Do property rights still matter in California?

“With few people paying attention, both houses of the Legislature earlier this month passed a far-reaching and terribly disturbing bill that will reshape land-use patterns in this state. If signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Senate Bill 375 will basically mandate that all new development in California fit what activists call “Smart Growth,” according to the O.C. Register.

Here are a few excerpts about “Smart Growth” from the Register’s editorial:

Smart Growth is a highly controversial and authoritarian concept. Its goal is to use the government to battle what environmentalists call suburban sprawl. Most Californians live in single-family homes with yards in suburban neighborhoods. Smart Growthers argue that this development pattern is destructive to the planet and creates too big of a carbon footprint. Their goal is to force new development into “infill” locations, and SB375 is their latest and most potent vehicle to accomplish this social-engineering goal.

This trendy concept has been the rage for a while, and local cities have been embracing it on a small-scale level. Brea bulldozed its old downtown and built a new one, and its officials have been subsidizing denser housing, live/work lofts and other urban-style projects. Santa Ana is still pushing its Renaissance Plan, which seeks to replace older neighborhoods with high-rises and condos.

I think property rights do matter – and this sort of thinking has been prevalent in Santa Ana for far too long. Mixed use projects can work, but development should be planned by developers – and driven by market forces. City planning departments certainly should have oversight, but Senate Bill 375 isn’t about oversight – it is about taking away our property rights. That should alarm us all.

Is there a need to further develop downtown Santa Ana? Certainly. But the Renaissance Plan purposefully omitted properties belonging to various Council Members. And City Planners refused to promise that it would not include use of eminent domain. That is a tool that Robert Bisno, a developer closely allied to members of the Santa Ana City Council, is using as he remakes the Baldwin Park downtown area.

Development is important to the vitality of our older cities – but we should not lose sight of the importance of property rights in the process.

About Admin

"Admin" is just editors Vern Nelson, Greg Diamond, or Ryan Cantor sharing something that they mostly didn't write themselves, but think you should see. Before December 2010, "Admin" may have been former blog owner Art Pedroza.