Are South LA residents being used as campaign props? As the debate rages on about the fate of empty parcels at the intersection of Manchester Blvd and Vermont Ave, residents are not happy with the silence of area Councilman Marqueece Harris-Dawson and the areas Congresswoman Maxine Waters having “no position” on the matter. 2UrbanGirls has had one helluva struggle to get them both on the record on this issue but did make small steps in the right direction. Area residents may not be happy with what we have learned thus far.
2UrbanGirls reached out to Harris-Dawson’s office for an interview. His team stated he was “too busy” for a face to face meeting and offered a telephone interview. Peeved by this, 2UrbanGirls submitted a public records request for his calendar of events. He then became available for a sit down.
When 2UrbanGirls arrived, he and his team had just finished lunch. Their empty plates were still on the table. We discussed his not wavering on his initial support of eminent domain of the empty parcels, dating back to his days as the head of CoCo South LA.
He supported eminent domain when initial proceedings began under the now non-existent Redevelopment Agency. When called to give remarks in December 2017 at a LA County Board of Supervisor’s meeting, he publicly reiterated his support of eminent domain. Harris-Dawson shared with 2UrbanGirls, “I was not asked about what I would like to see on those lots. I was only asked whether I supported eminent domain or not.”
Harris-Dawson gave background that CoCo South LA held numerous community town hall style meetings to ascertain what the residents wanted and they want economic revival. The parcels were home to many small businesses that were ultimately destroyed during the 1992 riots and were never rebuilt.
When asked about his opinion on what LA County is proposing at the site: affordable housing, a boarding school for wayward youth, a Metro job training center and a 400 car parking lot, he replied, “…that is not my understanding of what the county is planning for the site.” He refused to elaborate on the record. Harris-Dawson did share he would much rather negotiate with LA County over the direction of the lots as opposed to the current owner Eli Sasson.
After nearly two months of sending emails to her constituent office and via her official Congressional website, we finally received a call from Henry Cloud in the Congresswoman’s office. I took the opportunity to make him aware of the predatory lending taking place in Inglewood City Hall, which the Congresswoman made her mission to make substantial changes to.
Prior to speaking with her office 2UrbanGirls researched Ms. Waters position on eminent domain because we weren’t clear as to what it was.
Rep. Waters held a Town Hall meeting, in South LA, that was supported by one of the areas two Neighborhood councils. The community is divided over whether the current owners of the parcels should be allowed to proceed with their strip mall idea, that would bring jobs and revenue to the corridor. Others are in support of eminent domain but aren’t happy with what LA County is proposing.
In 2012 Congresswoman Waters and Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) introduced H.R. 1433 “The Private Property Rights Protection Act of 2011.” A press release on the Congresswoman’s page gives clarity into what the bill aims to do.
The legislation [H.R. 1433] is intended to protect private property owners and communities from eminent domain abuse, and restore property rights that the Supreme Court changed in the controversial case, Kelo v. City of New London.
In Kelo, the Court upheld the ability of the State and Federal government to transfer privately-owned property against the wishes of the owner to a large corporation, declaring that the resulting economic development would produce benefits to the community.
The Supreme Court’s Kelo ruling raised serious concerns that the government could use its power to seize private property from individual private citizens for the benefit of more powerful, better connected, wealthier private parties.
The bill imposed financial sanctions for any entity who seized private land for economic development purposes for a period of two years.
Although the bill passed the initial reading, it failed to be passed into law.
In March 2017, before all the hubbub surrounding Manchester and Vermont became public before the start of 2018, the failed bill was reintroduced by Sensenbrenner and was again co-sponsored by Waters, as H.R. 1689. The major difference is the bill would extend economic sanctions from two years to seven.
The property in question at Manchester and Vermont is aimed to be seized by LA County and slated to be sold to the more powerful and better connected, wealthier party named LA County Metropolitan Transit Authority aka Metro.
2UrbanGirls asked the question, “Is she [Rep. Waters] contradicting her position on eminent domain, for economic development, by supporting South LA residents who want the property at Manchester/Vermont to be a source of economic resurgence v the County’s proposal, which proposes no economic incentives?”
Our question made it her office is Washington D.C. and we were referred to the above press release for clarity. Her office reiterated she had no position on the Manchester and Vermont debacle, however, her statement in the 2012 press release was clear as was her signing on as co-sponsor of the 2017 version:
“I am very pleased that the House last night passed H.R. 1433 to reverse the Supreme Court’s overly broad Kelo ruling,” Rep. Waters said. “This legislation is critical to preventing states from using eminent domain to seize private property from one individual in order to transfer it to a company for for economic development. Eminent domain abuse impacts both urban and rural communities, and it is past time that the Congress acted affirmatively to protect the private property rights of all Americans – who all too often are not evenly matched to challenge private companies in lengthy litigation. Where the Supreme Court has created ambiguity, Congress must be clear: there should never be a legal question concerning the rights individuals have to their own homes and property.”
2UrbanGirls replied, “I read the press release and to my understanding the bill did not pass and has been reintroduced. Has she made the community aware she has legislation being considered that will impose economic sanctions, to local government entities that use eminent domain for economic development? In essence, her bill goes against what the community wants to see happen at Manchester and Vermont. So hosting a town hall, which appears to support the community wanting the land taken for economic development, can be viewed as contradictory, No?”
2UrbanGirls has yet to receive a response. How do you view the Congresswoman’s position on this matter?
In the nearby city of Inglewood, also in Rep. Waters district, eminent domain has been used to seize property from both residents and business owners, along the Century Blvd. corridor, to widen streets for the incoming NFL stadium. Publicly we are being told it’s for ADA purposes. A review of past Inglewood City Council agendas show accompanying documents, including staff reports related to Century Blvd. have been mysteriously removed to prevent the public from accessing. 2UrbanGirls has pointed this out, via email, to City Clerk Yvonne Horton, IT Director Matthew Chambers and Joshua Howe, the employee whose job it is to upload city documents to the website and who moonlights as a campaign consultant to Mayor James Butts. The missing documents have not been put back.
In 2016 Metro created a task force to create a parking solution to accommodate the massive influx of cars for the games. 2UrbanGirls reported the task force failed miserably and Metro yanked their contract.
The Champions Initiative, passed by Inglewood City Council in February 2015, that included language on utilizing shuttles to move game attendees to/from designated parking lots. Inglewood City Clerk Yvonne Horton received authorization in February 2017 to destroy ALL documents related to the initiative. 2UrbanGirls has copies of both the short and full version of the initiative should anyone want to request a copy from us for research purposes.
The South LA lots in question are nearly two dozen blocks to the East of the stadium on Manchester Blvd. and with the proposed 400 space parking lot in its direct path, it would provide some form of relief for Inglewood’s parking problems.
South LA residents are fighting back against eminent domain saying they want economic development as the owner promised. How will the courts decide?