Peninsula lawmakers warn of Prop. 90 impacts

In an odd twist, opponents of the government’s use of eminent domain for private redevelopment have come out against a statewide proposition that would prevent just that, claiming it goes too far.

Bankrolled by New York developer and Libertarian Party member Howard Rich, Proposition 90, the Protect Our Homes Act, could strip state and local governments of their ability to limit development and protect open space, according to local government officials, rent control advocates and environmentalists who have come together to oppose the measure.

“It’s not what it’s cracked up to be,” said Board of Supervisors President Jerry Hill, who along with the rest of the county board voted on Tuesday to oppose Proposition 90. Instead of focusing on limiting eminent domain abuses, which he supports, Proposition 90 attempts to control government’s power to manage how cities and counties develop, Hill said.

Hill and other local officials say that among its other requirements, Proposition 90 would force governments to fully compensate property owners for the value of any potential development that is rendered impossible by government rezoning.

Proposition 90 supporters call the opponents politically motivated. “Those most adamantly opposed to Proposition 90 are local governments that benefit from the status quo and are in leaguewith powerful business interests that benefit from abusing eminent domain,” Proposition 90 spokesman Kevin Spillane said. “They are engaged in outright distortions and falsehoods against Proposition 90 in a desperate attempt to defeat it.”

The debate come as national polls show widespread support for limiting the use of eminent domain after a controversial 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer. In the case of Kelo v. New London, Conn., the high court sanctioned the use of eminent domain to take a person’s home or business and give it to another property owner for economic development. Since the Kelo decision, four states have passed laws to curb eminent domain use and about 40 others are considering legislation.

With some area politicians fearing Proposition 90’s name alone may be enough to win voter approval, they’ve begun stepping up their campaign to get the word out. “Who wouldn’t want to protect their home?” said Proposition 90 opponent Annette Hipona, one of two San Mateo County Democratic Central Committee members who convinced the party to adopt its own resolution earlier this year. That resolution urges limiting the use of eminent domain for private redevelopment purposes while not requiring governments to pay the full potential value of property that they are putting zoning restrictions on.

In Daly City, Aristides and Andrina Sofos settled for $1.8 million last year after the city reclaimed an auto body shop they owned on Mission Street to build the mixed retail, condominium, parking garage development called the Landmark Plaza.

At the opposite end of the county, Redwood City paid out $3 million and put in place strict new guidelines for how and when to use eminent domain after it was sued in 2003 by James Celotti, whose property was taken for the downtown theater development.

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