Development Without Eminent Domain

Among the greatest challenges American mayors and city councils face are how to create or revive a city’s urban core. Local leaders want to create dynamic downtowns with plenty of people, jobs and housing. As a large city in a major metropolitan region, Anaheim faced these same challenges when I was elected mayor in 2002.

Much of Anaheim had historically been zoned for low-intensity industrial uses. We wanted to create an attractive area that brought in jobs, provided new housing for residents of different economic levels, and gave our tourists yet another reason to spend more time in our city. As we looked around the city, we saw an area around Anaheim’s Angel Stadium that could be turned into a new, vibrant neighborhood with housing, retail shops and restaurants that would both benefit from and support the stadium and the Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim, where the National Hockey League’s Anaheim Ducks play. We wanted to turn this area into a new destination: the “Platinum Triangle.”

When faced with a major redevelopment project, many local governments use eminent domain—government’s legal power to seize private property for a purportedly public purpose, even over the objections of the property owner. The Anaheim City Council made an early decision not to use eminent domain in our efforts to revitalize the stadium neighborhood.

This paper describes how Anaheim’s leadership brought economic vibrancy to this area without resorting to any takings of private property. It also explores the successes and failures of other cities around the nation in economic redevelopment.

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