By Paul Eakins

City of Long Beach Eminent Domain

LONG BEACH – The City Council made the rare decision Tuesday to use its power of eminent domain to acquire a sliver of property along Pacific Coast Highway in order to widen the roadway.

The council voted 8-1, with Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske dissenting, to force the sale of the 9,934-square-foot strip of land in southeast Long Beach to create a right-turn lane on southbound PCH north of Second Street.

The property is behind City National Bank and in front of Hof’s Hut restaurant. The city will pay the property owner $655,000, which is an offer that the owner had rejected.

Eminent domain gives governmental entities the ability to force someone to sell their property at a fair market value for the public good. Dennis Thys, the city’s director of Community Development, said the traffic mitigation project had been recommended in a 1998 environmental impact report for the Marina Shores Shopping Center located on PCH, south of 2nd Street, which is where the Whole Foods Market is located.

The often crowded intersection serves more than 85,000 vehicles per day and up to 100,000 daily during peak summer months, city traffic engineer Dave Roseman said.

“It’s an exciting time for the community,” said 3rd District Councilman Gary DeLong. “They have waited for this project for many years.”

An attorney representing the property owner had been expected to speak at Tuesday’s meeting but didn’t show up. This lack of input from the property owner bothered Schipske. She said the city should continue negotiating with the property owner and not use eminent domain.

“It may be needed … but I do have a strong objection for government doing things by eminent domain,” Schipske said. Although the council action allows city staff to move forward with eminent domain, Thys said he hopes to reach an agreement with the property owner and avoid the eminent domain legal procedure.

Assistant City Attorney Heather Mahood said the litigation cost of pursuing eminent domain would be $30,000 to $40,000 for outside counsel, in addition to the $655,000 price of the land. The construction project itself will cost almost $1 million but will be paid mostly by Boeing because of a Seal Beach development that impacts Long Beach traffic, as well as by the Marina Shores developer, Thys said.

Thys said the project won’t have any permanent impact on the businesses there. However, he said Hof’s Hut would be temporarily impacted during the construction of the turn lane, which could take up to five months.

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