The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

The student media organization of California State University Northridge

Daily Sundial

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Future laws damaging land value may be halted

In case you do not know, eminent domain is when the California state government seizes private property in order to be able to construct schools, roads, malls and projects that may or may not benefit the public at the expense of the owner’s constitutionally-protected right to own property.

And this power can be taken away just as easily by voting “Yes” on Proposition 90, but it might mean giving property owners the right to sue in response to future laws that they may deem as damaging to their land’s value.

From the get-go, let it be clear that the state government pays owners before it seizes their property and has only done so sparingly in the past. Usually, it acquires private land if owners are willing to sell. But if both parties cannot reach a price they can agree on, the state can still take it away. This alone warrants that state politicians be stripped of this power, which they can now use to sell seized land for development to phone companies.

While all forms of land would be subject to acquisition, including buildings and ownership of companies, so are small businesses and people’s homes, and they would have little recourse. In other words, the state could cut these owners a check to pay for a location where their children attend school and where they have made lifelong friends.

Under Proposition 90, the only way that private property could be seized by the state is if it was continually utilized for public use or if all of the land proved to be a public nuisance. If land is not actively used for public use, it must be sold back to its former owners, and every part of it must be a public nuisance for it to be seized by the state. These circumstances, of course, would first have to be considered by California courts.

The measure, if passed, would also require that owners be compensated for any new law they feel causes their property a “substantial” economic loss. But the measure does not define the term “substantial.” It would be entirely up to property owners and finally the courts to decide what it means, which could tie up the state acquisition of land in lawsuits for years. If property owners win these cases, they could make off with a lot of state loot.

This is the argument that the measure’s detractors make. They are basically crying wolf. What they do not seem to understand is that the proposition will stifle politicians’ power to violate the constitutionally-protected right to own property should they decide to boost the economy by building a luxury hotel over a small family business, as they have done.

Also, state politicians would be discouraged from making any new, unnecessary laws that might be interpreted as harmful to private land and might result in a lawsuit.

Let it not be mistaken, the California state government should have the power to do what it has to do to serve the public interest, so long as it does not supersede federal law. This is not an entirely anti-government opinion piece.

If anything, Proposition 90 allows the state government to retain its power to seize private land should it be needed to protect public health and safety or during a declared state of emergency, whatever that entails.

When you cast your ballot this Tuesday, remember that this measure is not about whether or not a governmental body should be allowed to have this power.

Proposition 90 is about whether or not a governmental body should use it.

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