By A.J. Hazarabedian

The city of Lemon Grove in San Diego County is planning to acquire four properties to complete an $8 to $10 million project to realign Lemon Grove Avenue near State Route 94, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune article, “City to spend nearly $4 million for properties, road project“. The properties are located along Main Street and North Avenue and are expected to cost the city about $4 million. City officials have said that more than $1.3 million of that is to be reimbursed by a San Diego Association of Governments grant.

Last week the board voted at a council meeting to acquire a property on North Avenue, currently occupied by a storage business, for $2.5 million. This 1-acre property is needed to complete the project, which when completed, should ease the flow of traffic going in and out of the city, improve a main entryway, and upgrade infrastructure.

The  city is hopeful that all of the necessary properties will be acquired by the spring so that construction can begin by the summer of 2010.

The city, acting also as the community development agency, indicated it has the authority of eminent domain but is still attempting to negotiate with affected property owners. However, because of the project’s importance as well as the construction timeline, the agency has said they may need to use eminent domain if they cannot come to an agreement with the property owners. The City Manager indicated this process would be handled through the local Superior Court and could take about six months.

Commentary from A.J. Hazarabedian:

It is curious that the City apparently feels the need to exercise eminent domain through its Redevelopment Agency for a road alignment. Eminent Domain by Redevelopment Agencies is supposed to be for the elimination of blight, not construction of streets. Acquisition of property for streets is usually done through the City’s power of eminent domain, not its Redevelopment Agency’s power. Is it possible that the City might have something else in mind in addition to the road alignment? Irrespective, the City might just find that the cost to the City exceeds the $4 million budgeted, and the time to go through the Superior Court could well exceed the six months estimated by the City Manager.