The California Court of Appeals awarded Concerned Citizens of South Central Los Angeles (“CCSCLA”) the proceeds of Los Angeles Unified School District’s eminent domain action. The Appeals Court overturned a Superior Court judgment in favor of the City of Los Angeles and directed the lower court to issue judgment in favor of CCSCLA. The ruling settles a dispute over the eminent domain proceeds for a three-acre parcel at Slauson Avenue and Main Street in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Unified School District condemned the site to make way for the Juanita Tate Elementary School, named in honor of CCSCLA’s first Executive Director who passed away in 2004.
The Appellate Court’s ruling means that CCSCLA will be awarded roughly $5 million dollars. Noreen McClendon, Executive Director of CCSCLA, said “This vindicates CCSCLA. Our integrity and character as an organization and as individuals was called into question in this lawsuit. This was politically-motivated by Jan Perry and the interests she serves. We tried to hold her accountable for promises made to us that she did not keep. This was classic David vs. Goliath.”
Dr. E.V Hill, late pastor of the Mt Zion Baptist Church, agreed to sell the site to CCSCLA at a reduced price because CCSCLA was going to develop a soccer field and youth center at the site. The property was in escrow when the City of Los Angeles approached CCSCLA requesting that it use Community Development Block Grant funding (CDBG) to acquire the site instead of funding CCSCLA already had in place. The City had to spend more than $100 million in CDBG funds in a several-month period to avoid returning the funds to the federal government, jeopardizing future CDBG awards.
The loan agreement provided CCSCLA the option to repay the City by providing youth development services for sixty years, or by returning the $2.1 million purchase price. CCSCLA tried to repay the City with cash in 2006. The City refused, arguing that CCSCLA owed the City more than $6.9 million instead, given that the property value had increased since 2001.
CCSCLA requested that the Court clarify its contractal rights. The LAUSD subsequently condemned the property to make way for the school that is scheduled to open in September 2011.
The City counter-sued CCSCLA, arguing that it had a right to the property’s current fair market value and the Superior Court ruled in the City’s favor.
The Court of Appeals vacated and reversed that ruling and awarded the proceeds to CCSCLA.
McClendon said that she hopes that this puts an end to the five-year dispute. “We hope that the City will do the right thing at this point. They have always known that CCSCLA was entitled to the proceeds but fought to deny us justice for as long as possible. While they have been playing politics, the small companies that worked on the proposed youth center project in good faith have been waiting for payment. At this point, the City knows that the higher courts won’t re-hear the case, but asking will delay payment to CCSCLA. It would be malice on their part.”
Who says you can’t fight City Hall. This small non-profit fought City Hall and won!