Reason Writers Around Town

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Writing in the L.A. Times, Matt Welch blasts the paper for putting a happy face on the seizure of private homes.

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  1. Thank you Matt Welch, you firebrand. Dude, you bloodied their nose pretty badly.

  2. Some follow-up/context (w/ links, including to pictures of the proposed sites) here.

  3. Great article. Very sharp.
    It’s disturbing (though not surprising) that a paper supposedly committed to

    “…measurably improve the quality of life in communities served by….The Times”

    can so egregiously ignore the downside of programs they support. If they’re really trying to improve communites, they seem to have forgotten about the people in those communities.

  4. Good stuff, Matt Welch. I’m not sure that it will do any good, but a superb article none the less. The local “newspaper” (scare quotes richly deserved) has also never mentioned the use of eminent domain in aquiring land for a new stadium. The land is question is all of 5 blocks from the paper’s main office, and buildings awaiting the bulldozer are painted with graffititi like “Stop eminent domain abuse.” Nope, no story there.

    Totally off topic, Matt, but you never answered my e-mail query about the book about the taking of land for Dodger’s stadium you mentioned last month. I’d still like to check that one out.

  5. The real reason a city would rather develop on residential land than industrial/commercial land is because of property taxes. A business has a higher assessment, and is probably taxed at a higher rate, than similar square footage of houses. Also, residential property costs a lot more in services.

    And commercial/industrial land right next to the highway is particularly attractive for development, so a city is going to be particularly gunshy about taking it off the tax roles.

  6. Great article, Matt.

    Excellent counterpoint, joe. I think there’s an economic argument to counter what you said, but without knowing all the details, I’ll maybe wait for Matt to make it.

  7. jf — I’m not interested in the economic argument, frankly. One bit’s for sale, the other one is not, and belongs to 50 residential property owners. I would prefer if the government *never* used Eminent Domain, but barring that they should make it as the option of way-last resort, instead of as a way to save a few bucks by short-cutting the market & breaking a few eggs in the process.

  8. Matt:

    You’ll get no argument from me. I thought that maybe since you are much more familiar with the situation than I, you might be able to argue with joe on his own terms. Perhaps the property that is for sale would be cheaper to obtain considering the legal costs regarding the eminent domain procedure, or perhaps transportation costs to the school would be less due to its location.

    I suppose another way to look at it would be, as a citizen of Los Angeles, what would be the most responsible use of my tax dollars in building this school? I realize that this ignores the property rights issue, but considering that it appears this school is going to be built somewhere in the neighborhood, what course of action most benefits the residents of the city?

  9. jf — There is an argument (convincing in the long-term, less so in the short-term), that this school isn’t actually needed. Enrollment in nearby elementary schools has plummetted the last couple of years, enabling them to scale back from year-round classes to a more normal schedule. The houses being razed are nearly bereft of kids; it’s largely senior citizens.

    Beyond that, there may well be an economic argument that this is cheaper, since (after all) they’ll pay below-market rate for these houses, as opposed to market rate for more economically attractive land (I’m just talking about the Freeway-adjacent site *I* like, not the other properties they considered). There was a case I linked to on my own blog of how the District could have bought an abandoned former department store & parking lot property in Panorama City, but chose instead to bulldoze 9 houses, because the for-sale abandoned lot was “too expensive.” This, to me, is horrifying.

  10. What I don’t get is:

    If the city wants to save some bucks, use ED to take the “For Sale” industrial lot for cheap and save itself the bad PR of kicking Grandma to the curb.

    Here’s a joke: What’s the difference between the consevatives using SS reform to put Grandma in the street and the liberals approach of stealing her house through ED?

    NOTHING!!!

    Wait, that’s not funny…

  11. WSDave — One thing to remember is that there *isn’t* much in the way of Bad PR, because the dominant paper in the city hasn’t even written one word about the project (until my column complaining about it).

  12. So Matt,

    What I hear you saying is that the bulk of the population doesn’t care about the few who suffer, so long as it’s not them.

    I think it’s time to get rich and politically well connected…

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