1/01/2008

Condo Commercial Plan May Require Eminent Domain


By Matthew Rodriguez

The city of Vista [CA] could consider using its eminent domain powers to help a developer acquire four parcels on North Santa Fe Avenue for an 8.9-acre residential and commercial project.

The City Council voted unanimously last week to enter into exclusive negotiations for land purchases with Vista-based RA&B Development LLC.

While the company owns some of the land at the northeast corner of North Santa Fe Avenue and Cananea Street, it wants to buy an adjoining city-owned parcel at market value.

The company also is seeking the city's help in buying four properties whose owners have declined to sell, said Jalal Rahman of RA&B.

“We've contacted all of them many, many times,” Rahman said.

The firm's proposed three-story project calls for 315 condominiums and 127,000 square feet of office and retail space. It could also include underground parking.

The land is in the city's redevelopment zone, which targets blighted areas.

“This represents a great opportunity for us to have a tremendously positive impact on this part of town,” said William Rawlings, the city's redevelopment director. “It's on my list of priorities.”

The city and RA&B have 90 days after the council's action last week to work out a Disposition and Development Agreement that would spell out whether the city would use eminent domain.

“Theoretically, we might use eminent domain there,” Rawlings said. “We're a long way from entering into a contract, much less laying that out.”

The site is bordered by homes to the east and commercial properties on the other three sides. The site is a few blocks southwest of Vista High School.

Most of the land is vacant, but one parcel is home to a spa retailer, Pacific Coast Spas & Accessories, at 1309 N. Santa Fe Ave.

Barry Hayes, the owner of Pacific Coast, said he rents his building from a property owner who lives in Africa. He said if a sale goes through, he would want help finding space with similar rent and be compensated for moving expenses.

“I just don't have the funds,” Hayes said.

The business, which sells new and used spas, has been on the site since 1987. “This is an established business in the city of Vista,” he said. “I pay taxes like everybody else.”

None of the property owners could be reached for comment.

On Oct. 11, the city notified property owners of the developer's proposal. According to the proposal, RA&B has been trying to acquire the five parcels for about two years.

Without them, Rahman said, the project would have to be scaled back and could be financially infeasible.

Rahman said the owner of the Pacific Coast Spas property wanted money over time rather than at once. A payment plan over 10 to 15 years was proposed, but the owner opted out, Rahman said.

The others, Rahman said, have asked for too much money. “Everyone is holding out thinking they're going to get four or five times what the property is worth,” he said.



San Diego CA Union-Tribune: http://www.signonsandiego.com