Eminent Domain

California Kills Eminent Domain, Somehow Buildings Happen Anyway

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.


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.

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  1. Wow, is that headline even philsophically possible?

  2. The gun shop owner and the taco stand guy should have sold. I know the hospital didn’t offer as much money as the owners wanted, but being located next to a hospital will not help their property values. Taco man may be okay, assuming staff and visitors go there for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. But gun man is ass out.

    1. I don’t see why.

      1. Increased traffic and noise from hospital visitors, ambulances, etc. As well as increased transients, sundry weirdos. Generally, similar businesses want to cluster together. Around a hospital, it would be common to cluster medical/dental offices, pharmacies, psychiatric services, etc. A gun shop doesn’t “fit” in the new land use plan. It would maybe be better to locate next to a hardware store, fishing tackle, sporting goods store, and such.

        1. “It would maybe be better to locate next to a”;

          Next to “24Hr Package Liquor”, “Checks cashed here”, “Tattoo”, “Live nude girls”, and “Cash for gold”


        2. It may be that there is already a number of such businesses in the area, which is why he didn’t want to give up his “prime location”.

          And with the increased traffic comes increased visibility, so that may be either a wash or a net bonus.

          1. According to Google maps, it’s located next to a carpet warehouse, and across the street from a tattoo place. There are some empty lots on the same block. Some auto body/ repair places spread around the ‘hood, and a bunch of small medical offices/nursing homes. Actually, it looks like there are a number of diverse shops and services on the other side of the hospital complex, to the West. Maybe not a bad place for the gun man to stake his claim after all.

            Link to map: http://goo.gl/maps/dnJX0

            Anyways, good on San Berdoo for not using eminent domain to take gun man’s property. I hope it works out well for all parties.

            1. Bakersfield, not San Berdoo.
              Jarrod would be very upset if he heard you say that.

    2. Personally, I think having a taco shop and a gun store on your campus sounds like an awesome idea.

  3. Did Reason outsource to India but forget to have them adjust for the time difference?

  4. Woohoo! Mr. Fancy-Pants Vice President Jarrod McNaughton was my college roommate, was in my wedding, and is one of the best guys you’ll meet. I’ll have to tell him he did something right.

  5. But the aesthetics are all screwed up. How can you have a hospital with poor aesthetics? The whole feng shui of the campus is negative, which is especially dangerous when you have sick people in the building.

    1. LOL

      heaven forbid massive corporations have to compromise with the average joe about his own private assets. liberals promote values like compromise but in practice dont do it.

      this story is like hearing about an abortion factory in Utah, totally out of character. california ditching eminent domain is a great win for freedom and the citizens across the nation. good luck getting that in new england blue states.

      1. It may be California, but the city in question is Bakersfield. That town is probably more conservative than Ted Nugent’s missing teeth.

  6. Granted, it’s a hospital, which is closer to a public use than many projects.

    The fuck it is. Maybe when the Democrats finish taking over health care, that sentence might not be so full of liberal bullshit.

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