Over the objections of a man who said Hollywood is stealing his family's land to enrich a powerful developer, the City Commission voted Tuesday night to begin eminent-domain proceedings on a small retail building downtown to make way for a $100 million condo project.
"I don't appreciate ... what's being done in this matter on behalf of these developers," said David Mach, whose recently deceased father bought the building near Young Circle in 1971. "There's no reason to have to attract developers to Hollywood anymore. There's no reason for any incentives. There's no reason to eminent domain any properties. Let them work it out themselves."
"I ask you to vote not with your hearts because I know you won't, but with your heads," he told the commission.
Commissioners Beam Furr and Sal Oliveri were the only two to vote against taking the Mach property, on Harrison Street and South 19th Avenue, by eminent domain.
In voting to do so, the commissioners were following through on a promise they made to developer Charles "Chip" Abele in July 2004. They signed a contract agreeing to condemn the property if the developer was unable to strike a deal with David Mach's father, George.
Now that the commission has launched the legal proceedings, the city's community redevelopment agency must offer within 30 days to buy the property for fair market value from Mach and his mother, Katalin. The developer must pay the city's eminent-domain costs, city attorney Dan Abbott said.
"I'll tell you, and Mr. Mach and everyone here, the only reason there will not be a deal cut that puts the eminent domain aside ... is because of an unwillingness by Mr. Mach to accept a number markedly above the fair price for his property," Abele said.
Recent city appraisals estimated the property at $725,000 and $850,000. But Mach said he doesn't care what price the developer offers. It was the first building his father bought; his father ran the beauty salon in the building for many years, and his family does not want to sell.
"Not everyone can be bought," Mach said. "We don't want to be bought."
That was all many of the residents at Tuesday night's meeting had to hear.
"I ask the commissioners of this city to take pause before you make such a decision and to vote no in principle on the eminent-domain issue," said Kerry Sisselman, who lives on the beach. "If the commission takes this property in this way and we don't speak out, and the commission takes our property in the same way ... who will speak out for us?"
Commissioner Cathy Anderson and Mayor Mara Giulianti made the argument that the eminent domain is justified because the developer has agreed to restore two of the outer walls of the historic Great Southern Hotel, which is located next to the Mach building. But, early on, the developer brought the city a plan that spared the Mach building.
The city rejected that plan because traffic experts said traffic would flow better if the Machs' land was included in the project.
Commissioner Peter Bober said he regretted agreeing to take the property by eminent domain last year and would learn from it in the future, but he said he had to vote for the proposal because backing out of a contract would expose the city to a huge lawsuit.
"Eminent domain really is a big deal," Bober said. "It's not just a legal concept. It's real. You're dealing with real property and real people.