State Senate approves bill to revive Kelo-style redevelopment

California has moved one step closer to the return of redevelopment and the controversial power to seize private property through eminent domain.

The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would give local governments the power to create new entities, known as community revitalization authorities, to stimulate economically-depressed or crime-ridden areas. Assembly Bill 2 would grant these new government agencies broad powers to issue bonds for the purpose of investing tax funds in infrastructure, affordable housing and economic revitalization projects.

“Redevelopment was a multi-purpose tool that focused over $6 billion per year toward repairing and redeveloping urban cores, and building affordable housing, especially in those areas most economically and physically disadvantaged,” argues the bill’s author, Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas, according to a legislative analysis. “Since the dissolution of redevelopment agencies, communities across California are seeking an economic development tool to use.”

However, property rights advocates warn that the bill’s language contains no restrictions on eminent domain and could resurrect the abuses made possible by the Supreme Court’s controversial Kelo decision.

“Today, the state Senate passed a land grab bill that will make it easier for government to seize homes, businesses and places of worship by eminent domain!” the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights, an opponent of the bill, posted on its Facebook page.

4 GOP Senators Join Democrats to Pass AB2

Republican Senator Anthony Cannella of Ceres, who introduced the bill on the Senate floor, argued that AB2 will provide economic stimulus to disadvantaged communities.

“This will grow jobs, reduce crime, repair deteriorating and inadequate infrastructure, clean up brownfields and promote affordable housing,” he said.

With Cannella’s support, the bill passed on a 29-10 vote — with the support of all but one Democrat and four Republicans, including Sen. Tom Berryhill of Twain Harte, Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Sharon Runner of Antelope Valley.

Under the bill, a Community Revitalization Investment Authority could be created by a city, county or special district if certain conditions are met. The first requirement is that the area have an annual median household income that is less than 80 percent of the statewide median. Additionally, three of the following four conditions must be met:

  • Unemployment that is at least 3 percent higher than the statewide median unemployment rate;
  • A crime rate that is 5 percent higher than the statewide median crime rate;
  • Deteriorated or inadequate infrastructure such as streets, sidewalks, water supply, sewer treatment or processing, and parks;
  • Deteriorated commercial or residential structures.

Private Property Rights Threatened

Only one senator, Republican Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, spoke in opposition to the bill.

“This is the resurrection of the redevelopment agencies – the failed redevelopment agencies,” he said. “They absolutely exploited and will continue to exploit – under the provisions of this bill – the seizure of private property under eminent domain.”

Eminent domain is mentioned in the bill 21 times. The Legislative Counsel’s bill digest explicitly states, “The bill would authorize an authority to acquire interests in real property and exercise the power of eminent domain.”

Although the bill subjects private property to eminent domain, government agencies would receive a special carve-out from the practice.

“Property already devoted to a public use may be acquired by the agency through eminent domain, but property of a public body shall not be acquired without its consent,” the bill states.

Sen. Bob Huff: “We led the charge to save redevelopment”

In 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. New London that government agencies have the power to seize property for economic development. The decision was widely criticized across the political spectrum and inspired states to pass tougher laws limiting governments’ eminent domain powers. Here in California, the momentum for property rights reached its zenith in 2011, when Gov. Jerry Brown pushed through a plan to end redevelopment as part of his plan to balance the state budget.

Huff, who until recently served as Senate GOP leader, downplayed the “scare stories” of eminent domain abuse by private property advocates and reminded his colleagues of his past work with Sen. Rod Wright to save redevelopment agencies.

“We led the charge to protect redevelopment because it was one of the few economic developments that cities had,” Huff said on the Senate floor in support of AB2. “It was also one of the few ways to generate revenue for our affordable housing.”

With the Senate’s approval, the bill returns to the State Assembly for concurrence, where it is expected to pass with widespread support.

In May, AB2 passed by a 63-13 vote – without a single member – Republican or Democrat – voicing opposition. A dozen Assembly Republican lawmakers, including Assembly GOP leader Kristin Olsen, joined the Democratic majority in backing the bill.

5 comments

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  1. EnoughAlready
    EnoughAlready 10 September, 2015, 13:52

    Geez, more affordable housing developments. The non-profit developers are celebrating tonight. The cash cow that just keeps on giving. Can’t wait to see their cost per units in rural areas of $350k per unit. I know whereof I speak….I work with them daily….HCD….CalHFA….SHRA….Bridge…MidPen Housing….

