SANTA CLARA (KPIX 5) — The city of Santa Clara plans to do something it’s never done before: use the power of eminent domain to force a long-time business to move.
“I feel abused. I feel used,” said David Ebrahimi, the owner of David’s of Santa Clara, a restaurant, banquet and conference center.
Ebrahimi has leased the city-owned banquet facility on Stars and Stripes Drive for three decades, ever since the neighborhood was a literal dump. The buildings and adjacent golf course sit atop an old landfill.
But now that Levi’s Stadium moved in across the street, the neighborhood is hot property. And a big new developer Related Companies, plans a multi-billion dollar complex of offices, restaurants and shops.
The city says David’s restaurant must be demolished to re-align Stars and Stripes Drive to make way for the development and offered him $5,000 to break his lease which still has 11 years left.
But Ebrahimi refused.
“They feel like they used me enough they don’t need to use me anymore. They go after people with bigger pockets,” Ebrahimi said.
On Tuesday night, the city council voted to invoke eminent domain- which allows governments to take over private properties for public use with compensation–to force Ebrahimi out.
Business leader Dave Delozier disagreed with the decision.
“Please do not open Pandora’s box and use eminent domain, it’s not fair to your citizens or business community. It’s immoral,” Delozier said.
But the vote was 5-1 in favor, including a “Yes” from Santa Clara Mayor Lisa Gillmor.
“It’s significant for everyone to know that this is city property. We’re dealing with a lease, we’re not taking anyone’s property, ” Gillmor said.
Ebrahimi is planning to fight the city in court.
Ebrahimi’s original waiter, Kamran Kotobi,who still works daily in the restaurant, fears the end is near.
“We have lots of clients and lots of friends who have been coming here for lots of years, now we’re going to have to say goodbye to them, and that’s regretful,” he said.
The city says it has tried to work with Ebrahimi including hiring a relocation firm. But he says he doesn’t want to move because it took a long time to establish his business where it is now.
He said he wants to be a part of any new development, and not be on the outside looking in.