Eminent domain and the Sacramento Kings

posted at 2:31 pm on August 24, 2013 by Jazz Shaw

Most of the people reading this were unfortunately around to witness what may have been the worst ruling by the Supreme Court of this generation, that being Kelo v. City of New London. The Rehnquist Court, in a 5-4 decision that seemed destined to have sad and far reaching consequences, essentially rewrote the takings clause of the Fifth Amendment to replace the idea of “public use” with the more vague and corruptible concept of “public benefit” where the “benefit” could be decided by the government entity doing the taking. (It should be noted that Chief Justice Rehnquist was not present for the oral arguments in Kelo owing to health problems, and eventually voted against the decision. It was generally the liberal justices on the court that passed it.)

I have to wonder if that decision won’t be rearing its ugly head yet again with a pair of items highlighted by Ilya Somin at The Volokh Conspiracy. It seems that two locations – one of them being the nation’s capital – may be looking at invoking the takings clause to “benefit” the public with… new sports stadiums.

Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice describes Sacramento and Washington, DC’s ill-advised plans to use the threat of eminent domain to acquire property to build sports stadiums on:

In less than a week, two capital cities are preparing to use eminent domain to build professional sports stadiums. Talk about foul play.

The Sacramento city council voted 7-2 on August 13 to help the Sacramento Kings negotiate with the owner of a Macy’s. As the Sacramento Bee points out, “The city’s involvement in the talks carries with it a key negotiating tool: the threat of seizing control of the property through eminent domain.” That Macy’s Men Store is the last property the Kings have yet to acquire for the arena and may be condemned if negotiations fail. But just because they’re called the Kings doesn’t mean they should have the right to seize peasants people’s land…

Over in Washington, D.C., officials are prepared to authorize eminent domain to build a new stadium for the DC United, the worst team in Major League Soccer. This 20,000 seat stadium is expected to cost $300 million, with half of that coming out of the taxpayers’ pockets. Yet the team sold for $50 million in 2012. In other words, the United will be getting a brand new stadium that’s worth six times as much as the team itself.

Apparently we have arrived in the brave new world where the government can seize the property of private businesses such as Macy’s or of individual homeowners and declare that it’s in the public interest to put a privately owned soccer stadium in its place. And this assertion is made in the face of historical evidence, as Somin points out, that sports stadiums almost always turn out to be economic losers for the communities where they are constructed.

But even if the franchise in question wound up showing a profit and bringing some money into the community, it leaves us with the legacy of Kelo and the concept of use versus benefit. What of the people who have no interest in the Kings or in Washington’s craptastic kickball team? What use or benefit is directly coming their way beyond the nebulous “benefit” that any new business venture trickles into a community through increased traffic and possibly some jobs for others? A sports stadium is not a road or a bridge or a public courthouse or water treatment or sewage facility. It’s a private enterprise designed to deliver a profit to its owners and investors, even if some entertainment to the masses is on tap.

The takings clause is permanently one of the biggest, most tempting pieces of fruit in front of governments, leading to mischief whenever they feel they can get away with it. And abuse of this needs to stop. Sadly, the courts have made it easier rather than harder to keep it in check.


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For a more far reaching example, look to Richmond California and what they are trying through eminent domain concerning home mortgages:

http://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2013/08/12/richmond-california-mortgages-column/2641293/

reddevil on August 24, 2013 at 2:39 PM

Why would someone paint a sign saying don’t end eminent domain abuse?

Flange on August 24, 2013 at 2:42 PM

Shut up and take their picture.

rogerb on August 24, 2013 at 2:43 PM

Kickball, jazz? Straight red. Off you go.

Christien on August 24, 2013 at 2:46 PM

Government: “What’s ours is ours. What is ‘yours’ is ours, too.”

Liam on August 24, 2013 at 2:46 PM

That house in the picture is just south of downtown St. Louis.

Murphy9 on August 24, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Sunday night will be another one of those memorable events for the Sounders when the second-largest crowd for an MLS regular-season game — about 67,000 — is expected to see Seattle face rival Portland in Clint Dempsey’s first home match.

YES, IN THE FACE! ~Eddie Murphy, Coming To America

Christien on August 24, 2013 at 2:52 PM

Why would someone paint a sign saying don’t end eminent domain abuse?

