Besieged Boxing Gym for At-Risk Kids Defends Itself Again in Court

John Kramer
John Kramer · September 22, 2013

Arlington, Va.—A little gym that teaches inner-city kids the disciplines of boxing and studying will be back in court on Thursday, September 26, 2013, to defend its property and that of its neighbors from a city that wants to use eminent domain to make way for high-end condos and other private development.

On Thursday, September 26, 2013, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal will hold oral argument at 10 a.m. at 750 B Street in San Diego to hear National City’s appeal of a 2011 trial court ruling in favor of the Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC). In that ruling, the court held that National City violated California redevelopment law, the Public Records Act, and the U.S. Constitution when it declared nearly 700 properties, including the gym’s, blighted in 2007. The CYAC’s victory was the first to apply 2006 property rights reforms designed to protect California homes, churches and businesses from bogus blight designations and the abuse of eminent domain for private economic development. The CYAC’s victory also set important precedent under the Public Records Act, holding that documents created for governments by private contractors are subject to disclosure under the PRA.

Watch a brief video on the CYAC and its fight:

The CYAC, which provides free athletic training and mentoring to inner-city youth, has been locked in a protracted legal battle with National City since 2007 when National City declared 692 properties “blighted” to be able to use eminent domain to seize and sell those properties to private developers. In the CYAC’s case, National City planned to turn the gym’s property over to a private developer to build luxury condominiums. As the lower court found after a week-long trial in March 2011, National City violated California redevelopment law by failing to produce evidence showing the existence of blight, violated the Public Records Act by failing to provide the CYAC with specific documents created for the city by its private redevelopment consultant, and violated the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution by failing to give the CYAC enough information and enough time to prepare for a critical public hearing in June 2007.

Institute for Justice Senior Attorney Dana Berliner, who will argue the case for the CYAC, said, “National City will lose on appeal for the same reason it lost in the trial court: a pattern of ignoring the law and violating the rights of its citizens in the name of redevelopment.” She added, “Another victory would also cement the trial court’s important ruling under the Public Records Act: the government cannot hire private developers to prepare government documents such as redevelopment plans and then claim that those documents are not subject to the PRA because they are technically in the possession of the private consultant, not the government. This ruling will be of enormous importance to the public and the press.”