45 Years, 45 Days: Invasion of the City Snatchers


For the next 45 days, we'll be celebrating Reason's 45th anniversary by releasing a story a day from the archives—one for each year of the magazine's history. See the full list here.

In January 1988, Reason featured a group of stories about the perils of urban redevelopment and eminent domain. Sarah E. Foster, funded by Reason's Investigative Journalism Fund, took on Hollywood: 

Pat Morley moved into her Hollywood duplex 30 years ago, when as a teenager she received a small inheritance and convinced her mother it was better to invest the money in real estate than to buy a car. Toward the end of March 1986, she received a certified letter from the CRA telling her about the upcoming hearings and that being in a project area means her property could be condemned at any time through eminent domain. She was stunned, outraged. How could anyone force her to sell her home to which she holds clear title?

Morley, an effervescent woman whose sole source of income is rent from the other half of the duplex and a small unit in the back of the house, was hardly comforted when CRA staff member Diana Webb assured her that redevelopment wouldn't reach her neighborhood for another 20 years. "I told her I would be around for more than 20 years and at that age would not want my home to be taken by eminent domain," Morley said in a sworn declaration. "It would be even worse than being taken now." To keep that from happening, she has drained her life savings to help pay for a lawsuit against the CRA and has turned her house into the nerve center of the agency's opposition.