West Oakland has some notoriously tough neighborhoods, including the large ACORN project area where Black Panther co-founder Huey Newton was killed and an area known unflatteringly as "Ghost Town." Over the years, it has been the subject of some controversial public works projects, facilitated through extensive eminent domain. This includes the West Oakland BART station, a major postal facility, and the ACORN housing project.
Hundreds of homes and at least two popular black-owned nightclubs, Slim Jenkins Club and Ester’s Orbit Room, were destroyed or relocated when the Postal Service used eminent domain to acquire the land at Seventh and Willow streets.
Now, as we initially reported a few weeks ago, the City is considering expanding its eminent domain powers in an attempt to accelerate efforts to remediate blight and, in particular, in an effort to facilitate a proposed Kroger facility. Mr. Beveridge’s article explains:
[D]espite objections from both businesses and some residents, Oakland Community and Economic Development Agency staff will recommend Tuesday night that the City Council expand its eminent domain powers to accelerate redevelopment in West Oakland.
The article notes an ongoing effort to acquire property for a 72,000 square foot Kroger facility, though there appears to be some dispute as to what is actually going on. The City claims Kroger and the property’s owner are in active negotiations, and that eminent domain would only be used as a last resort. The owner, however, claims that no negotiations are taking place.
Current policies prohibit the use of eminent domain to acquire residential properties or for any commercial projects larger than three acres. The Kroger project involves about five acres, meaning the policy will need to change before eminent domain could be used to acquire property for it.
The City Council is expected to vote tonight on a policy amendment specifically tailored at allowing eminent domain in a small area that includes the property Kroger wants to acquire. According to Councilmember Nancy Nadel, "The expansion of eminent domain is only for this grocery store project and that is why I support it."