County supervisor: Eminent domain doesn't promote economic development


Chris Norby, a county supervisor in Orange County, California, argues in an Orange County Register op-ed that eminent domain doesn't promote economic development, and often has the opposite effect:

Widespread use of eminent domain by cities has demolished whole neighborhoods and destroyed tight-knit communities. "Urban renewal" became a catch phrase for instant slums and urban deserts created through massive use of eminent domain.

Widespread eminent domain and billions in subsidies for commercial development have produced no net economic benefits, according to the 1998 Public Policy Institute of California study, Subsidizing Redevelopment in California.

Half-empty "ghost malls" include the Hollywood-Highland center, now worth a quarter of its original value. Costa Mesa's Triangle Square, built on land seized by eminent domain, now sits virtually empty.

Anaheim residents still mourn the complete destruction of their historic downtown during the 1970s by the redevelopment agency.

By contrast, cities like Orange, Fullerton and Santa Ana have respected the rights of small property owners and have thriving downtowns.

Having learned from its past, the Anaheim City Council has now sworn off the use of eminent domain for private development.

The new Platinum Triangle is thriving because the city is allowing greater land use freedom and flexibility - not dictating land ownership or land use decisions from above.

The role of government is to protect public safety and provide public services. It is not the role of any government to micromanage land use or dictate who can - and cannot - own property. That is the role of free enterprise, where there is a free exchange of goods and services on a voluntary basis.

Earlier in the same piece, Norby makes some points about the "compensation" paid for condemned property:

"Fair market value" must still be paid, but this is meaningless in a forced sale. People have strong sentimental attachments to their home and neighbors.

A small business owner has loyal local customers. They cannot be compensated by a theoretical "fair market value."

One of the hidden costs of urban renewal is the destruction of the social capital that develops in a neighborhood over decades. You can buy everyone in the old neighborhood an equivalent house somewhere else, but you can't rematerialize the neighborhood -- and all the ways neighbors come to take care of each other -- somewhere else.

(Via PrestoPundit, with a hat tip to reader Mel Rippy.)

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on July 21, 2005 11:54 PM.

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