It’s curious. I imagine they thought a double negative (“end” plus the red diagonal) would emphasize the point, rather than become “keep eminent domain abuse.”

bobs1196 on August 24, 2013 at 2:57 PM

Stadium for the worst team in a league featuring a stupid communist sport. People lose everything they have in the process. For some reason, this song comes to mind.

pdigaudio on August 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Story on that End eminent domain abuse mural.

Fair warning that article is from the leftist Riverfront Times.

And one from the leftist Post Disgrace.

Murphy9 on August 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Murphy9 on August 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Leftist sites are shit. Why do you bother? Aren’t the trolls around here bad enough for you? :-)

Liam on August 24, 2013 at 3:02 PM

pdigaudio on August 24, 2013 at 2:59 PM

Yellow for unsporting behavior. They need to be careful, as they’re already down to 10.

Christien on August 24, 2013 at 3:08 PM

Don’t forget that the Kelo decision sucked in more ways than one. The commercial entity that New London stole its citizens property for went out of business, and nothing was ever developed on the stolen property. It is now a temporary dump site.

F’n liberals. Stealing someone’s home so it can be (inadvertently) turned into a dump. Not unlike Detroit, now that I think about it.

RoadRunner on August 24, 2013 at 3:16 PM

Kelo isn’t really a precedent. There were only four votes for the view that the government can take virtually anything from anybody. Kennedy concurred only in the single instance, his opinion was clearly limited to that case and he specified some of his reservations in the opinion.

It didn’t help the case that the plaintiffs weren’t really simple homeowners fighting for property rights, they were mainly speculators who bought in after the project was first discussed, hoping to make a killing, and their suit was designed to get more money out of the deal.

So if another circuit would stand up for property rights, the SCOTUS would look at the issue again.

Better hurry, before Obama gets to name another Justice. Elections matter.

Adjoran on August 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Eminent domain

bwahahahahahahahahaha

why not just use da Good & Plenty clause

roflmmfao

donabernathy on August 24, 2013 at 3:21 PM

Exceptional

DarkCurrent on August 24, 2013 at 3:48 PM

What of the people who have no interest in the Kings or in Washington’s craptastic kickball team?

I remember the Kings as the team that managed to loose every away game for several years running.
I have to question why they need yet another new stadium. Do they only last a couple of decades or what? I remember the last time a new Arco Arena was built.

Count to 10 on August 24, 2013 at 4:22 PM

It didn’t help the case that the plaintiffs weren’t really simple homeowners fighting for property rights, they were mainly speculators who bought in after the project was first discussed, hoping to make a killing, and their suit was designed to get more money out of the deal.

So if another circuit would stand up for property rights, the SCOTUS would look at the issue again.

Better hurry, before Obama gets to name another Justice. Elections matter.

Adjoran on August 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

That’s not true. The named plaintiff (Kelo) was a woman who had just bought her dream home after a divorce and didn’t want to move, most of the rest were likewise sympathetic… an old couple who had lived in their house their whole lives, three generations living in another house.

The state-backed pass through corp that was buying the land was offering decent money, that wasn’t the issue. Some people just didn’t want to move, and didn’t think attracting Pfizer to build a second campus across the water from the one they were already planning on downsizing was “public use.”

Oh, and Pfizer downsized the Groton campus and never built one in New London, and that land is still vacant, and the taxpayers are out tens of millions of dollars (used to purchase and raze all of the homes).

So, it worked out like most things in government work out.

Timin203 on August 24, 2013 at 4:47 PM

I want a new stadium for DC United, but this isn’t the way to get one.

22044 on August 24, 2013 at 4:51 PM

Stadium for the worst team in a league featuring a stupid communist sport

Hey! Hey! Careful how you talk about el futbal – you’ll offend our newest citizens illegals guests, and lose us all of their votes!

bofh on August 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM

concept of “public benefit” where the “benefit” could be decided by the government entity doing the taking

…the “RULERS” have spoken…and their campaign chests are probably now full!

KOOLAID2 on August 24, 2013 at 5:30 PM

And abuse of this needs to stop. Sadly, the courts have made it easier rather than harder to keep it in check.

??? Am I misreading this, or what?

FOWG1 on August 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM

When does the revolution begin?

HiJack on August 24, 2013 at 7:30 PM

The best outcome would be for the original owner of the property should have first right of refusal to buy the land back to the price they were paid, before the land is allowed to pass to any third party.

