It’s time to spruce up our homes!



One of the tricks used by redevelopment agencies across this nation is to bypass the Fifth Amendment requirement of “just compensation” by shifting to “code enforcement” as a tool where they hit you with fines  and threaten to arrest you if you don’t show up at hearings. This is simply another tool to squeeze us out. As documented by the majority of redevelopment agency activities from coast to coast it is the poor and minorities who lack the resources to fight city hall who become the victims.

In Berman v. Parker, 348 U.S. 26, the District of Columbia instead of eminent domain they could have reverted to code enforcement where the vast majority of the project area was labeled as a slum with unsanitary housing conditions. In that frequently referenced 1954 Supreme Court case they implemented eminent domain even though the Berman property was not blighted.

In the past few days I have been contacted by pending victims in south Florida who are dealing with “code enforcement” as a tactic to eventually take their properties. Justice Kennedy in his exchange with Institute for Justice senior attorney Scott Bullock in the Kelo v. New London case where he admitted that “blight is in the eye of the beholder, I know that.”

Closer to home I recall attending a 2002 city council meeting in Garden Grove where the residents of these older homes testified that they had pride of ownership and were making investments in their homes from mowing lawns and painting fences to sizeable renovations. That’s the message I have for all owners of older properties. It’s in your best interest to invest in your homes to lift up the value of your home and the entire neighborhood while cutting off any efforts by your local CRA to hit you with Code Violations.

In the Wildomar/Lake Elsinore area of Riverside County we were confronted with the county wanting to take homes and businesses that were not for sale. The claim was that the 3,591 “buildings are unsafe or unhealthy in which to live or work.” On pages 34 and 35 of the consultant report it reads: “if the same percentage of asbestos-containing materials found in public buildings was applied to all buildings in the Sub Area, it is estimated that nearly 3,000 buildings would contain asbestos, and over 1,000 of those would be a serious health and safety hazard.” On page 35 the consultant claimed that “the total amount to remove lead based paint and asbestos from all affected buildings in the sub-area would be $45,000,000.”

And they expected the homeowners to remedy these issues or lose their property by code enforcement. What? The County argued that these mobile homes contained asbestos and lead based paint. Are you kidding me? How many millions of mobile homes do we have across this land that falls into that category? Should they all be razed? That would surely create jobs.

In her five-year report entitled “Public Power, Private Gain” Institute for Justice attorney Dan Berliner included the city of Lakewood, Ohio where the city wanted to take “66 houses, five large apartment buildings and a number of small businesses.”

You’ll love this one: “The city relied on terms like economic and functional obsolescence”  to find blight. “The houses lack two-car attached garages and second bathtubs and their yards are a little too small.”  According to another account their requirements these houses had to contain 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, a 2 car garage and central air. Sixty three percent of the residents later voted to repeal the blight designation. Lakewood Mayor Madeleine Cain and this land grab effort was covered on 60 minutes.

Yes, as documented herein, “blight” is in the “eye of the beholder” and until we can mandate legally binding set of “metrics” so that we are all on the same page, citizens will be forced to continue looking over our shoulder.

Back to the premise of this post. Get out you lawn mower, purchase a few gallons of paint, and spruce up your property. You might even meet some of your neighbors and have a soft drink together. Maintaining your private property, be it homes or small businesses, is in your best interest and much cheaper than fighting in court.

About Larry Gilbert