Posted on Sat, Aug. 12, 2006

City looks to further development plans

SAN PABLO: Eminent domain issue must be settled before houses adjacent to mobile park are taken over

By Tom Lochner

With the acquisition of the Alvarado Mobile Home Park wrapped up, San Pablo's redevelopment agency envisions building houses on the adjacent municipal parking lot as a first step in a physical makeover of the area.

The agency paid Alvarado's owner, Edward Biggs, $3.725 million for the 49-unit park, San Pablo's finance director, Bradley Ward, said Wednesday. The agency had offered Biggs $2.76 million; Biggs countered with an asking price of $4.2 million.

The agency board had invoked eminent domain, but attorneys for Biggs and the agency agreed on a compromise out of court in April. The purchase was completed in June.

Meanwhile, the agency is pursuing eminent domain acquisition of the much larger, 210-unit Circle S Mobile Home Park nearby after negotiations with Robert Johanson, the general partner of that park's owners group, proved fruitless.

Agency officials last year estimated the cost of acquiring Circle S, including the fair-market value and legal expenses, at $12.1 million to $12.8 million.

The two parks are part of an 18-acre group of parcels on which the agency seeks to develop 200 units of manufactured housing for sale at market rates. The site also includes the parking lot, formerly a lumber yard and warehouse, and a Salvation Army store on a lot also owned by Johanson, a Rodeo attorney.

The agency also plans a trail along Wildcat Creek, which runs behind both parks.

The site is on San Pablo Avenue, part of the block between City Hall and Casino San Pablo. Agency officials have long sought more upscale development on the prime downtown site. Many occupants, especially those of long standing, have said they do not want to move because they live within walking distance of Doctors Medical Center and several nearby clinics as well as the San Pablo Town Center shopping center.

In response, the agency has promised that seniors and disabled people could stay for life in the new housing on site at the same rents they paid for their spaces in March 2005. Other residents could continue on at the March 2005 rates for as many as 42 months. The arrangement would apply to both parks.

Space rents in the park mostly have been in the $500-a-month range, not counting utilities and garbage collection.

Residents would be offered relocation benefits of as much as $50,000 per household. Those could include rent subsidies for 42 months, moving allowances, and financial help toward buying a home.

The agency has hired Evans Management Services to manage Alvarado and collect the rents. And on Monday, the San Pablo City Council approved a one-year contract for $150,000 with Paragon Partners, a firm with offices in California, Utah and Oklahoma, to provide relocation services; those will include appraisals, tenant interviews, referrals to housing and other services.

The agency will also build affordable housing units elsewhere in town at least equal in number to the affordable units that would be lost at Alvarado and Circle S, in accordance with state redevelopment law.

San Pablo Community Services Director Kelsey Worthy said Wednesday there is no target date for beginning construction on the municipal parking lot.

"We will take a look at that after the eminent domain is settled for Circle S ... and relocation needs have been assessed," Worthy said.

Reach Tom Lochner at 510-262-2760 or