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By Steve Levy

Property rights and the will of the people

Uploaded: Sep 2, 2014

"Why would property rights trump the will of the people?"

Mark Weiss posted this question on my blog before he announced his candidacy for city council.

My answer is yes property rights go first with two important clarifications. One, property rights do not include the right to an automatic increase in zoning or waiver or exception unless reviewed and approved by the city council. Two, property rights do not include the right to promise public benefits and not follow through.

"Why" is the question Mark Weiss posed.

To me rights are really, really important. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that rights are only in force if the group in question is currently popular.

The rights of African Americans to vote and participate in our country without segregation would have been and would still be an even longer struggle without the concept of rights. The rights of gay Americans to marry and avoid discrimination would have been and still would be an even longer struggle if the "will of the people" prevailed in every local community. The same goes for women's reproductive rights. When my mom and dad bought their home 65 years ago, the covenant against selling to Jews was just ending. Now where they live is a vibrant community with Jews, Koreans and gay residents all living together with others in harmony. That's why rights are important.

I know some residents are angry with some property owners in Palo Alto. But that does not mean their rights are subject to the will or whim of the current residents.

Palo Alto and America would be worse places if basic rights were up for a vote every time some group became unpopular.

That's my answer to Mark's question.