San Diego Seeks to Confiscate 'Little Italy' Property

The Alsco Laundry in San Diego's Little Italy neighborhood has been cleaning linens for the city's top hotels and restaurants for more than 50 years.

But now, says general manager Mike Scacco, they're being hung out to dry, thanks to a new assertion of eminent domain.

"We have a set of plans that were provided by CLB Partners, a development corporation here in San Diego, for development of townhouses, condominiums for sale," Scacco said.

The city wants to move out the laundry service to make way for the project, which also includes retail stores. But with 150 employees on its payroll and service to 3,000 area businesses, Scacco said the company doesn't want to move.

"With the requirements that we have in our business, with the water requirements, the size of the building, there are very, very few, from what I understand at this point, sites that could accomodate us anywhere in San Diego County," he said.

But San Diego officials have designated this area of the city as "blighted," and according to the law the city has the authority to use its eminent domain powers for what supporters say is the good of the community.

"We have used the power of eminent domain for a number of years. The Centre City Redevelopment Project was adopted in '92 and we've used the power of eminent domain on a number of projects," said David Allsbrook, manager of contracting and public works at the Centre City Development Corporation.

While Centre City redevelopment has helped revitalize the downtown area, opponents say the efforts have also taken a toll in disrupted lives and businesses.

Alsco Laundry is hardly alone in being threatened with forced evacuation. Thousands of state and local agencies can claim eminent domain. In California, hundreds of homes and businesses are facing eviction from their land.

At least one legislator is trying to stop it.

After the U.S. Supreme Court upheld certain powers of eminent domain, State Sen. Tom McClintock introduced a bill that would prevent California cities from taking property from one private owner and giving it to another.

"There is nothing that rankles the American soul more than an abuse of power that creates an injustice and that's what the U.S. Supreme Court has now unleashed," McClintock told FOX News.

"There is no right to steal somebody else's property for personal gain. That is not a right that is recognized in any civilized society and we ought not to recognize it in ours," he added.

McClintock's bill and others like it around the nation could take months to become law, too late for Alsco, which is being pressured to sign on the dotted line this summer.

"It is emotional, and it's emotional for all of my people here, the greatest majority of them have worked here for many, many years," Scacco said.

Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Anita Vogel.