Irwindale May Try to Seize Land for Parking

Times Staff Writers

An Irwindale official said Tuesday that if the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors does not come around to approving the use of county-leased land for parking at the proposed new Raiders stadium, Irwindale may try to seize the land under eminent domain proceedings.

The Irwindale City Council--which last week ordered an early sale of $90 million in stadium bonds, acting with unexpected speed to preempt legislative and legal moves to block the sale--had been scheduled to consider the condemnation proposal at a special meeting tonight.

But city spokesman Xavier Hermosillo said Tuesday afternoon that it had been taken off the agenda and would not be heard tonight, as city officials await further developments in the supervisors' consideration of the matter.

Fred Lyte, city redevelopment consultant and a leading negotiator of the deal bringing the Raiders to the San Gabriel Valley community, said the rationale for using eminent domain would be that Irwindale would be seeking "a higher public use" for the already public property. The land north of the Foothill Freeway is now vacant.

City officials, meanwhile, confirmed that the purchaser of the bonds last week was the First National Bank of Minneapolis, informally known as First Bank Minneapolis, together with FBS Capital Markets Group, a division of First Bank Systems Inc., the bank's holding company.

In Minneapolis, a bank spokeswoman declined to confirm or deny the purchase, saying the bank never discusses such ventures. She said First Bank Systems is the 15th largest bank holding company in the nation.

The talk about pursuing eminent domain as a means of obtaining more than 50 acres of land for parking came as the office of the supervisor who represents Irwindale, Pete Schabarum, said Schabarum had sent a letter to Irwindale authorities offering to "provide all the assistance necessary" to facilitate consideration by the supervisors of the parking issue.

'Helpful' Letter

The spokeswoman, Mickie Silverstein, characterized Schabarum's letter as "friendly and helpful but not an outright endorsement" of the county providing the land to Irwindale.

The other four supervisors have expressed doubts whether the land should be provided, saying it would facilitate the Raiders' move away from the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Meanwhile, a report on the parking by the county's chief administrative officer, Richard B. Dixon, has been indefinitely delayed pending an answer to questions put to Irwindale authorities.

According to the language of the agreement under which Irwindale advanced the Raiders $10 million, Irwindale has to ensure it will provide either this land or "mutually acceptable parking facilities" by Nov. 4 or lose its advance and see the deal collapse.

Subsequent Irwindale and Raider statements have left unclear whether that deadline is elastic, but legal authorities said Tuesday that if the city has to undertake eminent domain proceedings to acquire land for parking, it will take much longer than Nov. 4 for it to be successful. Although the county leases the land, it is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers, a factor that could presumably lengthen the proceedings.

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