Eminent domain plan to be revised in National City: San Diego (CA) Union-Tribune, 2/23/05

By Tanya Sierra

A key piece of the [National City CA] downtown revitalization plan was delayed again last night when officials voted to revise the eminent domain expansion proposal.

City officials have been trying for months to double the territory they are able to take over for redevelopment, but each time they are ready to move on the issue, resident concerns stall a vote.

Citizens and council members were worried that eminent domain wouldn't expire for 12 years, that the expansion area wasn't specific enough and that the proposal failed to clearly state that homes would not be condemned.

Community Development Director Ben Martinez will revise the proposal next month. The next vote is scheduled for March 22.

Although cities have used eminent domain for different purposes, in National City it allows city officials to take over any private property that is abandoned or vacant, and property in the redevelopment area zoned for commercial or industrial use.

It has been a contentious topic with residents because most are suspicious of the process. Even though officials have said during public meetings that expanding their authority does not include residential property, written documents about the subject do not say it clearly enough.

Ted Godshalk, a National City resident, asked that the new resolution state high in the document that residences would not be included.

Other speakers wondered why the authority had to last so long.

Councilman Luis Natividad said he was conflicted about the expansion.

"It's difficult for me to vote against an item that is seen as a tool for progress," he said. "I will only support it if it pertains to a specific area to be developed – not a blanket granting of eminent domain on the whole city."

The proposal was to expand eminent domain territory from National City Boulevard and the Harbor District to include Highland Avenue, the city's west side, East Plaza Boulevard, parts of the Eighth Street corridor and parts of 30th Street and Sweetwater Road.

But Councilman Ron Morrison said more specific project areas should be given, and asked whether they could decrease the amount of time they would have power.

"I have a problem with us just throwing out 12 years," he said. "Let's take a look at the time period actually needed."

State law allows eminent domain power to last 12 years, but cities could shorten the time.

San Diego Union-Tribune: www.signonsandiego.com