California state and local governments
would no longer be able to seize a home
to make way for private development
under an assemblyman's proposal Monday
to change the state's eminent domain
Assembly Constitutional Amendment
8 by Assemblyman Hector De La Torre,
D-South Gate, would also prevent a
government from taking a small business,
unless it was part of a plan to get rid
of blight and the business was given a
chance to participate.
"These measures would be the first of
their kind in California," De La Torre
said at a press conference.
Critics immediately denounced the
proposal as little more than window
dressing, an attempt to trick voters
into believing that abuses of the
state's eminent domain laws are being
"I don't think they really want
reform," said Assemblywoman Mimi
Walters, R-Laguna Niguel. "I will be
totally against it, as will my
The constitutional amendment would
need a two-thirds vote in both houses to
be put on the ballot next year,
requiring support from both parties.
The two sides of the eminent domain
debate are maneuvering for position in
the aftermath of the narrow defeat last
year of Proposition 90.
De La Torre's proposal joined a field
that already included two competing
initiatives in circulation, one by the
League of California Cities and the
other by the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers
Association and others.
Proposition 90, which fell short with
48 percent of the vote in November,
would have barred governments from using
eminent domain to take property for use
by a private developer.
But it contained a more controversial
provision requiring governments to
compensate property owners when
regulations and laws resulted in
"substantial" economic losses.
Now some of the opponents of
Proposition 90 are lining up behind the
De La Torre proposal as a sensible
approach to refining eminent domain law.
They say it protects homeowners without
driving up government costs or blocking
the passage of environmental laws and
other regulations that benefit the
Backers of Proposition 90 "claimed it
was all about trying to protect private
homes," said Tom Adams, board chair of
the California League of Conservation
Voters. "We're now standing up and
trying to address that directly."
ACA 8 also protects businesses with
fewer than 25 workers, which might not
have the resources to stand up for
themselves in eminent domain
proceedings, backers said.
An accompanying bill, Assembly Bill
887, changes how small businesses are
compensated if they have to relocate or
fold. Businesses that could not relocate
would get 125 percent of fair market
But Marko Mlikotin, president of the
California Alliance to Protect Private
Property Rights, said the changes would
make little difference.
"The way it's drafted will give
Californians the impression that eminent
domain reform has come to California,
when in fact the status quo is
protected," he said.
Critics said the proposal would do
nothing to protect churches, farmland or
investment property. Many small business
with more than 25 workers would not be
covered, they said. And even those that
met the definition could still easily be
included in an area designated as
"blighted," subjecting them to
condemnation to make way for shopping
centers or condominiums.
Supporters of the De La Torre package
counter that the initiative proposed by
the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association
and others suffers from many of the same
flaws as Proposition 90, such as
hampering governments' ability to buy
open space or regulate neighborhood