IJ Earns Twofold Victory In California

February 1, 2012

By William R. Maurer

Call it a twofold win that will both advance government transparency and help fight eminent domain abuse.

On November 10, 2011, the San Diego Superior Court issued an order temporarily enjoining National City from using changes to its main land-use documents as the basis for a finding of blight.  The changes to the documents—and the ability to use them to justify a new blight designation—could have had devastating effects on the Institute for Justice’s client, the Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC).

After IJ and CYAC prevailed against National City in its efforts to renew its blight designation in order to facilitate the condemnation and transfer of CYAC’s gym to private developers, National City passed significant—and potentially destructive—changes to its documents governing land use.  These changes could have generated a new blight designation and another effort to take CYAC’s property.

IJ quickly identified a major problem with what the local government was trying to do:  National City’s Planning Commission had failed to comply with California’s open public meetings law.  That law requires the city to issue an agenda prior to the hearing listing the documents on which the commission would vote; the commission’s agenda instead described all ten documents in one meaningless catch-all phrase.  CYAC and IJ sued to force the city to start the entire process over.

Soon after the court issued the injunction, the city capitulated and decided to re-notice and re-hold the hearing.  In the meantime, the California Supreme Court issued a decision upholding California’s new law abolishing redevelopment agencies, thus sparing CYAC from new threats of eminent domain abuse.

IJ’s tenacity and its willingness to follow up its victories helped CYAC win yet another round in its fight against National City.  And we’ll continue fighting until this inspiring gym that helps keep at-risk kids off the street is safe from the wrecking ball once and for all.

William R. Maurer is executive director of the IJ Washington Chapter.

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