Eminent domain vote stalled: San Gabriel Valley (CA) Tribune, 10/20/05

Monterey Park considers condemning buildings

By Jason Kosareff

The [Monterey Park] City Council had not voted by 11 p.m. Wednesday on whether to use its eminent domain powers to condemn three commercial buildings, a move that would displace several businesses.

The council, acting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, deliberated for several hours on condemning buildings at 620, 608 and 608 1/2 N. Atlantic Blvd. to make way for Atlantic Times Square, a long-awaited major development.

To use its eminent domain powers, the panel must first determine that the commercial properties are blighted and that the new development would benefit the public.

Arcadia-based Kam Sang Co. wants to build 200,000 square feet of retail, 200 condominiums and a 14-screen movie theater on the property at the southwest corner of Atlantic Boulevard and Hellman Avenue.

"I think this is project is a tremendous step forward in this community," said Councilman Mike Eng.

Kit Leung owns an accounting business at 608 N. Atlantic Blvd.

Kam Sang recently purchased the property where Leung has a month-to-month lease. She said having to move the business she has spent three years building up would result in a financial hardship.

Tony Wang owns a cell-phone shop at 608 N. Atlantic.

"My whole family's living is based on my business," he said.

Leung and Wang asked for fair and just compensation if they are forced to leave. City officials made assurances they would be properly compensated.

Eng and other council members cited financial figures to make their case for the public benefits of the project:
  • The development would create $26 million in taxes for the city over 33 years.
  • More than 400 jobs would be created.
  • More than $200,000 in annual property taxes would be created by the project.
  • Kam Sang would have to pay $200,000 into a fund for city parks.

While discussion on the matter went late into the night, at least one council member expressed doubt that the property at 608 N. Atlantic is truly blighted.

Councilwoman Betty Tom Chu said that when she inspected the property it did not appear visibly blighted to her.

City Manager Chris Jeffers said blight could also be defined by the low economic performance of the property.

Of the eight businesses housed in the three commercial buildings, four have already reached a settlement with Kam Sang and the city. Happy Family Restaurant II at 608 N. Atlantic is close to reaching a deal, according to the restaurant owner's attorney.

San Gabriel Valley Tribune: www2.sgvtribune.com