To quell controversy over a proposal to redevelop San Fernando's old Latino area, City Council members Monday publicly promised to support recommendations of a newly formed neighborhood advisory committee.
Although the redevelopment proposal is in its earliest planning stages, many longtime residents fear they could be forced from their homes through eminent domain. This is a process by which the city has the power to condemn property in a redevelopment zone and force owners to sell at market value.
At Monday night's meeting, Mayor James Hansen said he wants council members to "arrive at a consensus" and to pledge "ongoing cooperation and support" to a 30-member committee of residents.
"We all know there are concerns in the community," Hansen said. "I want to go on record now that, at the proper time, we will address their concerns."
No vote was taken, but three other council members agreed with Hansen. Councilman Ray Silva did not participate in the discussion because of a potential conflict of interest.
State law requires the formation of a citizens' advisory committee when a possibility exists that residents in a proposed redevelopment zone could be displaced through eminent domain. The committee will eventually recommend to the council whether they want their neighborhood to be included in the zone.
Last October the council proposed renewing a long-neglected 55 acres of the city's old barrio in the downtown redevelopment area. A four- to six-month study of the area is under way. Approval of zone boundaries is expected to take at least a year.
Word of the proposal, however, has stirred fear among many residents, who turned out to angrily criticize the redevelopment process at a meeting a month ago.
"I don't think it was ever our intent . . . to threaten or in any way attempt to frighten the residential sector," said Councilman Roy Richardson at Monday night's council meeting.
Councilman Jess Margarito said he is pleased with the interest that committee members have shown. He said it has been rare for barrio residents to become "involved in a process that will empower the community."