National City, Calif.

Co-founder Clemente Casillas at the CYAC gym in National City, Calif.
Watch the Video: EPIC EMINENT DOMAIN BATTLE: Inner-City Kids, Boxing Gym Fight Back

Community Youth Athletic Center v. City of National City, et al.
Victimizing the Vulnerable: Eminent Domain Abuse in National City, Calif.

The Community Youth Athletic Center (CYAC) - a California gym that mentors at-risk kids - scored a knockout legal blow against eminent domain abuse in California on April 21, 2011, when Judge Steven R. Denton of the Superior Court of California ruled in the CYAC's favor against National City, Calif., in one of the most important property rights cases in the nation.  

This legal victory stems from events that began in 2005, when National City approved a luxury condo project on the gym's land and threatened it with the use of eminent domain.  The lawsuit was filed in 2007, when the CYAC, represented by the Institute for Justice of Arlington, Va., stepped into the ring to challenge the decision by National City, Calif., to re-apply a bogus "blight" designation to two-thirds of the city and target the gym, as well as many other properties, for eminent domain.  

After four years of hard-fought litigation, the Court struck down National City's entire 692-property eminent domain zone in the first decision to apply the legal reforms that California enacted to counter the disastrous U.S. Supreme Court Kelo decision in 2005.  This ruling, which found that National City lacked a legal basis for its blight declaration, reinforces vital protections for property owners across the state, and underscores why redevelopment agencies should be abolished.

The Court also ruled that National City violated the Due Process clause of the U.S. Constitution in failing to provide the CYAC with statutorily required information prior to an important public hearing.

Finally, in a holding with implications well beyond redevelopment law, the Court also held that when the government retains a private consultant to perform government functions-in this case, documenting the existence of alleged "blight" in National City-documents that the private consultant produces are public records subject to disclosure under the California Public Records Act.  The Court also set a clear standard for what government agencies have to do in searching the records of their private consultants in response to a Public Records Act request.


Essential Background


Backgrounder: Victimizing the Vulnerable: Eminent Domain Abuse in National City, Calif.

Media Photos: Carlos Barragan Jr.

Latest Release: Appeal of Property Case to California Supreme Court Could Have Major Impact on Other Rights, Too (January 16, 2014)

Victory Release: Youth Gym Prevails at the Court of Appeal: National City Violated the California Redevelopment Law and the Public Records Act (October 30, 2013)

Video: EPIC EMINENT DOMAIN BATTLE: Inner-City Kids, Boxing Gym Fight Back

Victory Release: Major California Property Rights Victory for Landowners in Eminent Domain Abuse Fight; National City Violated  Federal Constitution and State Laws (April 22, 2011)

Video: Eminent Domain Gone Wild

Broadcast: Scott Bullock on KFMB CBS radio San Diego, March 17, 2011 (length: 13:12) {enclose KFMB_SCOTT_BULLOCK_broadcast.mp3}
Download this file as an .mp3

Launch Release: California Gym for Inner-city Kids Joins IJ in Eminent Domain Abuse Battle; New Study Vindicates O’Connor’s Warning: Government Kicks Out Poor To Make Way for Rich (June 19, 2007)
Legal Briefs and Decisions
Keep Updated: on what's going on in National City Today Download: California Court of Appeals Opinion January 22, 2009 (PDF)
IJ's complaint, filed September 25, 2007 in California Superior Court (PDF)

Case Timeline

Filed Lawsuit:


September 25, 2007

Court Filed:


California Superior Court


Feb. 15, 2008:  Superior Court dismisses entire case on technicality.  The published notice about the lawsuit was initially correct, but when the newspaper changed the publication date, a date in the notice became off by one business day.

Jan. 22, 2009:  Court of Appeal reverses Superior Court and holds there was “good cause” for the publication error. It directs Superior Court to allow republication.
Nov. 6, 2009:  Superior Court rejects attempt by National City to get case dismissed on another technicality.
Jan. 21, 2010:  Court of Appeal denies request by National City to review and reverse Nov. 6, 2009 decision.
April 21, 2011: Superior Court issues a 50-page opinion ruling for plaintiff CYAC on almost every claim and invalidates National City's bogus blight ordinance, protecting the CYAC gym and nearly 700 other properties from the threat of eminent domain.



Trial was held March 14-22, 2011.  On April 21, 2011 the Superior Court ruled for the CYAC, invalidating National City's bogus blight ordinance.

Additional Releases

Maps, Charts and Facts

Release: Besieged Boxing Gym for At-Risk Kids Defends Itself Again in Court (September 23, 2013)

Download: Handouts, Flyers and Poster

Release: California Court Rules National City Likely Violated Open Meetings Law (November 14, 2011)

MAP: State Supreme Court Rulings On Eminent Domain for Private Development

Release: National City Violated Open Meetings Law; New General Plan and Zoning to Be Challenged in Court(June 29, 2011)


IJ’s first-ever nationwide census of eminent domain abuse:  Public Power, Private Gain

Release: After Losing Eminent Domain Court Case National City Declares War on Small Business (June 2, 2011)

Release: California Eminent Domain Trial Will Demonstrate National City Violated State and Federal Constitutions, State Laws (March 11, 2011)

Op-eds, News Articles and Links

Article: Behind the Scenes at the CYAC Trial; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Release: Victory for Boxing Gym in Eminent Domain Bout: California Court of Appeals Unanimously Reverses Lower Court (January 22, 2009)

Article: IJ Puts Eminent Domain Abuse on the Ropes in National City; Liberty & Law (June 2011)

Release: Eminent Domain Case Dismissed on Technicality, Gym Will Appeal (February 15, 2008) Article: Local Gym Fighting 'Blighted' Label; Sandiego 10 (March 14, 2011)
Release: California Gym for Inner-city Kids Files Lawsuit to Battle Bogus Blight (September 25, 2007) Article: Second Round for Boxing Gym vs. Eminent Domain; Liberty & Law (April 2009)
Release: California Gym and IJ Vow to Fight Eminent Domain Abuse (July 18, 2007) Article: An Unfair Fight; Sports Illustrated (August 13, 2007)

Article: IJ Enters the Ring To Help Save Inner-city Gym; Liberty & Law (August 2007)

Article: Eminent domain extension facing strong opposition, San Diego Union Tribune (June 20, 2007)
Op-ed: Don't KO the kids with bogus blight, San Diego Union-Tribune (June 19, 2007)

Website: Community Youth Athletic Center

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