(Dan Coyro — Santa Cruz Sentinel)

As we have seen far too many times in California, eminent domain becomes a key tool for public agencies in order to keep public works construction on schedule and avoid jeopardizing state or federal funding.  According to an article in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, Santa Cruz council approves eminent domain for road widening, situation is playing out in Santa Cruz, where the City Council recently approved the adoption of a resolution of necessity to acquire two properties by eminent domain in order to satisfy a July deadline for a $2.8 million construction grant.

The properties in question are needed for the City’s planned intersection widening project at Highways 9 and 1, which would add four new lanes, plus modern traffic signal equipment, bike lanes, access ramps and crosswalks.  The properties are currently utilized as a rental complex and the 45-year location of Central Home Supply’s flagship store.  The property owner provided alternative means to improve traffic, which he claims have been “virtually ignored” by the City and Caltrans.  The proposed acquisitions will cut right through the business’ showroom, offices and parking, plus the house next door.

The owner claims that the unacquired portions of the properties may be left as uneconomic remnants and the City may be better off acquiring both sites in full.  Specifically, the owner indicated:

The costs are going to be horrendous, to try and get all that done, just cost-wise for us to try and stay on that site.  To bring it home, it’s the same as someone needing just a ‘minimal’ portion of your house for the public good.  Imagine they take your kitchen, bathroom and a wall off your bedroom.  Are you going to live there now?  That’s kind of what we’re left with.  We’ve tried everything, thinking inside and outside the box, but we can’t realign and reconfigure our operations successfully after the take, and with the road constraints impose by this project.

The owner did suggest that finding a suitable relocation site may assist in resolving the dispute.