Sep
20

SAN FRANCISCO BUSINESS TIMES – 09/20/10

OAKLAND MIGHT SEIZE LAND FOR GROCERY STORE

by Blanca Torres September 20, 2010 Eager to attract a grocery store to West Oakland, the city redevelopment agency is preparing to broaden its eminent domain rules so it could acquire the final piece of a five-acre parcel desired by Foods Co. The retailer has approached three property owners along West Grand Avenue between Filbert and Market streets. Two have agreed to sell but one, who controls just under an acre, is asking for more than Foods Co. has been willing to pay. “The agency wants the authority, if need be, to bring a grocery store to West Oakland,” said Gregory Hunter, Oakland’s redevelopment director. “Eminent domain is always controversial. … In this case, we’re looking at the benefit of the project, not necessarily to benefit the developer, but to benefit the community.” Many in West Oakland shop in Emeryville or other parts of Oakland. But that can be challenging, Hunter said — a city analysis found 43 percent of West Oakland residents don’t have access to a car. The Foods Co. proposal would bring a 72,000-square-foot store that could employ about 110 and bring in $49,000 in sales tax revenue per year along with $243,000 per year in property taxes. Two parcels of the proposed site are owned by a partnership between developers Eddie Orton and Moses Libitzky and include a 94,000-square-foot industrial warehouse leased to several tenants. Orton declined to comment on any negotiations, but said he supports a retail use. The remaining parcel is owned by Sang E. Hahn and Haitan Hahn as trustees of the Hahn 2002 Family Trust. Tax records show its assessed value as $2.25 million. Haitan Hahn declined comment. Mark Salma, director of real estate for Kroger-owned chains in California, also declined to comment on the West Oakland deal. The company has sites in development near the Oakland Coliseum and in East Oakland. “Oakland is a very important market for us right now and we are putting much of our resources there,” Salma said. The redevelopment agency can now use eminent domain to take control of property for redevelopment projects of up to three acres. The proposed amendment would remove that limit and expand other eminent domain authority. Oakland used eminent domain in West Oakland to clear land for the West Oakland BART Station, Interstate 980 and a U.S. Post Office branch. That history is a sore point in the community, Hunter said, but he emphasized the city’s eminent domain policy for West Oakland would not extend to residential properties. “We would prefer to not use eminent domain. If we don’t have to upset the community, why would we?” Hunter said. Link to original article