Thursday, December 01, 2005

Oakland Takings

Debra Saunders:
"On July 1, Oakland took possession of two properties that housed two viable businesses -- Revelli Tires and Autohouse, which provided the livelihoods of John Revelli and Tony Fung -- by eminent domain so that a private developer can build apartments in the redevelopment zone.

On Aug. 1, Oakland took possession of a parking lot about one block away -- on which owner Alex Hahn says he wants to build housing -- so that Sears can relocate its Auto Center on that lot.

If you had to re-read the above paragraph, it is because this story makes no sense. Oakland, you see, is using government's supreme power -- the ability to seize citizens' private property -- so that bureaucrats can trade years of sweat and dreams as if they were property cards for a Monopoly game board. Except Oakland pols view all properties as if they are inexpensive purple ones, Baltic and Mediterranean."
How does a person react to the obvious irony that local government is forcing a viable tire and automotive business to close because government is taking the land the business is built upon, only to replace it with another automotive business? Does it really make sense to see all of this as one developer suggests:
"One redeveloper noted that redevelopment is a wonderful tool where cities take from a few people and make life better for everyone."
There really is something wrong in all of this. Properties within cities redevelop all the time, and without government legitimated force. People buy and sell. People buy and build. Voluntary redevelopment is really hard to argue against. Justifying policies that use government to forcefully take land from others and that use government to forcefully take money from others to subsidize redevelopment of the taken parcels is a much more difficult thing to justify. I suspect it is actually something that honestly cannot be justified.

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