadia is blighted, what does that make Morro Bay? Straight up ghetto?


Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Keeping our tax money in Leucadia

Redevelopment is a good idea because Leucadia has the potential to keep a million dollars (pronounced "meeeeeelliiiiiooooon") per year in tax money in Leucadia instead of it going to the state fund.


It is estimated that to finally solve the flooding problems in the coast highway corridor it will take at least $30 million and possibly up to $40 million.


Another reason why taking the bus sucks.

See the Blight from Space!

Google Satellite Map of "blighted" Leucadia

Monday, May 16, 2005

The Future of Leucadia?

I'm pretty sure this is a rendering of the El Camino Real area of Encinitas, ha-ha.

City Officials Condemn Neighborhood to Benefit Private Developers and Businesses

My friend Brooks, lifelong Leucadian surfer and law student, sent me this interesting link to pacificlegal.org about an eminent domain case in Connecticut:

Pacific Legal Dot Org Website

City Officials Condemn Neighborhood to Benefit Private Developers and Businesses
Kelo v. City of New London

Status: PLF filed an amicus brief in support of petition which was granted on 9/28/04. PLF filed amicus brief on the merits in 12/04. Oral argument held 2/22/05; awaiting decision.

Contact: Timothy Sandefur
Phone: (916) 419-7111

Through eminent domain, government can “take” private property away from its owners no matter how dear that property is to them. However, condemnation power is subject to constitutional limits which must be rigorously enforced to prevent governments from so easily redistributing property from one private individual to another, or from one group to another, just to reward political favorites. That’s why the U.S. Constitution allows government to condemn property only for a “public use” (e.g., building schools and roads), and not for private uses. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in earlier cases that practically any general benefit to the public is a “public use.” This vague standard has given rise to countless cases in which perfectly good land is condemned for private benefit, but under the guise of “public use.”

In this case, city officials in New London, Connecticut, condemned a 29-acre neighborhood and plan to lease the property for $1 per year to several private developers, including the Pfizer pharmaceutical company, plus a business center, hotels, etc. Landowners challenged the condemnation, but the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the generalized public benefit is enough of a “public use” to satisfy the federal constitution’s public use clause.

PLF is supporting the landowners as amicus curiae in their petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court.click here to read PLF’s amicus brief.

While I don't believe that the Encinitas city council is vapid enough is raze Leucadia for a Costco or Wal*Mart, I am fearful that a corporate soulless sellout developer with poor architectual standards will destroy the area.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Help Us Ty Pennington, you are our only hope.

ABC's mascot Ty Pennington and the cast of Extreme Makeover Home Edition razed and rebuilt a home for the Wofford family in Encinitas last year. Maybe he can return and save Leucadia?

Why Blighted is Bad

When the government declares an area blighted that gives them the power of eminent domain, the incredible power to cherry pick who can stay and who can go. They can force you to sell your property and develop it anyway way they want.

This clearly violates the ownership society concept.

Worse, the term "blighted" is a slap in the face to everyone who has grown up in Leucadia, everyone who works in Leucadia, everyone who owns a business in Leucadia, every home owner in Leucadia, and generally insults anyone who had contributed to the community over the years.

The stigma of living and working in a blighted community does more harm than good. The timing seems especially bizarre since more great little restaurants and markets like Leucadia Sushi, Le Petit Calypso, Wakei, Just Peachy Market, El Torito Market etc. have opened recently. My wife and I personally spend hundreds of hard earned dollars at these places. We are not wealthy trustfunders. We work!

It's also incredible to think that the Gifford's are selling their classic Neptune Ave. cliffside home, The Roundhouse, for 6.5 million dollars. This is a blighted community? Roundhouse is walking distance to Leucadia Donut Shop, the heart of this so-called blight.


Back in the day eminent domain was meant for big public works like railroads and freeways. These days cheeky city councils across America are using it to build shopping malls with their developer golf buddies. Scary stuff. If your home is due for a fresh coat of paint you may want to get that taken care of or you could be driven out.