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  2. Just Another Disgruntled Citizen
    Just Another Disgruntled Citizen 10 September, 2015, 14:43

    Well, this is really bad news but not unexpected.
    The thing is, however, that if we are going to fight this ignorant and stupid action of the California Legislature, we’d better get our facts straight.
    First, when Gov. Brown and the Democrats shut down the state’s 400-odd community-wrecking corporate-welfare eminent-domain-abuse machines, that stopped local officials from exercising those powers but it didn’t get rid of Redevelopment because the state and federal law that makes it possible are still on the books.
    In order to get rid of Redevelopment, to abolish it altogether so it can’t come back ever again will ultimately require an amendment to the Constitution of the United States banning public money and eminent domain for private use, period.
    Other aggregious powers exercised by Redevelopment Agencies that need to be banned include creating Project Areas by making findings of blight (property that isn’t generating as much revenue as local government officials think it should) which simultaneously suspended the Constitutional Rights of the people who live and work and pay taxes in the Project Area (try the First, Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth amendments for a start), receive tax increment revenue from Project Area property owners without their knowledge or consent, propose Redevelopment Projects without knowledge or consent of affected property owners or their tenants, issue bonds and incur other debt to finance private ventures, pledge as Collateral on the bonds all the private property within a Project Area without knowledge or consent of affected owners, amend Project Area Plans to extend the life of the Project Areas, raise debt and revenue limits, and/ore expand Project Area boundaries through annexations or merging two or more Project Areas.
    I am not making this up.
    Take a look at The Housing Act of 1949 (U.S. Congress), California Community Redevelopment Law (Health & Safety Code Section 33000 et seq., 1952), Taxation of Redevelopment Projects (Article XVI, Sec. 16: Constitution of the State of California, 1951, amended 1988), “Section Two-and-One Half” from Prop. 22 (Article XIII, Sec. 24: Constitution of the State of California, 2010)
    After you read all of these in their entirety, then read the court documents related to the Kelo-decision. Redevelopment was not mentioned, except perhaps once in some obscure brief. That is because the public officials responsible for the eminent-domain abuse in Kelo didn’t want to bring redevelopment law to anyone’s attention (there is an army of state and national redevelopment associations) and the attorneys for the defendents did not realize that was what they dealing with (they do now, God bless’em).
    Then re-read the legislation that shut down the California CRA’s. You will immediately see how inadequate it was. There were local and statewide citizens’ groups that helped make this happen, all of which are disbanded. The people that lead those groups had been in the fight for ten, twenty, thirty years and were exhausted by 2011. Some of the earlier champions had passed on. But the public record includes their names and a chronicle of their successes and failures in the Cause of Liberty.
    One of the worst things that happened back in 2011 was that only one or two Republicans voted for Jerry Brown’s legislation. The leaders of the statewide Republican Party went around telling people that the Kelo Decision was a bad thing and Redevelopment is a good thing. They would not listen to the facts back then.
    I find it amusing that they are against this resurrection of Redevelopment now. If anyone is skeptical about the existence of partisan politics in California, this should set them straight.
    Redevelopment is bad law because it violates the Ten Commandments, the Golden Rule, the Rule of Law Tradition, the fundamental principles of American government, and the U.S. Constitution.
    In this way it is just like the Dred Scott Decision that upheld slavery because it was in the Constitution. Remember that the Abolition Movement emphasized the immorality and unconstitutionality (according to basic principles) of slavery. Bear in mind that the arguments against slavery on the grounds it was an unworkable economic system and unfair to farmers in the North were valid. But it wasn’t immoral and unconstitutional because it didn’t work or was unfair. It didn’t work and it wasn’t fair because it was immoral and unconstitutional.

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  3. bob
    bob 10 September, 2015, 15:19

    These politicians are nothing but thieves. When will people realize that?

    Reply this comment
  4. Ulysses Uhaul
    Ulysses Uhaul 10 September, 2015, 22:07

    HUD wants affordable housing in tony neighborhoods, so the poor can go to good schools, buy organic veggies, have upwardly mobile teachers and coaches..

    SO WALLA…..get some Republicans to vote for condemning ,whatever, in the tony neighborhoods…poof ….. Controversial affordable housing….no worries Poodle and Donky about Adelanto or Sunset Beach being included!

    Reply this comment
  5. spurwing Plover
    spurwing Plover 11 September, 2015, 07:07

    HUD is just another buracracy run by idiots and brain-dead buricrats I mean make you sign a moutian everent of paperwork just to set up some bird feeders or a birdhouse

    Reply this comment

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John Hrabe

John Hrabe

John Hrabe spends his time traveling the world as a freelance journalist. When he isn’t on an international flight, John writes about California politics for CalWatchdog.com and CalNewsroom.com.

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