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City in showdown with apartment developer over LA River site

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The city wants the land to build a new pedestrian bridge

A rendering of an orange bridge spanning across the Los Angeles River. Courtesy of SPF:architects

A city committee moved forward Tuesday with plans to use eminent domain to secure a vital piece of property for a bright orange bridge over the Los Angeles River that would connect Cypress Park and Frogtown.

A report to the Los Angeles City Council’s planning and land use management committee from the city attorney’s office says it’s turning to eminent domain because it has “reached an impasse in negotiations” with the property owner.

City officials say the property, a slim and oddly shaped 7,711-square-foot parcel between the LA River Bike Path and the end of Birkdale Street, is needed to build the Taylor Yard Bikeway and Pedestrian Bridge.

City officials would use eminent domain to secure an easement on the property. That would allow it use this part of the property permanently, without taking ownership, says Rob Wilcox, spokesperson for the city attorney.

The city assessed the value of the 7,711-square-foot parcel at $2,500, which it offered to pay the property owner, three Birkdale Street LLCs connected to New York-based developer Pan Am Equities.

Pan Am Equities is the developer of a 419-unit project in Cypress Park, where the 2 Freeway crosses the river.

The owner didn’t agree with the appraisal and “demanded payment in the hundreds of thousands of dollars,” but did not furnish any documentation to back up his claim that the land is worth more than its assessed value, says the city attorney’s report.

The last discussion between city representatives and the owners happened in June. That same month, the property owner applied for permits with the department of building and safety to demolish an existing commercial building on the Elysian Valley site in order to build 37 apartments. The plans are working their way through the department now.

Pan Am’s Cypress Park project is facing firm opposition from locals and river advocates who warn the development is too close to the 2 Freeway to be healthy for residents, and that it’s in the floodplain of the river.

PanAm declined to comment on the city’s plan.

The city attorney’s report says even with the eminent domain case, construction on the bridge will likely proceed on time, beginning in April.