April 29, 2011
The Institute for Justice Wins California Blight Case
The Institute for Justice helped the owner of a small boxing gym in National City, California file suit challenging the municipality's redevelopment plan. National City intended to declare 700 properties as "blighted," level the entire area, and then construct new condominiums. However, a trial court in San Diego found that National City lacked a legal basis for the blight declaration. Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy notes that the "National City case is a particularly egregious example of the widespread phenomenon under which local governments use of dubious blight designations to condemn property and transfer it to politically influential developers and other interest groups. The City declared a vast area to be “blighted” on the basis of extremely dubious evidence, and then refused to even make the evidence available for public scrutiny." Here's the IJ's press release. And here's their video on the case:
Many are trumpeting this case as a victory for post-Kelo state-level reforms. Before jumping on that bandwagon, I think it's important to note that the Kelo Court, for all the grief the its taken, probably would have come out the same way on this case. Stevens' opinion takes process seriously. If National City was as loosey-goosey with then blight designation as Somin and other indicate, then it doesn't get by Stevens (or Kennedy). Kelo isn't perfect, but it didn't wipe-out property rights.
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