David Ebrahimi must never have heard the old saw about fighting city hall.
The 72-year-old owner of David’s Banquet Hall took Santa Clara to court after the city knocked his lease from a multi-year deal to month-to-month for his facility by the municipal golf course. When Super Bowl invaded the South Bay for the NFL’s golden anniversary back in 2015, the veteran restaurateur waged a war of words with city officials after realizing that food deliveries to his 30-year-old eatery across from Levi’s Stadium were constrained by a federally mandated 300-foot security perimeter.
And now this.
If Ebrahimi refuses a lease buyout to make way for a mixed-use, multibillion-dollar Related Companies development, Santa Clara will—for the first time in its history—summon eminent domain powers to force his hand. “It’s wrong,” Ebrahimi insists. “They’re trying to take my property from me and give it to a rich developer.”
Though governments can use eminent domain on behalf of private construction, that’s not exactly what’s happening in this case, according to the Santa Clara Weekly, which covered the story shortly after Ebrahimi got his notice of eminent domain action in the mail. Santa Clara officials say the city needs to move the banquet business to reconfigure Stars & Stripes and Centennial drives—a public project, albeit one that accommodates Related Companies’ Northside City Place development.
City officials say they’ve tried to work things out amicably with Ebrahimi, to no avail. Years of closed-door talks about relocating the banquet hall and attempts at collaboration have hit one dead end after another.
Last month, city manager Deanna Santana, citing an appraisal by Associated Right of Way Services, offered Ebrahimi $5,000 for the lease buyback. That officially kicked off the eminent domain process, which came up for debate at a public hearing on Tuesday.
“Maybe they don’t like it, but I’m their tenant,” Ebrahimi says. “And unfortunately, the city forgotten that it has a commitment to me.”
The council on Tuesday voted 5-1, with Councilwoman Karen Hardy opposed, to proceed with the eminent domain action on the restaurant lease. Ebrahimi showed up to speak against the decision, but city officials maintained that his business doesn’t fit with their blueprint for future growth in the area.
In a separate motion, it also voted to commence eminent domain proceedings on the adjacent golf course and tennis courts, which, like the restaurant, sits on city-owned land but has a lease deal that it refuses to relinquish.