Property Rights

Eminent Domain Abuse in National City, California


In 2007,'s Drew Carey Project told the infuriating story of National City, California's shameful use of eminent domain against a local community center that gets at-risk-youths off the streets, away from gangs, and into the boxing ring. Thanks to the notorious example set by the Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Kelo v. City of New London, officials in National City realized they could put the property to more profitable use—and therefore collect more tax revenue—by handing the land over to private developers. As San Diego's reports today, the property owners are now finally getting their day in court:

A trial began on Monday to settle a dispute between the Community Youth Athletic Center and National City about the center's "blighted" label.

For the past decade, the CYAC has helped hundreds of young men and women stay off National City streets by giving them a place to work out and study.

"It's not just boxing. It's education and a lot of other positive things," said CYAC spokesman Salvador Rivera.

Rivera said National City designated the center and dozens of other properties along National City Boulevard as blighted about seven years ago. That designation gives the city the ability to redevelop those properties through eminent domain proceedings.

"They want to take the property and give it to a developer… and have them put up big condos that will generate some taxes for the city," said Rivera.

Read the whole story here. For more on the case, check out's "National City: Eminent Domain Gone Wild" followed by the Institute for Justice's new video "Epic Eminent Domain Battle: Inner-City Kids, Boxing Gym Fight Back."

NEXT: Health Care Waivers For Everyone!

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. All your land are belong to us.

  2. Repeat after me:

    “If the government weren’t around, nobody would protect the poor from the rich….”

    Say it often enough and you might actually start to believe it.

  3. Did Cutty move his gym to Cali?

  4. I saw in the newspaper yesterday that Bloomberg wants NYC to spend 700 million to buy waterfront property. Two things came to mind, 1. I thought the city had fiscal problems, 2. That money would largely be used to purchase via Eminent Domain.

    1. If they spent it to purchase waterfront on Devil’s Island, then shipped Bloomberg and the entire City Council there one way, it might be worth it.

      1. I would prefer Rikers Island, to be honest.

        1. How about Ellesmere Island? (The North Coast, of course.)

      2. Defintely worth it.

  5. But think of teh childrenz!!! The gummint is doing this for teh ch…

    No, wait…

  6. The name National suggests communal ownership from the get go.

  7. 1. Fuck you, Kennedy, you Kelo swing vote motherfucker.

    2. More proof Dems despise their base.

    3. Despite what their self-appointed community leaders tell them, these kids are watching a boxing gym they probably love get fucked by the state and eminent domain.

    1. Liberals despise contact sports, like boxing. Now, if it were a soccer field, that would be an entirely different story.

    2. I would go with “have contempt for” rather than “despise”. “Despise” suggests that they feel the little people are worthy of emotional investment of some kind.

  8. You don’t even have to be a libertarian to see this for the bad deal that it is. You just have to take note of the history of these kinds of things. They’re typically incompetent government meets outright corruption scenarios.

    The country is full of vacant buildings from deals that were structured this way. Typically the developers pojection of income (and the city’s projections of tax revenue) are wildly optimistic so instead of a modest business (or in the case service organization) paying its own way, living within its means you end up with the city getting no tax revenue with a white elephant on its hands.

    When will these people learn?

    1. Never. Hopefully evolution will deal with it over time.

    2. I’m gonna go with never.

  9. I could have swore I posted a link to that video the other day on one of these boards.

  10. Blighted = People who can’t afford a good lawyer.

    1. Blighted = People who can’t afford a good lawyer a city councilman who will stay bought.

  11. Since all that land was granted by government fiat at some point a hundred or two years ago, the government has every right to treat that land and all the people on it like its personal serfs and fiefdom.

  12. What exactly is the deciding factor betweeen eminent domain and eminent domain abuse?

    If the govmt were willing to pay fair market value, then by definition, they wouldn’t need any guns (except to collect the taxes).

    1. CrackertyAssCracker|3.15.11 @ 10:56PM|#
      “What exactly is the deciding factor betweeen eminent domain and eminent domain abuse?”
      You answered your own question, below.

      “If the govmt were willing to pay fair market value,..”
      There is no “fair” market value. There’s a market value. If the government isn’t paying that, then tough stuff.

  13. “If the govmt were willing to pay fair market value, then by definition, they wouldn’t need any guns”

    What if the people weren’t willing to sell at all?

    The difference, at least on the surface, is “abuse” involves stealing the land and giving it to a developer, vs., for example, building a community center where at risk youth could go. Eminent Domain is supposed to be for the public good, not the public coffers.

    1. Dello|3.15.11 @ 11:18PM|#
      “If the govmt were willing to pay fair market value, then by definition, they wouldn’t need any guns”

      What if the people weren’t willing to sell at all?”

      Then the government hasn’t met the market value. Simple.

    2. So its purely a “public good” standard you are looking for? If they just claim the land is worth a dollar,hand over a dollar, and use it for a genuine public good, then it’s not abuse?

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.