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LA to acquire remaining Manchester Square lots via eminent domain

Once an attractive enclave located close to Los Angeles International Airport, Manchester Square has transformed from a thriving community into something almost akin to a ghost town.

More homes in the neighborhood are either being boarded up or razed. Patches of empty lots grow around the area. Manchester Square’s population nowadays is divided into two groups. On one hand, there are still a couple of Manchester Square’s residents who have witnessed its glory days still living in the area. On the other hand, the community has become a home to a portion of LA’s homeless; they live in tents scattered around the neighborhood.

“This place used to be so beautiful,” said Jena Morgan, a Manchester Square resident who moved to the area twenty years ago. “This whole place was packed with homes. I used to take my 3-year-old trick-or-treating up here,” she told LA Times. “Now look at it!”

Covering a total area of just over a square mile, Manchester Square was once the location of about 500 single-family homes. In an article by Curbed in 2015, the number of homeowners in the neighborhood have shrunk to only five homeowners.

A large part of Manchester Square has already been acquired by Los Angeles World Airports, which operates and owns LAX. The company plans to turn the area into a large rental car facility and transportation hub, according to LA Times. If successful, this planned “modernization” of Manchester Square will significantly decrease the traffic congestion that has become synonymous with the area around LAX.

Los Angeles World Airports has already spent almost $400 million to buy a significant portion of the properties in Manchester Square.

Still, about three dozen homes remain unsold in the area. To hasten the process, LA’s city government has approved the acquisition of remaining properties in the neighborhood via eminent domain. Through this, various government agencies are free to take over land with public purposes in mind.

“This is an important step for the airport to get us to the modernization that we’ve been seeking,” Councilman Mike Bonin said, according to LA Times.

Through the eminent domain, most of the owners of the unsold properties have finally agreed to sell their homes. As of early August, only seven properties in Manchester Square remain unsold. Airport officials are planning to use eminent domain as a fallback if negotiations still don’t come through.

“It is always possible that a settlement could be reached without a trial or significant litigation… and that is always our home,” said LAWA Chief Commercial Officer Debbie Bowers in a council meeting last month.   

Eminent domain isn’t only beneficial for airport officials. According to John S. Peterson, a lawyer representing two of the seven owners, eminent domain enables them to seek another assessment on their property’s value. This means they don’t have to rely on government appraisal.

“It levels the playing field,” Peterson said in an interview with LA Times. “We are not challenging the right of LAWA to acquire the property. We’re not trying to stop the project. But we are seeking just compensation.”

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