A low-rent block off Ventura Avenue that is home to the Hell's Angels' clubhouse could be razed to make room for about 170 condominiums and a small shopping center under a plan supported in concept this week by the Ventura Redevelopment Agency.
George Christie, president of the motorcycle club's local chapter, strongly objected to the proposal and said city officials would have their hands full trying to find another site for the clubhouse.
"We don't interfere with anybody else's life style here," said Christie, one of about a dozen Hell's Angels in the club. "I think they're going to have a problem . . .. We are a part of Ventura, and we are not going away."
Indeed, if the plan goes forward, city officials would be required by state law to relocate the clubhouse, which has kept a low profile for more than 10 years on Fix Way, a lightly traveled side street.
Although city officials acknowledged that some neighborhoods might not be eager to welcome the bikers, they said that zoning laws would not bar the clubhouse from many parts of town.
"They could go into a broad range of areas," said Everett Millais, community development director. "I know there's the overall connotation about Hell's Angels . . . but in terms of the type of space and facility they need, there's nothing special about this."
The City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, voted on Monday to give an exclusive negotiating agreement for the property to JKL & M Associates, a team of developers from Los Angeles and Ventura.
JKL & M, which gave the city a $40,000 deposit on the land, has until Oct. 31 to complete its plans for the proposed 160- to 180-condominium village and 10,000-square-foot retail area. The four-acre project would include both sides of Fix Way, from Garden Street to Ventura Avenue.
Besides the clubhouse, several other industrial buildings, including a bakery and old salsa factory, could face the wrecking ball. City officials said most owners are willing to sell their property and will be offered a chance to invest in the development.
The owner of the 1,600-square-foot clubhouse, however, said he will fight any efforts to seize his building. Joseph Hyman of Ojai, who said he is not affiliated with the club, called the plan "radically wrong."
"It's a sad day when you make an investment in a property and someone comes along and says, 'Hey, we're going to take it away from you,"' Hyman said. "My education taught me that doesn't happen here."
Under state law, however, public agencies have the right to seize private property if it is considered blighted and can be redeveloped to the economic advantage of the community.
"We envision it as something that would benefit the viability of downtown by having more people living right there in the prime market trade area," Millais said.
But Christie and his attorney, Louis H. Bernstein of Encino, envision something more devious.
In a 1987 lawsuit filed against the city of Ventura, Christie alleges that police negligently damaged the clubhouse during a fruitless search for a weapon. The building, he said, is evidence for their lawsuit, which is pending in Ventura County Superior Court.
Bernstein, who said he planned on taking jurors to see the clubhouse, said the project had the appearance of "evidence being destroyed in the guise of redevelopment."
Millais, who said he was not aware of the lawsuit, denied the charge.