Thursday, April 06, 2006

City Council Attempts To Justify Eminent Domain

San Ramon City Council

The San Ramon City Council meeting and the Redevelopment Agency meeting held on March 28, 2006 was filled with speeches from the City Attorney, Byron Athan and members of the San Ramon City Council, Mayor H. Abram Wilson and Councilmember David E. Hudson.

The City Attorney, Byron Athan gave a speech about how Eminent Domain has been around since the beginning of our country. The use of eminent domain was limited to public works projects such as roads, canals, and dams. Under the Eminent Domain passed in the redevelopment Agency amendment however, it allows for a much more encompassing use of eminent domain. As time has gone on, Eminent Domain has been used by other cities to do all sorts of things. See: Kelo v. New London. The attorney mentioned that one city had even used Eminent Domain to take over a "Private Golf Course." The attorney said he could not see this council using the eminent domain tool that way in the foreseeable future but felt it would be a good tool to have as, in his analogy, that being a "life-preserver."

Mayor H. Abram Wilson got into a tizzy when he accused certain groups of spreading false statements and half-truths concerning eminent domain. He said, "This is San Ramon, This is not Maine, this is not San Jose or San Francisco..."

Here's The Deal Mayor

Councilmember David E. Hudson, stated, "Eminent Domain is just another tool in our quiver, we do not intend to use it."

At this point, Mayor Wilson spoke up and said, "Eminent Domain is too expensive for the city to use. We would have to pay everyone's legal fees."

Councilmember Hudson also stated and clarified that this passage of Eminent Domain for the Redevelopment Agency encompasses all areas the Redevelopment Agency has jurisdiction over. He pointed out that there are instances where Redevelopment Agency Eminent Domain might and should be used instead of the Eminent Domain available to the city.

One local property owner spoke out in favor of Eminent Domain, and said he "was not scared of Eminent Domain." This in contrast to all of the other thriving business owners and property owners in the Crow Canyon Specific Plan redevelopment area that spoke out against Eminent Domain at other Redevelopment Agency meetings. This group had a letter read into the records at this March 8, City Council Meeting opposing Eminent Domain.

What Does This Mean For San Ramon?

With the unanimous passage of the San Ramon Redevelopment Agency Amendment, City Council now has at their disposal use of the Eminent Domain Tool. If they never intend to use it, why on earth would they have had to pass it now? There were other options. Council could have passed the amendment without including Eminent Domain. If there was ever a need for Eminent Domain in the future the City Council could have addressed it at that future time.

As Councilman Dave Hudson pointed out, the Eminent Domain Tool now covers a wide area.

This tool is more like a hammer over the head of all San Ramon businesses and property owners than a life-preserver. At anytime, the Redevelopment Agency can expand their domain. We can only hope that at least two Councilmembers in the future restrict the use of the Eminent Domain tool. That might be a false San Ramon hope... Just look at some of the stories about other cities like San Jose having implemented Eminent Domain and having expanded their use of the Redevelopment Agency, Rezoning, and this tool as time went on.

Other Links And Stories:

Eminent Domain Watch

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