In an attempt to rid the city of a pair of eyesores, Lancaster officials decided Monday to try to buy the remains of two housing tracts that have sat partially built and abandoned for more than two years as fallout from the nation's savings and loan crisis.
City Council members, meeting as the city's Redevelopment Agency, voted 4 to 0 to submit an offer for the Legends and Silverado tracts to the federal Resolution Trust Corp. The government agency obtained the property after it seized a failed savings and loan in early 1989.
City officials refused to disclose the amount of their offer. But the RTC has set a suggested minimum bid of $6.1 million, about 75% of the property's estimated value of $8 million.
The company managing the property for the RTC has set Friday as the deadline for bids.
The property "looks like an albatross out there when people drive by," said Councilman Arnie Rodio, chairman of the Redevelopment Agency. Rodio said he believes that the city has "a very good chance" of getting the property, despite competition from perhaps seven other bidders.
The tracts were begun by U. S. Housing Corp., a now-defunct Burbank-based developer that had halted work at both sites by 1989 because it could no longer get loan money, Lancaster officials said. In 1989, federal regulators first seized and later liquidated the lender, Pennsylvania-based Hill Financial Savings Assn.
The abandoned houses in both tracts have been boarded up since mid-1990. Neighbors have complained that the abandoned structures look ugly and draw vandals who have set minor fires.
Legends was a subdivision that was never occupied. The unfinished Silverado houses lie within a tract that was mostly completed and sold.
The Legends property, at 30th Street West and Avenue J, consists of about 50 partially built houses, most of them just frames, on a site where 100 houses were planned, plus an additional 15 acres of vacant land, said Handsel Minyard, executive vice president of Graimark Realty Advisors, the RTC's property manager.
If successful, city officials plan to tear down the Legends structures and try to sell the land to a developer who would build houses for low- to moderate-income families. City officials said the structures are too decayed to be saved.
However, the portion of the Silverado tract up for bid consists of 21 nearly completed houses with finished exteriors plus two foundations, Minyard said. City officials said those houses, off Avenue L near 30th Street West, are in better shape and could be completed and sold by the city.
Rodio said Lancaster intends to pay for the property, if its bid is accepted, out of the city's $11-million low- to moderate-income housing fund. He said the city's offer probably will be all cash, which he said might be more attractive to the RTC than a higher bid from a private developer who would still need to find financing.
Neither RTC officials nor Minyard could estimate how long it may take the agency to make a decision. City officials have complained that the RTC has moved too slowly in unloading it. But RTC officials said they did not obtain formal title to the two sites through foreclosure until April of this year.