Board to vote on eminent domain: Long Beach CA Press Telegram, 12/18/06

City in process of acquiring property downtown to pave way for two projects

By Don Jergler

The city's Redevelopment Agency Board will vote today whether to start legal procedures to take several properties that would make way for two key projects in downtown Long Beach.

The vote only begins the process of taking the properties, and property owners and the agency could still come to an agreement after the vote.

To take the properties, the board must use eminent domain, a controversial governmental power to legally seize private property to make way for development.

If the board is successful in taking the properties, it would pave the way for the Pacific Gateway residential project on Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue and the Art Exchange project in the East Village Arts District.

The Pacific Gateway project requires the agency to acquire a parking lot at 19 Lime Ave. and a three-story, 30-unit apartment complex at 645 E. Ocean Blvd. Other parcels have been acquired or are in the process of being acquired by the developer.

Property owners and the agency have been unable to come to terms on the price, said Community Development Director Pat West.

The agency has offered $520,000 for the parking lot. The agency offered $2.5 million for the apartments. Owners of both properties have expressed their wishes to sell, West said.

"At this stage it looks like they're willing sellers, it's just price issues," West said. "(A vote today to use eminent domain) gives us the authority to get very, very serious with the property owners. We can go to court to take the property if necessary."

The area for the Pacific Gateway project includes the former Video Choice site at Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue.

Plans call for 19-story and 14-story residential towers near the northwest corner of Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue.

The project would yield 305 residential units, retail and a three-level subterranean parking structure.

The agency is in discussions over the property at 615 E. Ocean Blvd., home to Long Beach Cafe. It's part of the current project plans. However, both the owners of the cafe and the property owner have expressed their wishes to stay.

West said talks over the property are ongoing, and the city can either initiate eminent domain procedures on that parcel or cut it out of the project, which would require a project redesign.

The agency will also discuss taking property in the East Village Arts District to make way for the Art Exchange project, which entails a residential development, an artistic component for art studios and a possible educational use.

The project requires the agency to acquire 340 to 346 E. Third St., 352 to 390 E. Third St., and 269 Elm Ave.

Those properties house Al's Fingerprinting, Jensen Rubber Stamp Co., Chan's Barber and Beauty Salon and Shades of Africa.

West said the agency will assist those businesses in finding another location.

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