Saturday, December 26, 2009
In a bit of international land use news comes this story from the Associated Press: Doomed China Restaurant Hires Live-In Protestor.
BEIJING -- Wanted: One live-in protester, $146 a month, no days off.
When the managers of a Beijing restaurant marked for demolition were too busy to fight it, they posted an Internet ad and hired a stranger to stay there around the clock. The job seems to be a first for China, where frenzied urban construction has led to violent evictions, protests and even suicide.
Apparently the issue of forced demolition to make way for redevelopment is gaining traction in China due to recent trends:
China has struggled for years with the issue of forced evictions. But some say the violent protests against forced evictions have increased this year, as a massive government stimulus plan has made loans for construction easier. Under law, land seizures are meant to be for public interest projects, but angry citizens have protested evictions meant to make way for shopping malls and luxury apartments.
It's not clear how many Chinese have been affected by forced evictions. But the Beijing restaurant is not far from the area where rights groups say perhaps 1 million people were kicked out of properties to make way for last year's Olympic venues. Next door, a separate demolition project has left a patch of rubble the size of a football field.
Of course, we have heated controversies here in the US when people are forced to give up their land for redevelopment projects. But this isn't like a Kelo situation or an Atlantic Yards, where government involvement lends the legitimating public-use rationale to projects that will be led by private developers; in China these controversies seem to be purely private-to-private transfers. It would be interesting to see the text of the China's takings law referred to in the article. In the case of the Fish Castle Restaurant Bar in the story, the restaurant owners are being forced out of a lease apparently without compensation because the landlord wants to make way for a shopping center with apartments (mixed-use urbanism?). The story involves the live-in protestor-for-hire and thuggish tactics by the would-be developer.
Eminent domain and compensation laws may differ around the globe, but the conflict between putting property to its highest use and the individual's desire to protect his or her property appears to be more universal.