But passage of Prop. 99 limits hotel project

By Laith Agha

The Seaside City Council voted unanimously Thursday to revive its power of eminent domain within areas earmarked for redevelopment, although the recent passing of Proposition 99 put a major snag in a hotel project within one of the zones proposed by former baseball star Reggie Jackson.

Mayor Ralph Rubio said eminent domain is a power that should not be abused, but can be effective for accomplishing redevelopment goals that benefit homeowners, business owners and the greater community.

“To throw out this important tool,” Rubio said, “is not the proper way to go.”

Proposition 99, passed this week by 62 percent of state voters, restricts government from using eminent domain to take private single-family homes to benefit private developers, though it does allow government to acquire commercial and industrial properties through eminent domain.

Jackson’s development team had proposed a hotel project on a 5.7-acre portion of the city’s redevelopment area that includes 17 houses. The use of eminent domain, a power the city had until it expired in April, had been considered to allow the project to become a reality. The city could have theoretically used eminent domain to acquire any and all properties within the area and transfer them to Jackson.

But under Proposition 99, if any homeowners within that area refused to sell to Jackson, the current proposal could be stymied.

The hotel project was not discussed during Thursday’s council meeting.

The council’s vote came after the redevelopment zone’s Project Area Committee — a citizen advisory group selected in January to represent residents and businesses in the area near the project — voted 7-1 in May against the renewal of eminent domain powers in the project area.

The committee had called the use of eminent domain for private development an abuse of power.

The committee’s decision meant it will take a vote of at least four of the five council members, instead of a simple majority of three, to restore the eminent domain authority.

A 2006 state law limits a city’s use of eminent domain to 12 years within a designated area. Seaside’s merged-project area, which covers 40 acres in the southwest portion of the city, was designated in 1996 and expired this year.

The City Council approved an exclusive negotiating agreement in 2007 with RLJ Development and management company Amador Hotel 44 to pursue the 252-room hotel complex at Del Monte and Canyon Del Rey boulevards.

The proposed hotel site has 17 residences, four businesses and a church that would have to be removed to make way for the project, either voluntarily or through eminent domain. Jackson owns about a half-acre of the site.

Monterey County Herald: http://www.montereyherald.com