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Montebello : Coalition Sues to Block Condemnation Power

A newly formed coalition of residents and businessmen has sued to block a City Council decision to give its Redevelopment Agency condemnation power for new development in south Montebello.

The lawsuit was filed Friday in Los Angeles Superior Court by Christopher A. Sutton, a lawyer representing Montebello Cares. Among other alleged violations of state redevelopment law, the lawsuit alleges that the city did not properly assess the environmental impacts--increased pollution, traffic and noise--that would be produced by new development if the Redevelopment Agency were to use eminent domain.

Montebello City Atty. Henry S. Barbosa said this week he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment on the allegations. But Montebello officials have said the city complied with state redevelopment law.

Montebello Cares is a coalition of area businessmen and residents who belong to a citizens group called South Montebello Area Residents Together (SMART), said William M. Molinari, a former councilman and chairman of SMART.

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The City Council in November approved two ordinances that would give the Redevelopment Agency the power of eminent domain to further redevelopment in two largely industrial redevelopment zones in south Montebello. Under state law, the agency is required to pay owners fair market value for property it acquires through eminent domain.

Under the ordinances, owner-occupied, single-family homes could not be taken by eminent domain. The ordinances have not taken effect because SMART initiated a referendum petition drive that would allow city voters to approve or invalidate the council action. Last month, SMART submitted to the city clerk’s office referendum petitions, which are being reviewed to determine if the measure qualifies for the ballot.


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