The city (and the residents in theory) get to keep more tax money collected from the state after an area is declared blighted and redeveloped. At first this sounds great. But eminent domain is so scary that special promises and language would be required from the 5 city council members to gain my trust.


Yes, it would be awesome if our taxes stayed local. But Encinitas isn't hurting for coin. The city has a surplus of funds! Longtime residents will notice that in the last 5 years just about every square inch of land has been transformed into a yuppie wonderland of identical stucco, red shingled McMansions. This hardcore speed sprawl has increased our tax base (and caused a heck of a lot of traffic jams in our once sleepy community).

Leucadia is hardly blighted. It is a thriving community with many restaurants and shops. There are still a few empty lots with weeds and flowers, a rarity in sprawl*mart southern California, and the city council is licking their chops at the chance to take those lots for themselves.

Downtown Encinitas didn't look much better than Leucadia a few years ago. But the city rallied some funds together and really fixed things up. It looks great! And they did it without declaring the area blighted.

Why the double standard?

Response from City Council

I was surprised that 4 of the 5 council members replied to my e-mail. I figured it would be deleted and I would be labeled a disgruntled party pooper.

Christy Guerin, a former local sheriff, seemed especially upset with me. Here is her response:

Dear Mr. St. Pierre,

I am saddened and disappointed that you have so much anger about the Council's discussion surrounding redevelopment in the Leucadia area. It seems that you were not at the meeting or you would have realized that this issue was brought to the Council by a group of citizens in Leucadia, otherwise we would not have felt compelled to have the discussion.
You're right that in certain definitions of "blight", it does not apply to Leucadia or anywhere else in Encinitas, however there are serious infrastructure deficiencies in Leucadia that citizens want fixed. This redevelopment issue was thought to be one of the ways that the city could finance this enormous financial need. We agreed that is was definitely worth the discussion.
You're reference to "land snatch" and the possible injury to you and your wife is very sad. Their is no intention of using redevelopment to "snatch" anyone's land. It is also important to understand that the Council already has the authority to use eminent domain if we find it necessary. In the six years that I have been here, we have never used that authority. There is nothing in Leucadia that needs to be "snatched" as that kind of change is not necessary, the community is wonderful the way it is. The needs are very large internal fixes that would only enhance the already terrific lifestyle that is enjoyed there.
To close, there are no "worms" here, only thoughtful consideration. If you need any more information regarding our intent, please call Gina, the council's assistant, at 633-2618 to set up an appointment to speak with me. I do hope to see you soon.

Christy Guerin
Deputy Mayor
City of Encinitas

It was great that Christy Guerin replied. She is wrong about one thing though, several houses were bulldozed via eminent domain to extend Leucadia Blvd. into "New Encinitas". Yay! I can get to Target faster! I'm sure that our neighbors who lost their homes are thrilled.

By the way, the reason I missed the meeting: I had to work late. Sorry.

I wonder if all the other 6500+ Leucadians made it to the meeting?

Friday, May 13, 2005

My letter to the Coast News & City Council

Dear Everyone,

Leucadia is NOT blighted. Neglected maybe, blighted no. Since when does a blighted area have multi-million dollar homes for sale? All our sweet beloved Leucadia needs is a little TLC (tender loving care). It does not need an extreme makeover. Leucadia just needs some sidewalk repair and street lights and whatnot. Leucadia does not need new fake breast implants and a platinum blond wig (Carlsbad I am looking in your direction).

In reality blighted means LAND SNATCH.

This is a classic scam, the city neglects an area for years so they can seize it for themselves later.

Politicians be warned (yes Dan Dalager, you are a politician, sorry), any attempts at land snatching in Leucadia will be met with fierce resistance. I will not let the people I voted for stab me and my wife in the back and force us out of our home. There will be no land snatching in Leucadia without a fight. Leucadians will unite, we will not go away. Land snatching is anti-american and land snatchers are anti-patriotic. Any city council member and paid consultant thinking about land snatching will find themselves on television trying to explain why a population of surfers and Mexicans equals blighted. A big can of worms has been opened.

See all of you real soon.

Jean-Paul St. Pierre
Leucadia, Ca