L.A. County Board of Supervisors moves forward with eminent domain proceedings on vacant lots in South LA

In less than a week, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (BOS) took steps to seize empty lots at the intersection of Manchester and Vermont.  It was initially reported on November 30th that the county was mulling eminent domain with a follow-up article on December 1st stating the developer was “shocked” at the county’s idea. At the regularly scheduled BOS meeting held today, the five member body moved to adopt a Resolution of Necessity condemning the properties, which officially starts the eminent domain process.

The lots were made vacant during the 1992 riots.  The lots have been vacant and owned by Eli Sasson for over two decades.  Sasson is in the process of erecting a new charter school, a few blocks over on a former carwash, that sits directly across from St. Michael’s.

Before leaving office in June 2015, former CD8 councilman Bernard Parks held a highly publicized “groundbreaking” ceremony, on the 23rd anniversary of the riots, stating the developer,  Sassony Commercial Real Estate, was ready to move forward.  Parks also cautioned he has attended more groundbreaking ceremonies than grand openings.

Related:  Long-Blighted South L.A. Lots to See Groundbreaking on Massive Development Wednesday

Two years later the BOS have different plans that are attached to Metro.

The county is proposing to use Metro funds to purchase the site, at an approx. value of nearly $16 million, and according the staff report on today’s BOS agenda, the site will have:

  • 383 parking spaces;
  • community room;
  • Metro job training facility;
  • county run charter boarding school for middle and high school students; and
  • affordable housing

Members of the EC Southeast Area Neighborhood Council and Congresswoman Maxine Waters were also left in the dark about the eminent domain activity.  The community had no voice in what was being proposed to go into the space.

2UrbanGirls inquired of StreetsblogLA reporter Sahra Sulaiman why would Metro be attached to this project and she cited a few reasons.

It is part of the SCAG transit plan and it justifies the eminent domain action, CEQA exemption and the local returns funds from Prop A being used to purchase the property.  Vermont is slated to have a Bus Rapid Transit line running the length of the Avenue and with the surrounding Metro projects it is an opportunity to bring job training to the area.

Eli Sasson also owns the vacant building directly across the street from the blighted properties, on the NorthWest corner of Manchester and Vermont which also sits vacant and a multitude of properties in DTLA.

A representative from Sasson’s companies shared this with Bianca Barragan with CurbedLA:

“It was a complete shock to us,” says Jennifer Duenas, chief operations officer with Sassony Properties.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors released plans Thursday to use eminent domain to take control of parcels at Vermont and Manchester avenues owned by both Sassony Properties and the CRA/LA, the successor agency to the defunct community redevelopment agency.

But Duenas says Sassony closed escrow two weeks ago on the remaining Vermont Knolls parcels owned by the CRA/LA.

The purchase was the culmination of two years of litigation that stalled progress on a project that would bring a fancy outdoor mall to the site at Vermont and Manchester avenues, Duenas says.

County officials “know we’ve been fighting the CRA/LA for two years” to buy the property, Duenas said.

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