The city of Sacramento has talked before about using eminent domain to seize property for the planned Kings arena, and now it’s moving ahead: The Sacramento Bee reports that an eminent domain lawsuit could be filed as early as next week to take control of the former Macy’s building on the proposed arena site.
If you’re wondering whether cities can just force property owners to sell to them for anything they want, including an arena for a pro basketball team, the answer is yes, yes they can. The two conditions necessary are that the property be blighted — and since the Macy’s is closed, courts are likely to okay that one — and that the project be for a public purpose — and assistant city manager John Dangberg told the Bee that it will qualify since the city will get to use it for up to nine high school graduations, concerts, and sporting events each year. Which may seem a slim thread to prove “public purpose,” but courts have gone for a lot less.
One of the strangest aspects of this situation is that the city will actually be suing the state’s public employee pension fund, CalPERS, which owns the Macy’s building. (U.S. Bank holds a lease on it.) In all likelihood, this will all be settled out of court, but it’s a reminder that eminent domain is a huge hammer that cities can wield on behalf on pro sports owners.