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O.K., I went to see how blighted it is. Well, if that gym's blighted, my house is in big trouble. It's a clean, one-story operation, with fresh-looking paint and roof and drywall and showers (all done free by good neighbors), a beautiful ring and a row of computers for the academic tutoring program all the young boxers are required to take. And to think this used to be a gun shop.
Step 2: Write a letter to the property owners, advising them to take your "fair" offer or you'll see them in court, where they'll lose.
Three of the gym's neighbors ended up in court, apparently not convinced that the city's offer was all that "fair," but they have since agreed to take the settlement.
Step 3: Start the bulldozers.
What's twisted is that because people like the Barragans opened businesses that helped make the neighborhood better and safer, property values went up, which brought in profit-hungry developers. And next thing you know, the Barragans are looking at a letter about "friendly condemnation."
"Me and my son, all we want to do is help the kids," says Carlos, "and the city comes at me with words I don't even know what they mean?"
What the words mean is that unless there's a miracle, the little boxing gym will soon be flatter than a manhole cover.
"We're not giving up," says Barragan, who is being helped, pro bono, by lawyers from the Institute for Justice, an Arlington, Va., nonprofit. "We're boxers. We are like Julio Cesar Chavez. We stand in and fight. If we go down, we go down swinging."
The mayor of National City, Ron Morrison, isn't buying it. He says the city has offered to find a new location for the gym but the offer has been refused. "I can't tell if they're trying to hold us up for a better price or if it's just ego," says Morrison, whose name, by the way, is on that billboard. "Look, these are the adult leaders of kids. The kids get in the ring, and if they win, a ref holds their hand up. But nobody holds [the Barragans'] hands up. So maybe this is their chance to take us to court and to do battle and hope somebody holds their hands up."
Belittling the Barragans? Dumb move in National City, where the Barragans are nearly as popular as the Chargers.