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LA County can seize vacant property at Vermont/Manchester, says court

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The county plans to build a mixed-use development on a lot that’s been empty for 26 years

The empty lot at Vermont and Manchester.
Courtesy County of Los Angeles

Los Angeles County can move forward with its plan to seize land from a developer and build a mixed-use complex on it, a judge ruled yesterday.

A press release from County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas announcing the ruling praised the decision to improve a property described as an “eyesore for the community” since 1992.

“Local governments have an absolute obligation to think imaginatively about our most pressing issues—job creation, quality education, transportation, and the development of affordable housing and community centers,” said Ridley-Thomas. “With this project, we are taking an out-of-the-box approach to getting all of that done at the corner of Vermont and Manchester.”

The County used eminent domain, which allows for privately owned land to be taken and used for public projects, to take the approximately four-acre property from developer Eli Sasson and Sassony Group.

Sassony Group did not return requests for comment on the matter.

The property is currently made up of vacant lots, parking lots, and an empty retail building, according to a November 2017 report from the county’s Chief Executive Office. The land was once home to a swap meet owned by Sasson that was destroyed in the civil unrest of 1992.

Courtesy of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas

The county argued that the empty site had become a nuisance, attracting homeless encampments and blighting the community. The county planned to take the land and use it to develop a mixed-user with affordable housing, stores, a school, and community spaces.

Sasson had long said that he was in the process of developing the site with a flashy, high-end retail complex intended to echo L.A. Live. Though the project broke ground in 2015, there has been no visible movement on the site.

Sassony Group maintains that the reason for the delay has been bureaucracy and a protracted process to buy the last adjoining sites needed to fully build out the project.

Now, instead of an upscale retail center, the site would give way to 180 units of affordable housing, a public school, a transit plaza and bus transfer center, and storefronts.

“South LA has waited for a fresh start on Vermont/Manchester for 26 years,” LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson said.