SANTA ANA (CBS) — The top acting public official in Santa Ana has apologized for comparing a local Jewish businessman to Adolph Hitler in a City Council meeting.

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KCAL 9’s Stacey Butler reports Mayor Pro Tem Claudia Alvarez regretted the remarks she made about constituent Irv Chase during a special meeting about property taxes for downtown business owners Wednesday night.

“I specifically told him, ‘Hey, if Hitler rents you a place and is giving us a great deal, so who cares what he stands for? We need to put a stop to this,” Alvarez said at the meeting.

While some members of the crowd cheered the mayor pro tem, others walked out in protest, including fellow council member Carlos Bustamonte.

“What she was saying was just so egregious and so vile, I was shocked she would say something like that,” he said.

But Alvarez said her words were not aimed at any particular person or constituency.

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“My intent was not to offend the Chases or the Jewish community by any means, or to trivialize anything that’s happened to the Jewish community,” she said. “But the words came out and I do apologize to all of them.”

The remarks were aimed at a heated debate over whether property owners should pay additional property taxes to fund marketing services that they claim do little to benefit them.

The panel that decides how the money will be spent is apparently run by Irv Chase and his son, whom supporters say is trying to diversify downtown in an effort to weather tough economic times.

But at a meeting last month, Alvarez accused Irv Chase of ethnic cleansing in the popular shopping and entertainment district.

“What we’re trying to do is broaden the appeal into the downtown, pure and simple,” Chase said at the meeting. “This isn’t a matter of race, this is a matter of business. I’m sick and tired of the race issue being played over and over and over again.”

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Chase couldn’t be reached for comment, but he did tell the Orange County Register the comments are a classic case of anti-Semitism.