Hundreds of citizens attended the San Pablo City Council meeting Monday night 5/3/10 to voice their opposition to the reinstatement of eminent domain (ED) in their city, a provision that lapsed in March 2009. Redevelopment project areas currently cover over 90% of the city leaving most citizens in fear of losing their homes.
Local activists began working with Christina Walsh of the Institute for Justices' Castle Coalition in March. This is the same Virginia based advocacy group that represented Suzette Kelo before the Supreme Court in the infamous Kelo decision.
Citizens held rallies before both the April 19 City Council meeting--at which the Council put off a decision on ED--and before the May 3 Council meeting outside City Hall.
During both meetings, many citizens pleaded with Councilmembers not to take their homes and businesses during public comment. Mayor Leonard McNeil declared that the Council had held meetings since Feb. 2010 and listened to citizen's concerns, had taken the concerns seriously but needed to "reach consensus" on the eminent domain issue. Further, he stated that he wanted citizens to "understand what the agency is trying to do." Several citizens replied in public comment that they understood only too well what the Redevelopment Agency was trying to do: take their homes and businesses for big developers. Later, one speaker advised the Council that they were circulating a petition to recall all Councilmembers.
Unexpectedly, at the end of the meeting, Councilman Paul Morris introduced a resolution for a 4 year moratorium on eminent domain which passed 4-0 with Councilmember Cruz abstaining.