Eminent Domain Abuse
Eminent domain is the taking of private property by government. Until relatively recently, it was only used for essential public purposes such as the construction of roads, schools and other public facilities. However, under the doctrine of “redevelopment”, eminent domain has been used by government agencies to seize private property such as businesses, farmland and even homes and resell that property to private developers, often for less than the redevelopment agency paid to acquire it. In 2005 redevelopment advocates received an unfortunate boost when the US Supreme Court upheld the Kelo decision by a 5-4 margin.
In recent years many businesses, apartments and even homes in Riverside have been taken by eminent domain or the threat of eminent domain and the properties subsequently sold for redevelopment, mostly to development companies located outside of Riverside. In Riverside, the properties targeted by eminent domain have been disproportionately owned or occupied by lower income residents, immigrants and people of color. The developers who buy the seized properties are often major contributors to the campaign funds of the very Council members who vote to condemn private property and who choose which developer may buy it. This is an obvious conflict of interest for elected officials and may even lead to systemic corruption.
In the fall of 2005 a Riverside citizens group attempted to qualify an initiative to allow the people of Riverside an opportunity to vote to place reasonable limits on the city’s power to use eminent domain to seize private property for private development. Although several California cities including Anaheim, Dana Point, Newport Beach and Chula Vista have permitted their citizens to vote on similar measures, the response of the Riverside City Council was to direct the City Attorney to sue to prevent the measure from being placed on the ballot. Nearly two years later, the case drags on and the city has spent more than $115,000 in legal fees on its misguided attempt to thwart democracy. Save-Riverside urges the city to drop its lawsuit and LET THE PEOPLE DECIDE.
Parks and Open Space
Parks and open space are vital to the life of any city. We all need a place to play, exercise, gather outdoors with family and friends, or just hear and see the natural world. The State of California has set a recommended standard of three acres of park land for every thousand city residents. Riverside is well below the standard at less than two acres per thousand residents. If that weren’t bad enough, the city has allowed several large proposed parks including Andulka Park and Tequesquite Park, to languish for decades without building the facilities that would permit the public to use them.
Earlier this year, Councilman Dom Betro proposed selling Tequesquite Park for high density residential development. Betro was forced to back down after overwhelming public opposition, but has instead proposed making 17.5 acres of Fairmont Park frontage along Market Street available for development. Save-Riverside STRONGLY opposes any attempt to remove this acreage for non-park uses.
Save-Riverside believes that the city’s parks have suffered from neglect and under-investment for decades. We believe that the city needs a first-class park system and that city park land should NEVER be sold or traded for development.
Traditionally, people in Riverside have counted on easy access to their elected officials and other city employees to resolve problems they might have regarding city services. Unfortunately, in recent years the City Council and other city officials have made it more difficult for citizens to provide input on city services and policies. City officials have refused to talk to citizens and the press about city actions and policies, have refused to respond to legitimate requests for information, and have been dismissive of citizen concerns. In July 2005 the City Council voted 6-1 to rescind the long-established policy of permitting citizens addressing the Council to speak about matters from the Council’s “consent calendar”, drastically curtailing the ability of citizens to participate in Council meetings.
Save-Riverside believes that democratic government cannot function without openness or without a commitment to enabling citizen participation beyond the simple act of voting. Save-Riverside is committed to restoring a more open relationship between Riverside’s citizens and their city government, including the restoration of a greater participatory role for citizens in Council meetings.
Integrity of Code Enforcement
Enforcement of city codes is vital to maintaining the safety and habitability of Riverside’s homes and workplaces. Unfortunately, the city’s Code Enforcement Department has become politicized and is being used as a tool to raise revenue and to intimidate those who have taken issue with city officials. Save-Riverside has received several reports from people who have lodged complaints with city officials and subsequently received visits from Code Enforcement officers. A recent article in the Inland Empire Weekly reported that Code Enforcement officers have an unwritten quota of 25 citations per day, despite the fact that such quotas are explicitly forbidden in their employment contracts. Officers report having to work through their lunch breaks and having to ignore serious code violations that would take too long to process.
Save-Riverside believes that Code Enforcement should return to its core function of protecting public health and safety. Using Code Enforcement as a means of intimidation and harassment is illegal and MUST stop. If you believe that you have been unfairly targeted by Code Enforcement Save-Riverside would like to hear about your experiences. If you prefer, you may remain anonymous.
Riverside is a very diverse city. It has within its boundaries people of all economic classes and conditions from the very wealthy to the very poor. Maintaining affordability of housing is vital so that those who work in Riverside can live here with dignity. Regrettably, Riverside city government does not share this goal. The city has undertaken a deliberate policy of displacing lower income residents. The city has demolished hundreds of affordable housing units without replacing them. The vast majority of new housing approved is targeted to the affluent or the very affluent. The results of this policy are evident throughout the city. Homelessness has increased and so has the number of families doubling or even tripling up in homes or apartments only designed for a single family. Many residential streets are packed with parked cars and city services are strained.
Save-Riverside believes that keeping housing affordable for all Riverside citizens is imperative to maintaining our quality of life. Because demolished affordable housing units are almost never replaced with units of similar affordability, we advocate the rehabilitation of existing units whenever possible. To this end we support incentives to renovate older structures and keep them in the housing stock.
Preservation of Historic Buildings, Landmarks and Local Arts
One the most appealing aspects of living in Riverside is being able to travel around the city and see buildings constructed in different eras and in a variety of architectural styles. Unlike many Southern California cities Riverside does not look as though it were built in a single decade because, of course, it wasn’t. The many older buildings are tangible evidence of the dreams and aspirations of past generations who also made Riverside their home. The members of Save-Riverside cherish our city’s heritage. We are saddened to see many historic older buildings succumb to redevelopment.
Although Save-Riverside recognizes that not all older structures are historic or worthy of preservation, we support and encourage reasonable efforts to rehabilitate and adapt older structures for new uses. We are concerned by the efforts of some city officials to weaken the Cultural Heritage Board and by city plans that dictate sweeping redevelopment for large portions of Riverside. Save-Riverside is committed to working with the many groups and individuals who believe that planning for our future includes maintaining a meaningful connection with Riverside’s heritage.
Save-Riverside understands that resident local bands, artists and venues are part of our rich culture. Local arts and music suffer most under redevelopment. We recognize that the only way we can keep Riverside's vibrant culture alive is by uniting the issue of redevelopment and the survival and nurture of local music and art.