Los Angeles Councilman Richard Alatorre has recommended that the city use its eminent domain power to seize the 2.5-acre site that includes the 50-foot-tall boulder that gave Eagle Rock its name.
Alatorre last week announced that he had become frustrated over an impasse in negotiations to buy or trade land for the Eagle Rock property, which was designated a historic cultural city landmark in 1982. The boulder, overlooking the Ventura Freeway, casts afternoon shadows resembling an eagle.
"We need to protect the historic Eagle Rock from development," Alatorre said in a written statement. "The owner appears disinterested in coming to a reasonable settlement. This process is the only alternative left to save the rock."
Under an eminent domain action, which requires approval by the full City Council, Los Angeles officials would take property owner Frederic A. Heim to court to force him to sell the site. Traditionally, the city and the property owner each get an appraisal of the property's value and a judge decides the sale price.
Pete V. Romero, a city real estate officer, said the process typically takes 18 months. Romero said the city has valued the Eagle Rock property at $500,000 and has offered to trade Heim more valuable city land in Lincoln Heights.
But in an interview last week, Heim, an Encino businessman, said the city land was not of comparable value. "There's nothing you could do there," he said. "The area is full of shuttered buildings and urban decay."
Heim also charged that the city's $500,000 appraisal was too low.
"I'm happy to sell this property to the city," he said. "But I think the city should give a fair value for it."
Heim would not say what he believes the property is worth.
In 1988, a Beverly Hills developer proposed to buy the land from Heim and to construct a two-story apartment complex near the historic boulder. But the proposal provoked strong opposition from the community and from Alatorre, and the plan was rejected by the Los Angeles City Planning Commission.
Since then, the city has been trying to acquire the site from Heim. The deadlock in those talks led to Alatorre's call for an eminent domain action.
Katie Smith, chairman of the Save the Eagle Rock Committee, said last week that she endorses the city's new attempt to get Heim to give up the site so it can be used for a park. "Maybe this will force him to be reasonable and sell," she said.
Jeanmarie Hance-Murphy, an aide to Alatorre, said the city has set aside $230,000 in bond funds to be used in acquiring the Eagle Rock.