Eminent domain stayed for ex-car dealers: San Diego (CA) Union Tribune, 8/24/05

By Tanya Sierra

One of the original families to own a dealership on the Mile of Cars [in National City] got a three-week reprieve last night from the risk of losing its land to the powers of eminent domain.

The Daily family, which had the first Datsun dealership in National City's famed auto park, now leases its 4½-acre block to Mossy Nissan, which for the past four years has wanted to buy the land.

At last night's Community Development Commission meeting, the City Council, which acts as the board of the redevelopment agency, heard conflicting stories that left it wanting more time to review how the process so far has been implemented. Extra time also would allow for a councilman who was absent, Frank Parra, to return from vacation and vote.

The Daily family contends that Mossy Nissan agreed to buy the property, on National City Boulevard between 26th and 28th streets, for $8 million in February. But the Dailys say they were "undercut" by the city's redevelopment agency when it began issuing letters on behalf of Mossy in March, saying the Nissan dealership had expansion and improvement plans for the property, which falls in the city's redevelopment zone.

Such letters are the initial step required before a hearing is called, such as last night's, where commissioners vote on whether to take a property by eminent domain.

Daily family members, under an impression that Mossy wanted to buy the property, did not respond to the city correspondence until they realized they could be forced to sell their property for less than they say it is valued.

"This eminent domain just knocked us off our feet," said Larry Daily, spokesman for the family. "There's no reason to undercut us and just take it."

The Mossys see it differently.

Peter Mossy, president of Mossy Nissan, said there was never a formal agreement to buy the property.

"We do not have a deal, and we have not had a deal," he said.

Ed Whittler, attorney for the Mossys, acknowledged that one of the Mossy brothers signed a letter of intent in February but said "it was not a binding agreement."

An attorney for the CDC offered to buy the property for $1 million less than the letter of intent the Dailys had with the Mossy group, a Daily real estate representative said.

Mossy provides about $1 million a year in sales and property taxes to the city.

The Mile of Cars, which is the sales-tax anchor for National City, produces more than $5 million in annual sales taxes, City Manager Chris Zapata said.

If Mossy acquires the Daily property, 25 jobs would be created and $200,000 to $300,000 more in annual city sales taxes would be collected within five years, according to city estimates.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 13.

San Diego Union Tribune: www.signonsandiego.com