Doctor Eclectic

Doctor Eclectic
Doctor Eclectic

Monday, November 4, 2013

Eminent Domain

In my general “easy-drive shopping” area of Southern Orange County, there is a small extended leg of the Laguna Hills Mall that houses my Optometrist and one of my favorite unique restaurants, Break of Dawn.  The former is of note because Mary steered me there almost twenty years ago when I was wearing my contact lenses and reading glasses about 18 hours a day.  Dr. Scott Anderson found me a candidate for and provided me with bifocal contact lenses, the technology of which escapes me, but reading glasses have ceased to be necessary and I can read scripts I hold and boarded lines for scenes with equal ease.

The latter because a friend, fellow parishioner and excellent chef quit his job as a chef for the Ritz-Carleton and opened a breakfast-lunch restaurant to be able to spend time with his physically handicapped son, who is thriving, thank you very much.

I never quite understood the detached section of the mall or why it happened in the first place, but both these operations were doing well and serving my, and other’s needs.  So, when I learned that a purchaser, with Venture Capital money had purchased the lot, intending to raze this section and build apartments, I was devastated.  How unfair!

Recently there was a story on NPR about how the Chinese government was forcibly relocating many citizens in an effort to better control the water in the country; a project that has repercussions through Southeast Asia.  Some of the displaced were setting themselves on fire, preferring death to a relocation that would most likely inevitably kill them anyway.

Vaguely I remember this displacement process as coming from a tradition of Eminent Domain, a phrase that varies from government to government, but essentially means property rights of an individual can be superseded by a greater need for public good, or in the case of the United states, public use.

An excellent early example is when William Penn, who was given land to establish the Philadelphia colonies by Charles II to repay a debt, chose to buy the land from the Lenape, who had claim to it, rather than take it for no compensation.  This practice made its way into our constitution in both the Third (quartering of troops) and Fifth (requiring just compensation) Amendments.

For the most part the right is used to provide for public properties, but has often been used to provide access for highways and railways.  The latter was a huge fact in the growth of Southern California when the Southern Pacific Railway annexed huge portions of land to develop access to agriculture.  The practice is very current still, as we see when the new Los Angeles Mayor is attempting to provide access to the LA Airport, which would require relocation of some prime real estate.

And the expansion of the practice from federal/national, to local/municipal, brings into play exactly the issue with my two friends.  If it is perceived there is an economic advantage to the municipality to convert from one business or use to another, the pressure to surrender one’s property, or in the case of these two businesses, cancelling leases expected to be continued, can be overwhelming.

I recently talked to Dee Nguyen, my chef friend, who told me that another property, relatively close will be refurbished with appropriate leasehold improvements and a seven-year lease shortly after the first of the year.  Dr. Anderson is included in a similar arrangement, and the apartments may very well prove to add to their customer base.

So, I am more comfortable now than I was several months ago.  I am also glad that I live in the middle of a block with seemingly no utilitarian use other than residential.

My next Post should be close to two events that are dear to me:  The Marine Corps Birthday and Veteran’s Day.  So I think I’ll see what’s current with Medal of Honor.  Come visit.

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