Los Angeles County Votes to Seize South L.A. Property


Los Angeles County has taken steps to seize a blighted lot in South Los Angeles for development against the objection of a property owner planning to build an entertainment village.

The Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to acquire by eminent domain 4.2 acres at Vermont and Manchester avenues, an area that has generated dozens of public nuisance complaints since its buildings were set ablaze during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.

In the vote, the board also agreed to set aside $15.7 million to buy the mostly-vacant Vermont Avenue tract where it plans to build a six-story mixed-use affordable housing and retail project with a transit plaza and a charter boarding school for at-risk kids.

“The proposed project will bring much needed affordable housing to the South Los Angeles community in close proximity to high quality transit,” the county Chief Executive Office said in a letter to the board. “(It) is also designed to revitalize the Vermont/Manchester area.”

The owner of the property, Sassony Commercial Real Estate Co., immediately said in a statement the county’s move was unjust and it planned to sue to block seizure of its land.

The Sherman Oaks company owned by Eli Sasson had announced two years ago a proposal to develop Vermont Entertainment Village, a 200,000-square-foot center with restaurants, a banquet hall and stores surrounding an open air plaza.

Sassony submitted nearly 800 signatures of South L.A. residents in support of the retail project, which it said would revitalize a high-crime corner known as “Death Valley.”

Robert Silverstein, an attorney representing the landowner, said in a statement the county failed to establish that seizing the Sassony property was necessary to the proposed county project as required by law.

“There is no reason why my client’s project should be sacrificed to make way for the county project when the county has many properties to choose from to complete the project,” Silverstein said.

Health business reporter Dana Bartholomew can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @_DanaBart.

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