By Doug Haberman
Eastside neighborhood residents on Tuesday urged the City Council to use eminent domain to buy a University Avenue property holding a liquor store and automobile upholstery business, but the council delayed the vote until March 23.
City officials and neighbors said Discount Liquor is the site of frequent violations of the law, including prostitution, illegal drug sales, public intoxication and indecent exposure.
The delay gives the city Redevelopment Agency two weeks to work one last time with property owner Hassan Taheri to come up with a plan for improving his parcel.
The council acts as the agency’s board of directors.
Agency staff estimated it would cost almost $1 million to buy the property and demolish the two buildings.
Neighbors said children see criminal behavior oustide the liquor store every day.
“This is a very big concern for us parents,” said resident Mary Munoz.
Zarren Pasma, chairman of the 7th Street Historic District Neighborhood Improvement Association, said the group opposes a blanket use of eminent domain for economic development.
But “Discount Liquor needs to go,” he said.
Added Eastside resident Steve Easland: “It’s time for the city to step up to the plate.”
The police received 31 calls about the liquor store in 2007 and eight more in the past couple of months, said Lt. Larry Gonzalez, who oversees policing in an area that includes the Eastside neighborhood.
Calls were for everything from robberies to public intoxication, he said.
Gonzalez added that many more times police officers patrolling the neighborhood stop on their own initiative to deal with problems outside Discount Liquor.
City Manager Brad Hudson said Discount Liquor is a problem and that its removal would fit in with efforts the city has made in the past two years to tear down other problem properties on University Avenue, including liquor stores and motels.
For his part, landowner Taheri told the council he tried to work with the Redevelopment Agency officials but they insisted he buy a neighboring parcel before they would consider his plans to redevelop his property into a strip mall on his own, which he would like to do. But the owner of the neighboring parcel is not interested in selling, Taheri said.
I don’t know what to do,” he said.
The Press-Enterprise: http://www.pe.com