For over 30 years, my family and I have owned Authentic Persian & Oriental Rugs, a carpet store in Glendale. But last month, the city voted to authorize the use of eminent domain to take our successful business and hand our land over to a Houston-based developer. Everything we’ve worked so hard for is now on the chopping block.
When I left Iran in the 1970s to seek a top education in the United States, I wasn’t planning to go into the carpet business. In fact, I graduated from the University of Colorado Denver with a degree in electrical engineering.
Then, a revolution hit my old home, and my whole world changed. My father, who had been supporting me and my siblings studying here, could no longer send money for tuition because of the sanctions. But he could send carpets.
So together with my sister, my brother and my husband, I went into the rug business. In 1990, we moved to a prime location on South Colorado Boulevard in Glendale. Business boomed. In 2006, we bought the land that our business occupies.
To give back to the community, we’ve hired refugees who have fled war-torn nations like Afghanistan, Bosnia and Eritrea, providing jobs for those who otherwise have few skills and don’t speak English. Some of our employees have become entrepreneurs themselves, climbing economic ladders of their own.
In early May, the Glendale City Council passed a resolution that authorizes the Glendale Urban Renewal Authority to use eminent domain to seize our property against our will. As outlined in the U.S. Constitution, eminent domain is for “public use,” like constructing roads or schools.
But city officials don’t want our store so they can build a road or a school. Instead, they want to seize our land and bulldoze our store to make way for a $175 million entertainment complex called Glendale 180.
This is an abuse of power.
Across the country, legislatures and the public have soundly and routinely rejected eminent domain for private development. Even the state of Colorado banned taking property for “economic development.” But there’s a huge loophole in the law. Based on the state’s vague criteria, the city declared our business “blighted” years ago — even though it clearly is not.
The city told us not to worry, that this was a necessary step simply to secure financing. We believed them. Now, they are using that designation to take everything away from us.
The city’s decision is particularly galling given that our family has tried to work with Glendale to redevelop the area for years. In addition to our store, we own acres of neighboring land. As far back as 2007, we submitted plans to Glendale to transform our land into an “urban village,” complete with shops, condominiums and restaurants.
After years of frustration and dashed hopes, those plans were rejected, thanks to city officials, who originally claimed they wanted to collaborate with us on the development. Now, they’ve chosen another developer for our land.
We want to develop our land. Glendale must respect our rights, let our hand-woven rug store remain where it is, and let us redevelop our own land.
Our business — our piece of the American Dream — is not for sale.
Nasrin Kholghy is co-owner of Authentic Persian & Oriental Rugs in Glendale.