J_Crater on August 24, 2013 at 7:40 PM

Over in Washington, D.C., officials are prepared to authorize eminent domain to build a new stadium for the DC United, the worst team in Major League Soccer.

The thing that is interesting about this story is not that it involves a complicated series of land swaps and purchases. It is that the owners of one of the largest and most key parcels didn’t know anything about the “deal” until they read the announcement in the WaPo. Complete with a map that included their property.

In other words, the government planned to steal the land from the very beginning.

Happy Nomad on August 24, 2013 at 8:24 PM

I want a new stadium for DC United, but this isn’t the way to get one.

22044 on August 24, 2013 at 4:51 PM

No, but it is a way to get a new stadium for DC United in an area primed for gentrification.

Happy Nomad on August 24, 2013 at 8:27 PM

The talk of the town here in LA was the $120,000 offer for a burger stand in Fresno to be taken by the California High Speed Rail Authority.

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-angelos-drive-in-20130818,0,1179684.story

That article was too negative, so a day later:

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-angelos-rail-line-20130819,0,2215594.story

And, to show the LA Times has heart with respect to the choo choo train to nowhere that they supported when it was on the ballot:

http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-angelos-drive-in-pictures,0,4968563.photogallery?index=la-me-angelos-drive-in-pictures-001

unclesmrgol on August 25, 2013 at 12:27 AM

It didn’t help the case that the plaintiffs weren’t really simple homeowners fighting for property rights, they were mainly speculators who bought in after the project was first discussed, hoping to make a killing, and their suit was designed to get more money out of the deal.

Adjoran on August 24, 2013 at 3:19 PM

Huh? Normally, property in a condemnation zone decreases substantially in value.

My family was hit by eminent domain twice, and we never “made a killing”. We got 10cents on the dollar for our store both times. There was no third time — the City of Los Angeles had sucked us dry, and we could not afford to rebuild.

unclesmrgol on August 25, 2013 at 12:31 AM

Being in Sacramento, the location of the Downtown Mall where the new Kings Arena is going is a dead Mall. Macy’s Men has already gladly planned to vacate the store and relocate a block west in the Macy’s Women store. The owners of the building are just holding out for a bigger payday. The new owners of the Kings has a good plan and should right both sinking ships of the Kings and the Mall. Currently the mall is over run with gang bangers emboldened enough to wear masks visibly on top of the head. This really needs a fix!

Visionar on August 25, 2013 at 7:35 AM

“communist sport” LOL. Hockey’s also a “communist sport” as well because the Russkies like it, too? Oh, and basketball because the Commie Chinese like it? Baseball’s a Fascist sport because the Japanese under Tojo liked it?

Football and baseball simply shine with the blinding light of morals and good character in the highest traditions of American values.

Don’t make me laugh…

Dr. ZhivBlago on August 25, 2013 at 7:42 AM

That house in the picture is just south of downtown St. Louis.

Murphy9 on August 24, 2013 at 2:52 PM

That house/sign is just a few blocks from my home, where we are safe because we are on the National Historic Registry in an old Victorian era neighborhood…. Think of it as a redundancy, rather than a double negative if it lets you sleep better.

TBinSTL on August 25, 2013 at 8:10 AM

And abuse of this needs to stop. Sadly, the courts have made it easier rather than harder to keep it in check.
??? Am I misreading this, or what?
FOWG1 on August 24, 2013 at 6:48 PM

I thought the same thing. I think that last sentence is backwards.

pecan pie on August 25, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Major League Soccer? We have that?

irishgladiator63 on August 25, 2013 at 3:40 PM

Washington’s craptastic kickball team

Jazz, I’m shocked. I picked you for a soccer sort of guy.

I thought the same thing. I think that last sentence is backwards.

pecan pie on August 25, 2013 at 9:25 AM

Concur.

GWB on August 26, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Sadly, the courts have made it easier rather than harder to keep it in check.

We’re talking about eminent domain, right? Don’t you mean the courts have made it harder rather than easier to keep it in check?

cheeflo on August 26, 2013 at 5:35 PM

No, but it is a way to get a new stadium for DC United in an area primed for gentrification.

Happy Nomad on August 24, 2013 at 8:27 PM

Based on the transformation/revival of downtown & Chinatown from building an arena for the Capitals, Wizards, & Georgetown basketball, I think that’s a good prediction.

22044 on August 27, 2013 at 9:58 AM