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Saturday, December 11, 2004

Weekend Ramblings

Here is a definitely below-the-radar story of legal action over property rights. In 1990 the City of San Francisco instituted an ordinance compelling certain private property owners to provide low-cost housing. In this instance a 62-room downtown hotel was ordered to set aside a certain number of rooms for low-income permanent residents. The failure to do so resulted in a $567,000 "fee." The infamous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this ordinance. It is now before the U.S. Supreme Court. Without getting overly technical (and, consequently, overly boring), the issue is whether this constitutes an unconstitutional taking of private property. As you can imagine, I have a rather narrow view of when the government is authorized to "take" private property for public use. The same is true for "regulation" of the use of private property. There are very legitimate reasons such as public health ands safety (e.g. building codes) or, to some extent aesthetics (e.g. no late model autos on cinderblocks in the front yard) to restrict the unfettered use of private property. However, requiring that the owners of a hotel set aside a percentage of rooms in essence as low-cost housing is probably not one of them. Not all is bad in the City by the Bay. There are some sane voices from that locale speaking out against the anti-Christmas climate found in our "cultural centers" these days. In fact, Gov. Arnold has struck a blow for tradition by refusing to call that large Noble fir festooned with lights and decorations located in the California state capitol building a "holiday" tree. He is actually referring to it by its given name..."Christmas tree." A small victory, but a victory nonetheless.

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