City of Baldwin Park residents and business owners are fighting back

Last night Bruce Whitaker, Policy Advisor for Supervisor Chris Norby, who also serves as coordinator for the MORR/CURE conference, and myself attended the two hour CARA meeting in Baldwin Park. C.A.R.A., the acronym for the “Community Alliance for Redevelopment Accountability” is also the Spanish name for Face. Let’s face it folks, here is just another example of residents gathering together to oppose plans by their local elected officials to destroy their community. It was not that long ago that we had a similar fight in Garden Grove which OC Register Senior Editorial Writer Steve Greenhut included in his book entitled “Abuse of Power.”

For those not familiar with the LA City of Baldwin Park it is located east of the 605 and just north of Interstate 10. We were handed maps showing two redevelopment project areas. The “central business district” and the “Sierra Vista redevelopment project.”

“The City of Baldwin Park has plans to seize homes and small businesses in an area approximately the size of 125 football fields to hand over to a wealthy developer. The project will impact hundreds of home and business owners.”

Folks, it is time for us to put a stop on this ongoing attack on our property rights by passing a Constitutional Amendment on June 3rd. The only solution to stopping these bogus declarations is Prop 98.

It appears that the Baldwin Park city council is fast-tracking a proposed mixed use project promoted by Century City based Bisno Development as they fear our Prop 98 Constitutional Amendment. Prop 98 would stop these eminent domain takings when these private properties are simply “not for sale” for private project development.

I commend these hard working small business owners and residents for banding together to fight city hall. I take my hat off to Ms. Cruz Baca Sembello, James Treasure, and all the activists who worked to organize this group and last night’s meeting. Although it’s not easy, you can be victorious. We do have proof. All you need to do is look at our victory supporting Bob Blue as he prevailed over CRA LA in the Bernard Luggage eminent domain fight off the world famous intersection of Hollywood and Vine.

This meeting was held at the Baldwin Park Courtyard Marriott hotel where they had to open up additional seating space to accommodate the 200 concerned attendees who came to listen to, and later question, a distinguished panel on the topic of their property rights. Panelists included John Kabateck, Executive Director, National Federation of Independent Business, NFIB, whose organization represents 22,000 small and independent business owners in CA. John was there to show support for all the Mom and Pop merchants in the community. In his comments John stated that “the only real property rights reform in CA is Prop 98.”

John shared the story of Revelli Tire in Oakland where the local government seized the property and replaced it with a Sears Department Store that sells tires. He told the audience that “most of your elected officials never ran a business.” He went on to add that CA is one of the few states that has not enacted any redevelopment reform.

Our next speaker was Institute for Justice attorney Jeff Rowes whom I have blogged about previously. Jeff is one of the I.J. attorney’s supporting the CYAC boxing club in National City from a pending eminent domain taking.

He told us that since the Kelo decision 42 states have passed redevelopment reform.
He encouraged the attendees by stating that the most dangerous person in the United States is the person who knows his rights and is willing to defend them. He added that the machine is about money adding is the machine going to get paid or are we willing to stand up (at which point everyone in the meeting stood up.) He shared the typical opposition talking points such as “you’re being selfish” and “we’re about the future — we’re about community and prosperity.” He went on to add that “this is a story about rights versus oppression..this is about prosperity of your community..they want bureaucracy.”

He shared a list of weapons at our disposal when city’s begin to renew or extend eminent domain such as proving a blight designation. As our opposition reads these reports I will not divulge specifics for our side in this post.

The next presenter was Marko Mlikotin, spokesperson representing the California Alliance to Protect Private Property Rights — speaking on Proposition 98.
Marko said we need amend the CA Constitution. That’s what Prop 98 is all about. it provides “ironclad protection if you own a house, small business, house of worship and family farm.”

The first question from the audience asked about Prop 99 which claims to protect homeowners. Marko said that it is supported by government organizations that have spent millions of dollars fighting reform. NFIB Dir. Kabateck said “Prop 99 does nothing to protect small business owners..Prop 98 does.”

There were several questions relating to relocation costs versus compensation. An insurance agent stated that “properties are down 15 to 20 percent from two years ago. The city can buy your property at rock bottom prices. This is a quagmire.”
Another attendee said that she has been in business for 30 years adding that “I intend to retire when I’m ready, not when government tells me.”

Several people commented that “you lose more than your business and homes” when removed by eminent domain “you lose your neighbors and friends.”

Gilbert note: This reference to Bisno Development is not “new news” to Juice Readers. Following is part of a recent story by Gustavo Arellano that appeared in OC Weekly and on our blog.

“It takes quite the developer to provoke a march on City Hall, but that’s exactly what happened last month in Baldwin Park. On a crisp Saturday morning, about a dozen activists fanned across the downtown of this working-class, largely Latino city in the San Gabriel Valley. They visited businesses and talked to pedestrians, warning everyone who’d listen about Los Angeles businessman Robert Bisno, who’s trying to convince city officials and residents—through breakfasts and campaign donations—to help him redevelop approximately 125 acres of Baldwin Park through eminent domain. Those Baldwin Park residents have the same message for Santa Ana residents. Beware of Bisno”

In closing. Prior to leaving the meeting I invited several of their attendees and CARA leaders to our redevelopment abuse conference being held in Anaheim tomorrow promising to give them time to share their story with all of our attendees.

While the League of Cities representatives will tell you that they rarely engage in these hostile takings this Baldwin Park story says otherwise. It is in support of these pending victims that we continue to offer advise and encouragement for which, unlike our opposition, our MORR/CURE involvement is a free public service.

Larry Gilbert, Orange County Co-Director CURE and OC Chairman, Proposition 98 Campaign

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