Owners holding out as transit center work moves forward

The City is poised to take several properties that stand in the way of the $4 billion Transbay Transit Center development after owners rebuffed purchase offers.

The wrecking ball is now in full swing demolishing the 1939 terminal at Mission and First streets to make way for the “Grand Central station of the West.” The planned hub is envisioned to include retail shops and an array of transit service — local and regional buses, a Caltrain station and ultimately a terminus for the state’s high-speed rail.

Owners of four buildings in the way of planned rail tunnels are refusing to accept purchase offers from The City. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will vote on whether to authorize eminent domain.

“These are the four holdouts. We need to act now,” said Supervisor Chris Daly, whose district includes the project site. “They’re just looking to get as much as they can.”

The Transbay Joint Powers Authority, which is overseeing the project, said that by May it “must have possession” of the properties to remain on schedule, since demolition work is supposed to end in April.

Attorney Jeffrey Knowles, who is representing some of the owners at 85 Natoma St., said his clients are not against the taking, but that “it’s a low-ball offer.”

“They are not offering a realistic fair market value,” Knowles said.

Ultimately, a final cost could be settled by a Superior Court judge.

While Daly said there is always potential for delay, in this case it is unlikely.  

These land battles are nothing compared to the fight with developer Jack Myers, who owned a parcel that was in the way of a project. Myers had intended to build a 423-unit condo tower at 80 Natoma St. In 2004, the board ultimately voted to take the property using eminent domain. The City had offered $32.5 million, but then ended up fighting the taking in court and settling in 2005 for $58 million.

Compared to the Myers incident, “These are small fry,” Daly said.

The City has acquired 13 other properties during the past five years, with owners agreeing to the purchase offers.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

In the way

Four properties needed for the Transbay Transit Center project might have to be acquired through eminent domain, since the owners rejected purchase offers.

60 Tehama St.
$1 million

564 Howard St.
$1.45 million

568 Howard St.
$6.2 million

85 Natoma St.*
About $1 million (3), $2.85 million (1)

* Subdivided among eight owners

Source: Board of Supervisors

On the fast track

The new Transbay Transit Center will reinvent the terminal for transportation, along with the surrounding area. There are three portions of the project:

  • Replace the existing terminal at First and Mission streets
  • Extend Caltrain from the Fourth and King streets and build high-speed rail terminus
  • Surround center with homes, offices, parks and shops to complete neighborhood

Source: Transbay Joint Powers Authority

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