Victory in San Pablo

The San Pablo City Council voted Monday night to ban the use of eminent domain in San Pablo! The city was considering a proposal to re-authorize the use of eminent domain within two giant redevelopment areas covering an estimated 95% of the city.

San Pablo Against Eminent Domain, the group of local property owners opposed to eminent domain abuse, have held rallies before the last two public hearings urging the council to reject the proposal that would put their homes, businesses and churches on the chopping block. Members of the group also presented their objections against eminent domain and the blighting of their properties at the hearings (a critical step in California that ensures the owners maintain some of their rights in court).

The Castle Coalition read about this controversy in the news and reached out to the property owners. Christina Walsh, IJ’s director of activism and coalitions, traveled to San Pablo to speak at a community meeting of concerned citizens, where over 60 people attended. At this meeting, the group formed San Pablo Against Eminent Domain, to present a united front against the city’s ill-conceived and over-reaching proposal. The group continued to meet, organize, make noise and grow in the ensuing weeks.

At the last hearing, the city announced it would postpone a vote on the proposal to an undetermined future date. Responding to continued pressure from the grassroots group, Councilman Morris presented a resolution calling for a ban on eminent domain on Monday, which was approved unanimously with one abstention.

Local property owner Olivia Liou said, “When Council member Paul Morris motioned to vote no to eminent domain, the crowd exploded with cheering and clapping! One after another council member agreed, leading to 4 ayes and 1 abstention. And that has made history in our little town of some 30,000+ residents, mostly blue-collar, many from a Latino background. No attorney, no lawsuits, just the people.”

Another property owner, Margaret Judkins, agreed with Ms. Liou. “It was truly a community effort that convinced the City Council to not reestablish eminent domain. Most importantly, it was our hard work in proving that the city blight survey is severely incorrect, making our city look 94% blight when it is not.”

Local property owners are relieved and overjoyed that the city will not have the power to take what they have worked so hard to own for the next four years.