Moratorium Snarls Property Sale

Times Staff Writer

When the Garden Grove City Council imposed a moratorium on new development in the Civic Center area in January, the sale of a large piece of property at Century Boulevard and Euclid Street--already in escrow--was thrown into jeopardy.

Hatim K. Addal, the property owner, contends that the moratorium was aimed at stopping the development of a Stop N Go market on the northwest corner of the intersection. He and the prospective buyer, National Convenience Stores, had opened escrow in December after receiving preliminary approval for the market from a city zoning official.

Addal, an Iraqi emigre, said that when he came to the United States 10 years ago, he was fascinated by the freedom found here. "Now," he added, "when I see what the city is doing, I think I'm in a different country."

Mayor Jonathan Cannon bristles at Addal's words, branding them unfair and unfounded.

"Let me assure you Mr. Addal is not being singled out for punishment," he said. "All we are asking is that his plan not only benefit himself, but also the City of Garden Grove.

Upon learning that sale of the property was pending, several tenants had already moved out by the time the moratorium was imposed, resulting in the loss of two-thirds of his income, Addal said.

The 52,000-square-foot site contains a gas station and several houses and stores. Addal, 53, once operated the service station but was forced to stop working two years ago because of heart problems. Rents from the property are his only source of income, he said.

Councilman Bob Dinsen--who, Addal said, has the only sympathetic ear in City Hall--confirmed much of Addal's story. "As soon as the city found out what (Addal) was doing, they put a 45-day moratorium on Civic Center development. Then they extended it," Dinsen said.

'When I see what the city is doing, I think I'm in a different country.'

Property owner Hatim K. Addal

Until a study of the area is completed and a specific development plan can be implemented, Addal is "up a creek," Dinsen said.

"Nobody from the city told the tenants to move," said City Atty. Eric Lauterer, "but one of the people negotiating for the new owners let the word out to the tenants, and they moved out. The moratorium in no way closed down the businesses."

Lauterer said that Addal can still sell his property, providing the land uses don't change.

City officials said they don't expect the study for the specific plan to be completed until June. A consultant has been hired and is working on a diamond-shaped area bordered roughly by Chapman Avenue and the Garden Grove Freeway on the north and south and 9th and Nelson streets on the east and west.

The plan will contain "some very specialized zoning" with coordinated traffic, new and wider streets, new signals, and allowances for residential and office developments, "hopefully all tied together with greenbelts to provide a window to the city," Cannon said.

Addal says he still hopes that National Convenience Stores will buy the land but points out that the moratorium has created a stressful situation.

"I can't lease the property because everything is up in the air," Addal said. "I don't know from day to day what's going on. Meanwhile, I have to live, I have to pay taxes, but I don't know what my future is or what I can do," he said. "I cannot believe this could happen in America."

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