The City of Santa Barbara is taking the rare step of eminent domain to seize land next to and near the 100-year-old De la Vina Bridge over Mission Creek.
The city plans to take land at 2733 De la Vina St., the home to Marty’s Pizza. It also plans to take 2735 De la Vina St., the site of De la Vina Liquor. For those properties, which are owned by one company, the city has offerd $1.4 million. Across the street at 2726 and 2728 De la Vina St., the buildings are leased by Yellow Bird Music and Mishay Salon & Spa. The city has offered $1.47 million.
The owner of Marty’s Pizza plans to retire the restaurant. De le Vina Liquor is looking for a new home. Yellow Bird Music has found a new location and plans to relocate in August. Mishay Salon hasn’t yet found a place.
“Eminent domain is never an ideal situation to be in,” Councilman Eric Friedman said. “There is an obligation for the greater public to address the bridge.”
Friedman said it is a public safety issue and that the city and the property owners have an obligation to move forward.
The vote was 6-0, with Councilwoman Alejandra Gutierrez absent.
Councilwoman Meagan Harmon said it was a “terrible position to be in.”
“None of us want to be in this position today, but it really is a public safety issue and in the public interest and important that we move forward to repair this bridge as expeditiously as possible,” Harmon said.
The property owners were represented by Glen Block, an attorney with the California Eminent Domain Law Group. Block asked the city to delay voting on eminent domain.
“While this project has been planned for a long time, there really is no immediate urgency,” Block said.
The attorney said the city should continue to negotiate with the property owners rather than take legal action to pursue the property now. He said his clients had not been treated fairly.
“The idea is that the property owner has its idea to share the opinion of value, and negotiate with the city, express its concerns about the project, and then, if there are differences that cannot be resolved, then the city of course has no choice but to move forward,” Block said.
The bridge is 100 years old, has a hole in it and is structurally deficient. The buildings occupied by Marty’s Pizza and De la Vina Liquor are partially on the bridge, and the building occupied by Yellow Bird and Mishay are within an inch of the bridge. Block said De la Vina Liquor would cease to exist if eminent domain is used.
The city, however, is looking to lock up grant funding for the bridge replacement project and then issue a bid request in November. Construction would begin next May.
The new bridge will widen the creek, realign the curved sidewalk and expand it outward to shorten the walkway across De la Vina Street. The project will also provide habitat restoration to the creek and improve stormwater.
“The fact that there is a hole in the bridge that we own, we just can’t ignore that,” Councilwoman Kristen Sneddon said.
The city and the property owners still must negotiate price, but the council’s action allows the city to move forward legally to exercise eminent domain.
“It is a matter of public safety,” Mayor Randy Rowse said. “It is not that we are doing this to build a shopping center for tax revenue or something.”