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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Saving people’s homes is a good reason for L.A. to use eminent domain

A community activist participates in a demonstration in front of L.A. City Hall over the lack of affordable housing.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: I have spent exactly one night sleeping in a tent on the streets of Los Angeles. As part of a protest in 2018 against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and its continued abuses of migrants, I camped outside the federal detention center downtown with other protesters.

The experience was easily one of the scariest nights of my life, and I had friends with me.

By discouraging City Hall from using eminent domain to allow tenants to hold onto their homes, the L.A. Times Editorial Board is effectively saying that a few more people forced onto the streets is worth not scaring away private developers from Los Angeles.

The interests of private real estate investors cannot continue to be prioritized when three people die each day on the streets of Los Angeles. At a certain point, this city is going to have to actually grow a moral backbone and decide human beings fundamentally deserve shelter, and use whatever means would allow us to provide that.

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Carter Moon, Los Angeles

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To the editor: As a doctoral student at UC Irvine who researches housing in Los Angeles, I found the editorial on eminent domain problematic for two reasons.

First, the “affordable housing shortage” framing misses the boat. Instead, we need true social housing that removes the profit incentive that causes displacement, and the city using its eminent domain power to protect the tenants at Hillside Villa in Chinatown whose rents will soon skyrocket would accomplish this.

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Second, the editorial’s defense of the sacredness of private property rights obscures a dark history of using such sacredness to justify violence. From expropriating the land of Native Americans to destroying Los Angeles’ historic Chinatown, private property rights matter when the wealthy are concerned, and conveniently disappear when poor people of color are around.

Using eminent domain at Hillside Villa is one way that the city can reverse this sad history and actually do good.

Raymond Fang, Irvine

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To the editor: Your editorial advising caution on the question of eminent domain points out important issues, but you omit any mention of the Ellis Act or the Costa-Hawkins Act.

The repeal of both these laws would go a long way to clearing a path for more affordable housing and give some protection for tenants in rent-controlled housing.

Leda Shapiro, Sherman Oaks


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