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What's Worse Than eminent Domain?
Sad Day on Main Street
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Opinions and Editorials

Scott Weimer 1-17-08
Mike Silva 2-7-08
John Scott 2-14-08
Harry J. Krebs 2-14-08
Lennie DeCaro 2-21-08
Peter Katz 2-28-08
Newspaper Articles
(Newest Listed First)
GG Journal 9-18-08
OC News Story 2-20-08
GG Journal 1-17-08
GG Journal 1-10-08
OC News Story 1-4-08
OC Register Story 1-3-08
Real Estate Journal 10-8-07
GG Journal 10-4-07
OC News Story 10-3-07
GG Journal 7-26-07
GG Journal 6-28-07
OC Weekly Expose' 4-26-07
OC Register 4-26-07
GG Journal 4-12-07
OC News Story 4-11-07
OC News Editorial 4-11-07
OC News Editorial 11-17-06
GG Journal 10-26-06
SAD DAY ON MAIN STREET
It could soon be a sad day on Main Street. As a matter of fact there may soon be a day that Main Street will no longer be here at all. Someday, possibly sooner than later, the bulldozers will arrive and begin plowing over all the trees in our west parking lot to make way for the towering and obtrusive 5-story, 100 unit high-density condo complex recently approved by our own City Council. It will be the first residential project ever to be built in the downtown historical retail commercial district, and probably not the last. For some reason which I don't understand, most of our city's leaders have never seen a high-density, urban infill project they haven't loved, especially when its being built by an out-of -town developer. Currently and at the rate of over 500 housing units added per year for the last 10 years, our City has become the second most densely crowded city in all of Orange County. Is constant and unrestrained overbuilding and overcrowding somehow a prescription for "quality of life" which I don't understand? I also don't know how much more of this overloading our streets, infrastructure, public safety services and our sanity can take!

But getting back to Main Street, for those of you of whom have seen it, visited it and experienced it, you know what I mean when I say that it is one of the few and most peaceful, tranquil and serene areas in the City. And it is like that way for a reason; it is also one of the few areas, due to restrictive zoning ordinances, that have been able to escape the developer's sharp pencils and deep pockets. But now all that is going to change, and with it the Main Street we have all come to know and love.

We however, the members of the Garden Grove Downtown Business Association, since the inception of this project, have made every effort to voice our concerns in an effort to reduce or eliminate the elements of which we perceive will have an everlasting negative impact on Main Street. Excluding the initial Council Meeting (of which we were never informed of) when Newport Beach Developer Sheldon was given an exclusive right to this project, we have attended every other work session, planning session and the ultimate approval hearing, each and every time, vigorously protesting the project elements of which we feel would inflict irreparable damage to the charm, unique character and historical value of the street. We had also spoken personally to each of the members of the City Council regarding our objections and concerns.

Unfortunately all our voices fell upon deaf ears, because when the vote was taken last October, Mayor Dalton, Councilman Rosen and Councilman Leyes all voted expediently, affirmatively and without reservation to approve, despite the numerous objections that we, as the Association, Main Street business and property owners and many community leaders raised. Some of the many objections voiced that night are as follows:

