Baldwin Park must extend eminent domain authority

By Tania Chatila

BALDWIN PARK – The City Council needs to pass a pair of amendments if it hopes to revitalize 125 acres of downtown real estate, officials said.

The amendments, written by city staff, would extend Baldwin Park’s eminent domain authority for another 12 years in both the Central Business District and the Sierra Vista redevelopment project areas. One amendment would also allow the city to extend its authority to residential property not previously included.

A proposal by the Bisno Development Co. seeking to redevelop 125 downtown acres includes property in portions of both zones.

Baldwin Park and the developer continue to negotiate. If the Council does not pass the amendments, the project – in its entirety – would not be feasible, City Attorney Joseph Pannone said.

“That doesn’t mean the project is going to die,” Councilman Anthony Bejarano said. “It may take a smaller form. The 125 acres isn’t necessarily the end all, be all. It’s more like the canvas we are starting with.”

Pannone said the proposed amendments will go before the project area committees for each redevelopment area and the Planning Commission next month for review.

The City Council will have final say over whether the amendments are passed. But if the project area committees vote against them, the amendments would require at least four of five City Council members to vote to approve them, Pannone said.

The CBD and Sierra Vista redevelopment project areas were established in the 1980s. The city has eminent domain authority over commercial property in the CBD area for another eight to 10 years and over commercial and residential property in the Sierra Vista area until next year, Pannone said.

Along with seeking another 12 years of authority for both areas, the amendments also seek to extend eminent domain authority over residential property in the CBD area, Pannone said.

The CBD area constitutes Baldwin Park’s downtown, and the Sierra Vista area includes land by the 10 Freeway, parts of the downtown and an industrial area off of East Ramona Boulevard, associate planner Salvador Lopez.

Portions of all of those sectors make up Bisno’s 125-acre proposed project area – which would require the procurement of 370 homes and businesses through eminent domain, officials said.

If the amendments do not pass, the city would not be able to exercise eminent domain authority over any owner-occupied units in those areas, Lopez said.

“It is related (to the 125-acre project) in the fact of how it is going to impact the overall project,” Councilman Ricardo Pacheco said. “It’s sort of a continuance with the development area. If we vote not to extend authority, than that kind of ends the whole project area.”

Mayor Manuel Lozano said there is no rush to resolve the amendment issue, especially because the Bisno project is still conceptual.

“Definitely it’s a concern because of a project of this magnitude in the downtown,” he said. “I’m not going to say it’s an urgency.”

While the Council has the final say, at least one council member said the PAC’s votes will influence his decision.

“Anytime we have, whether it’s a PAC or a commission, their recommendation always has weight,” Bejarano said. “Given what I know about the amendments currently and their interplay with them moving the development forward, if the PACs were to recommend for those amendments, I would strongly be in support of them.”

Pacheco said he wants to make sure the residents are not negatively affected.

“My whole purpose,” he said, “is to make sure residents aren’t impacted by eminent domain.”

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