The City of Gilroy is poised to set a truly horrendous
Eminent domain, as defined in the Fifth Amendment of the
Constitution, is to be used to take private property for public
use. Traditionally, public use has been narrowly defined as being
projects necessary for the public good. While we agree that an arts
center would be nice,
does not rise to the level of necessary.
The City of Gilroy is poised to set a truly horrendous precedent.
Eminent domain, as defined in the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution, is to be used to take private property for public use. Traditionally, public use has been narrowly defined as being projects necessary for the public good. While we agree that an arts center would be nice, “nice” does not rise to the level of necessary.
We understand that there is a place for eminent domain: a city may need land for roads and sewers. One could argue that it needs a particular piece of land for a hospital.
But “needing” an arts center? Let alone “needing” a particular piece of land for an arts center? We think not.
We also understand the city’s frustration. Across from the train station would be a good place for an arts center.
The Gera family’s vacant lot is overgrown with weeds and grass. It could be construed as an eyesore.
The other four property owners have settled.
The last holdout, the Gera family, does not seem to be inherently opposed to selling so much as they appear to be digging in their heels as a means of jacking up the price.
None of that matters.
Two issues matter. One is arcane, large, nebulous, philosophical and critically important. The other is mundane, picky, eminently practical… and critically important.
The philosophical issue is simply that if a government entity can seize private property for any reason other than overwhelming public need, then no one’s property is safe. And if no one’s property is safe, no one’s life or liberty is safe, either.
Ask a homeless person how safe his life feels when he sleeps under a bridge, or how free he feels when a police officer tells him to move on.
The practical issue is that the use of eminent domain for such a trivial purpose allows the city too much latitude to be lazy.
Instead of taking its time, and getting all its ducks in a row, as was done with the police station and the transitional homeless shelter, the city behaved stupidly.
The city decided on one location, and began buying properties outright and piecemeal, instead of simultaneously or on contingency, thereby roping us into paying whatever exorbitant price the last sellers wished to demand. This piece of stupidity was a betrayal of the city’s fiduciary responsibility.
The crowning irony is that this community has repeatedly opposed the implementation of an RDA on the grounds that an RDA might lead the city to use its powers of eminent domain inappropriately.
We urge City Council and Mayor Pinheiro not to rubberstamp this seizure.