  • The Developer had increased the size of the project by 25% following the obtaining of the Exclusive Negotiating Agreement from the City Council.
  • The City staff's transferring of our parking lot to the Agency for Community Development first, and then to the developer so that procedurally the Request for Proposal (RFP) and competitive bid processes could be avoided.
  • Selling of our parking lot to Sheldon Public Relations at far less than current market value ($15,000. per condo unit).
  • Circumvention of City and State's approval process for new developments on Main St District. The Garden Grove Parking and Main Street Commission, which has legal statutory control, jurisdiction and approval rights to any new developments on or within 200 feet of Main Street, was not allowed to approve or disapprove a this project.
  • We challenged the validity of City Council's arbitrary and questionable determination our Parking Lot is blighted, has been deemed surplus and is no longer needed for parking. That determination was necessary however, and was made by Council solely for the intent of creating justification for the legal taking of public land for the benefit of a private individual/developer.
  • We challenge the validity of Council and City Staff's arbitrary and questionable determination that this project does not call for an Environmental Report, despite the fact that many significant land use, population, housing, traffic, parking and historical preservation issues are in fact at issue, and therefore legally warrants a Report.
  • The construction of this project will result in a significant loss of net parking area to the business and property owners, thus constituting a 5th amendment taking and damaging the value of their property without compensation; thus resulting in inverse condemnation.
  • Variances were unreasonably granted developer regarding numerous city zoning, density, building and public safety codes, including but not limited to the lack of parking garages, the code-prohibited tandem and shared parking arrangements and the significant reduction of net public parking area.
  • We also argued unsuccessfully that the proceeds from sale of the parking lot, if sold, should be returned to the rightful descendants; the Main St property owners so they can then acquire substitute parking or build a parking structure, to make up for the spaces they will be losing. After all it was they who originally purchased several of the parking lots which make up this condo project area with their own monies for the use and benefit of their own shopping district, not to be given away by the City to special interest Developers.
  • By the way, did I mention that the developer, Sheldon Public Relations is not only a financial contributor to the Council Members who voted for this project, but is also a past consultant with this City and is the particular individual who was responsible for the "Community Vision" campaign a few years ago which determined the "future development projects" that were to be included in the City's General Plan amendment!
Yet despite all of our objections, the City's official stance and response to our lawsuit is that they are right, and we are wrong. Therefore presumably we must know nothing, understand nothing and deserve nothing, and they then must obviously know what is best for us, their subjects. Just like any good representative government of the people, for the people and by the people always does!

Therefore we have now, and as a last resort to assert our rights as citizens, property and business owners, hired legal counsel in an effort to compel the City to respond to our concerns and objections. Attorney Sean O'Conner has evaluated the merits of our case and has decided to represent us in this matter. You may recall he was the attorney who recently prevented the City of Cypress from stealing the property owned by the Cottonwood Christian Church and handing it over to Costco under the pretense of eminent domain. He believes in the merits of our case and trusts that we should emerge victorious on any one of these singular causes of action, let alone all of them combined. The cost of justice is still not cheap however!

I too believe that we can and will prevail in our efforts to save Main Street, if we can ever make it to court. We have already incurred legal bills in excess of $20,000.00 and are only into the first round. The City will no doubt try to wear us down psychologically as well as financially; after all they're spending your money as taxpayers to fight us. In fact, their official response to our petition filed in the court has not been to address specifically even one of our complaints, but to try and disqualify the entire lawsuit itself on purely technical grounds. Therefore in order to insure that we do ultimately make it to court and ultimately succeed it is clear that we will need additional levels of funding.

For that reason we have established a special "Save Main Street" fund at our local bank here on Main Street; the Bank of the West. We realize now that our only hope to be able to continue in this fight is by requesting contributions of any size from anyone in town who believes in our cause. We figure we only need $1.00 from everyone in the City in order to be able to carry this all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Contributions can be made directly at the bank; the account name is "Garden Grove Downtown Business Association Legal Defense Fund" and can be made anonymously and in cash if desired. Also if you would like to inquire as to how you might volunteer personally to assist us in this battle, please feel free to call me, the Association President, at 714-534-0992 or visit our website at www.MainStreetGardenGrove.com. All help would be greatly appreciated and your contributions are tax deductible (EIN# 91-2003891).

Never before had I quite understood the saying "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom" and/or "the right to be left alone", but now, unfortunately I am coming to understand not only the profoundness of that statement, but the cost as well.

Scott Weimer
President
Garden Grove Downtown Business Association

Send your contributions and letters to:
Save Historic Main Street
12866 Main Street #100
Garden Grove, Ca. 92840