7/02/2007

Losing Homes To the I-580 Interchange: Castro Valley CA Forum, 6/12/07

By Robert Souza

A timeworn proverb reads, “a man’s home is his castle”, and for a handful of Castro Valley residents, their castles will soon become a freeway exchange.

“I was lucky enough to buy my house at a time when the market was low,” said Dave Fulkerson, who’s lived in his Juniper St. home for a dozen years. “With this freeway coming, I feel like the county is trying to low-ball me on the price of my house.”

Fulkerson claims he’s seen other Castro Valley homes that are similar to his selling for upwards of $669,000. But he says he’s been offered just under $600,000 by the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) and the Associated Right of Way Services (ARWS )— less than what he feels his castle is worth.

“Signing that right-of-way contract is like putting your head in the noose.” Fulkerson declared.

ACTIA wants to purchase the homes on Juniper to construct a “diamond” interchange on I-580 near the existing Redwood Road off ramp and close an off-ramp on Center Street and the on-ramp from Castro Valley Boulevard across from Marshall Street.

“We’re going through the same negotiation process as regular home buyers do,” ACTIA Deputy Director Art that fair market value be offered to the owner, so similar to regular real estate purchases, these can go back and forth in negotiations.”

Dao said the county goes the “extra step” when it makes an offer for a house, offering an additional $5,000 for homeowners to retain their own property appraisal. In this instance, ACTIA is using Associated Right of Way Services, Inc. of Pleasant Hill to independently assess the four homes on Juniper.

“I don’t know where I will be able to buy a house like this for what they are offering me. They’re telling me if I think my house is worth more—I need to prove it to them,” said Fulkerson, who’s also upset by the inconvenience of the situation.

In addition to acquiring the four homes on Juniper, the project calls for eliminating some of the parking spaces at Spencer’s Mortuary at 21228 Redwood Road.

“We’ve known about this for at least three years,” said Wes Dao said. “It’s required by law," [noted James] Fisher, president of Spencer’s Mortuary. “There were meetings where projects were shown to us, each contingent upon funding.” At first, Fisher was uncertain how close the exchange would come to the mortuary, and he was concerned it might all have to go. But under the adopted plan, the loss will amount to just 25 of Spencer’s 75 parking spaces.

Fisher said ACTIA explained to him that after a parking lot reconfiguration and homes on Juniper are removed—up to 20 spaces might be recovered.

“We’re hoping we will end up not losing any spaces. There are times when we have 90 to 95 cars here for a service,” Fisher said, stressing the importance parking has on the mortuary’s business. Compensation for property is in the works and so far, no attorneys have been contacted. “I hope it will continue that way.” added Fisher.

Juniper resident Mike Bernardo has previous experience with eminent domain, and described the current state of affairs as being the least amusing of all for him.

“First, they told me I would be losing my house entirely,” Bernardo said. “Now all they want is to buy 15 square feet for $12,000 and to rent an additional amount of footage for two years at $6,100 a year.”

When he thought he’d lose his home, Bernardo said he went to Arizona to scout out real estate. “I’m glad I didn’t buy anything — I would have ended up owning two properties,” he said.

Dave Fulkerson plans on finding a property appraiser so he can determine what to do next. “I don’t trust or believe them at all. They just want to sweet talk us until they can buy us out,” he said.

Director Dao said eminent domain might be used if no agreement is reached between the property owner and ACTIA.

“In that instance, a court will determine the value of land and can issue an order of possession, which is a court order saying the property owner must sell and accept the terms,” Dao explained. Eminent domain dates back hundreds of years. In the U.S. it has traditionally been used to build railroads, streets, waterways, public and government buildings, and the interstate highway system.

Dao describes the land acquisition procedure as an all inclusive process that ACTIA acknowledges has its share of detractors. “It would be counterproductive for us to not give owners their fair market value,” Dao added. “But at the same time we need to safeguard the amount we spend as a stewardship of public funds.”

Construction of the I-580 interchange is due to begin in 2010. For more information on the project, please visit website:
www.actia2022.com/projects.com.

For more history on eminent domain, visit:
www.leginfo.ca.gov.



Castro Valley CA Forum: http://www.ebpublishing.com