A trial began on Monday to settle a dispute between the Community Youth Athletic Center and National City about the center's "blighted" label.
For the past decade, the CYAC has helped hundreds of young men and women stay off National City streets by giving them a place to work out and study.
"It's not just boxing. It's education and a lot of other positive things," said CYAC spokesman Salvador Rivera.
Rivera said National City designated the center and dozens of other properties along National City Boulevard as blighted about seven years ago. That designation gives the city the ability to redevelop those properties through eminent domain proceedings.
"They want to take the property and give it to a developer
and have them put up big condos that will generate some taxes for the city," said Rivera.
The center's complaint against National City states the city did not follow proper procedures before labeling the center as blighted.
"We think that they were wrong," said Rivera. "They did not follow proper steps."
National City Mayor Ron Morrison said the city has never tried seizing the CYAC property.
"We have never tried to take over the property the CYAC is at and we have a written statement from them saying we have never done that," he said. "We're just entitled within that redevelopment zone to do it by law. We have an entitlement. That doesn't mean we're doing it and we haven't."
Morrison said National City has been the CYAC's biggest financial supporter since it opened. He said a Virginia group called the Institute for Justice is representing the center and pulling the strings.
"Is CYAC doing it or is it this group from Virginia that has a national agenda, not a National City agenda?" said Morrison. "This is someone from Virginia saying, 'Well, we want to control what you're doing with your destiny.' The people of National City are saying, 'Hey, we want to have the same thing other communities have.'"
Center officials said they're looking to protect their future by removing the blighted designation. Rivera said if the judge rules in the center's favor, it will affect hundreds of National City businesses as well as thousands across California.
"This will set precedent," Rivera said. "Cities and municipalities around the state are not going to be able to just say, 'Hey, we like those properties. We can make them into really nice condos.' They just can't do that anymore if we win this case."
A decision in the case is expected by Thursday.
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