Eminent domain challenge feared: Tri Valley (Pleasanton CA) Herald, 12/24/05

Officials worry new laws could hinder or halt some Livermore development

By Mike White

[Livermore CA] officials fear that pending legislation in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., to restrict the use of eminent domain could hurt efforts to revitalize this city.

The legislation on the state and federal levels was prompted by the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in June upholding the right of a Connecticut city to take land for the construction of a development project, including a hotel and conference center.

Both houses of the U.S. Congress are considering measures to restrict the government's ability to take land through eminent domain. Additionally, at least three petitions have been filed with state officials signaling the possibility of initiatives to curtail the use of eminent domain.

The sentiment for restricting eminent domain actions predates the Supreme Court case. Laws were enacted in Utah and Nevada earlier this year and in Colorado in 2004 that either eliminates the use of eminent domain in most cases, as in Utah, or forces the government to show a property is blighted before it is taken, as in Colorado and Nevada.

Livermore officials have watched the mounting campaign against eminent domain with apprehension. The city's redevelopment agency is one of the most active in the area in using the method to acquire property that officials view as paramount to revitalization.

For instance, over the course of the past two years, the city has filed numerous court cases to acquire land in the "Golden Triangle" to develop such projects as retail shops, a movie theater and a performing arts center. The triangle is bounded by First Street, South Livermore Avenue and Railroad Avenue. Earlier this year, after the acquired buildings were demolished, the less than 1-square-mile triangle was nearly devoid of buildings. Construction began late this year

Tri Valley Herald: www.insidebayarea.com/trivalleyherald