The Goleta City Council passed a resolution this week that would guarantee the timely construction of the San Jose Creek capacity improvement and fish passage project, but also could spark litigation in the near future.
Approval of the Resolution of Necessity paves the way for eminent domain measures for properties adjoining the channelized portion of San Jose Creek and revisions of earlier measures set in motion by the city.
According to Community Services Director Steve Wagner, the properties that would be affected are necessary for access, staging and construction of the project. The affected properties include the Sizzler restaurant, Mission City Auto Leasing and office condominiums.
The majority of the areas affected are temporary, and in place only for the construction of the project, but two areas — a two-foot-wide section on the west side of the channel and a subsurface portion — are slated for permanent use.
“This isn’t to say that we’re not committed to resolving issues and negotiating issues with the property owners, but it’s a backstop in terms of timing,” Wagner said.
In case negotiations with the property owners for those portions of their properties do not reach a timely and satisfactory conclusion, according to Wagner, the city may choose to claim eminent domain over those areas.
Todd Amspoker, attorney for the property owners, said the council’s adoption of the Resolution of Necessity puts it “on a road to litigation.” He said eminent domain has already caused a major tenant to leave the property in anticipation of the difficulties that might happen as a result of the city’s activity.
“We are sure construction of the project is going to make the properties on the east side uninhabitable,” he told the council.
Instead of negotiating for portions of properties, he said, the council ought to just purchase the affected properties on the east side of the channel.
“It would make a lot of sense if the city would just buy the properties,” he said, noting that Goleta’s purchase of the properties would allow the construction equipment, vehicles and material to be on site and accessible as needed, instead of affecting properties on both sides of the channel.
City Attorney Tim Giles said the city continues to pursue voluntary acquisition.