Citing public safety issues, the Santa Barbara City Council deemed eminent domain necessary to acquire land near the De La Vina Street Bridge for a replacement project.
In a somber 6-0 vote Tuesday, the council approved two resolutions deeming eminent domain to be within the public interest and necessary to acquire the land near the bridge over Mission Creek. The bridge, initially built in 1916, needs to be replaced with one meeting current seismic, safety and design standards, officials said.
City officials said it needed to acquire a right-of-way certification by September in order to request reimbursement for the project through Caltrans and the Highway Bridge Program.
The eminent domain — which gives the government the ability to acquire private property for public use — covers properties at 2726, 2728, 2733 and 2735 De La Vina St. The former two properties are within inches of the bridge while the latter duo are built on the bridge.
The properties include Marty’s Pizza, De La Vina Liquor Store, Mishay Salon and Yellowbird Music.
“This is a public safety issue and timing is of the essence,” Mayor Randy Rowse said.
Attorney Glenn Block of the California Eminent Domain Law Group, retained by the impacted property owners, asked the council to delay moving forward with the resolution until the owners and city had more time to negotiate. Mr. Block maintained neither he nor his clients had been given appropriate time for appraisals or to review staff’s designs for the bridge.
“This is not a question of whether this project is required or necessary, but it’s a question of due process and observing the constitutional rights that are guaranteed,” Mr. Block said.
The amount of money the city could award per parcel was not before the council Tuesday, and the adoption of the resolutions does not preclude additional negotiations with property owners, city staff said.
And council members instructed staff to work closely and collaboratively with those impacted.
“None of us want to be in this position today, but it really is a public safety issue, and it’s in the public interest and necessary that we move forward to repair this bridge as expeditiously as possible,” Mayor Pro Tempore Meagan Harmon said.
Construction is slated to begin in 2023.
The resolutions were approved unanimously by the council with Councilmember Alejandra Gutierrez absent.