Politicians, city planners, and developers have long argued that without the power to seize property from unwilling sellers economic development would grind to a halt. In theory, greedy property owners could hold entire projects hostage by demanding unreasonable prices for pivotal lots.
California dissolved its redevelopment agencies earlier this year, and the dystopia that is life without eminent domain for private development has come to pass. And so projects requiring land assembly—like the expansion of San Joaquin Community Hospital in Bakersfield—have fallen flat.
Except not. The hospital purchased 11 properties and built around those they could not buy. Via The Bakersfield Californian:
"It would've been just nice for the aesthetics of the campus to not have those two buildings on the corners like that," said [Hospital Vice President Jarrod McNaughton], referring to the taco place at the northeast corner of Chester and 26th and the gun shop at the southeast corner of Chester and 28th. "But as you would have it, it is what it is."
…Valley Gun owner Ken Quarnberg said he's willing to sell—but only at the right price. By that he means enough money to compensate for losing a prime location, the risk of relocating and the cost of advertising to let customers know he moved.
"I'm not willing to go broke just to get out of their way," he said, adding that the family-owned, second-generation business has operated at that location since 1971.
…The hospital project is no small affair. Near the south end of the combined property is a four-story, 60,000-square-foot cancer center and outpatient surgery center. Further north a three-story imaging center is planned.
Granted, it’s a hospital, which is closer to a public use than many projects. But the point is developers can and do build around unwilling sellers. And OK, fair enough, it’s just one example. But there is ample empirical evidence that protecting private property from eminent domain abuse is good for economic development.
Click here for Reason’s extensive archive of eminent domain abuse.