Tag Archives: Hercules

The Wal-Mart Eminent Domain Dust-up in Hercules

The city of Hercules has invoked eminent domain to buuy land that Wal-Mart had been planning to develop into a new store.

A San Francisco suburb voted Tuesday night to use the power of eminent domain to keep Wal-Mart Stores Inc. off a piece of city land after hearing from dozens of residents who accused the big-box retailer of engaging in scare tactics to force its way into the bedroom community.

The overflow crowd that packed into the tiny Hercules City Hall cheered after the five-person City Council voted unanimously to use the unusual tactic to seize the 17 acres where Wal-Mart intended to build a shopping complex. (SF Chron (AP) 5/23/06)

This is disturbing on many levels.  But first, so that I’m not misunderstood, I’m as anti-Wal-Mart as the next guy.  I would vigorously fight Wal-Mart coming into San Francisco. However, eminent domain should not be the tool.  For one thing, it plays right into the hands of “Protect Our Homes” people.  While Wal-mart is a bad thing for the city, it was not an issue that called for the use of eminent domain.  At least until the November election, when we will see Protect Our Homes on the ballot, eminent domain should be a last resort.

Protect Our Homes will result in an almost ungovernable state by blocking government action.  How does it do that you may ask?  Well, here it is in the language of the initiative:

“damage” to private property includes government actions that result in substantial economic loss to private property.  Examples of substantial economic loss include, but are not limited to, the down zoning of private property, the elimination of any access to private property, and limitations on the use of private air space.  “Government action” shall mean any statute, charter provision, ordinance, resolution, law, rule or regulation.

In other words, this law will end the ability of cities to restrictively zone.

I plan on doing an in-depth post about “Protect Our Homes” after the Primary.  And just FYI, it appears that governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to say anything of substance regarding eminent domain.