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City set to extend eminent domain

Council is expected to use the tactic to acquire parcel on Brand Boulevard.

August 10, 2010|By Melanie Hicken, melanie.hicken@latimes.com

CITY HALL — The City Council tonight is set to extend eminent domain authority in the central Glendale redevelopment area as officials remain locked in negotiations for a key piece of property on Brand Boulevard.

The move would extend the city's authority to claim eminent domain authority, which is set to expire in September, for up to 12 years.

Under state law, public agencies can use eminent domain to buy a property at fair market value if they can prove the sale would further public good. In order to extend the authority, city officials completed a lengthy process that included community outreach, officials said.

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City officials say eminent domain is an important last-resort tool for redevelopment efforts and the elimination of blight.

"If you didn't have this, some property owners could hold the community hostage," said Philip Lanzafame, director of the Community Redevelopment & Housing Department. "Where it becomes helpful is if there is a disagreement over price."

The eminent domain process, he said, triggers the input of an unbiased independent appraiser, who in turn determines the market value of the property.

Still, the use of eminent domain in Glendale has been rare, Lanzafame said, adding that even when the process has begun, the city usually reaches an agreement with the property owners.

"There's an encouragement by the courts to settle," he said. "That's what public entities typically do."

City officials most recently used the authority in the central Glendale area when assembling properties for the Americana at Brand.

The renewed condemnation authority comes as the city continues closed-session negotiations with the owner of the building at 212 S. Brand Blvd. Securing the building would fulfill an expansion proposal from the Museum of Neon Art, which is slated to move into the vacant city-owned building next door at 216 S. Brand.

The city tried to buy the property in November, officials said.

The City Council approved MONA's expansion proposal in March, adding to the highly subsidized deal that the Los Angeles-based nonprofit museum secured with the city in September.

Under the proposed 15-year lease, the city would pledge up to $1 million in redevelopment funds to help renovate the vacant building. The museum would pay a phased rent that eventually would reach $7,500 per month. The first years would be rent-free.

In March, Greg Astorian, a representative for the property's owner, asked the council to hold off on a vote so that a proposal to bring in a national retail tenant could be refined.

On Monday, Astorian said negotiations with the city remain ongoing.

"It's not completed by any means," he said. "But it is going on, and there is a lot of good faith."

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