May 5, 2006
A Herculean Effort to Kick Wal-Mart In the Shins
The city of Hercules, CA, a San Francisco suburb just north of Oakland and located on San Pablo Bay (which connects to San Francisco Bay), is the latest example of a city abusing powers of eminent domain to seize property from one commercial interest to sell to another. But in this case, it appears to be a purely political move out of condescension towards the current owner: Wal-Mart.
The Hercules City Council will consider whether to use eminent domain to wrest a 17-acre property from Wal-Mart Stores Inc. after the nation's largest retailer rejected a city offer to buy the site with views of San Pablo Bay, city officials said Thursday.
Briefly, Hercules decided it was going to build a major, upscale "neighborhood shopping center." When Wal-Mart heard that, it decided it would be good to have a Wal-Mart store there too; so it bought some adjacent property and submitted a plan to the city council.
But the Bay Area liberals decided that a Wal-Mart was too déclassé for their aristocratic image.
(Hercules sits in Contra Costa County, which in 2004 went for Kerry over Bush by 26%. Maybe they just liked Jean le Kerry because he was more of an aristo than Texas George?)
Wal-Mart wants to build a store in the booming East Bay town of Hercules, but critics there say the giant discount retailer would be too lowbrow for upscale locals.
On Thursday, opponents publicized an economic impact analysis that said Wal-Mart serves shoppers with a typical annual income of less than $50,000 -- far less than the nearly $90,000 average in Hercules.
"They (the stores) don't have to be totally upscale, but we need some better things," said opponent Tom Petersen, a psychologist who lives in an area of million-dollar plus homes called Victoria by the Bay.
Aghast at the thought of a vulgar Wal-Mart among the prize doves, the city council was poised to reject the plan, when Wal-Mart withdrew it. In response, the city council quickly tried to buy the land away from the lowbrow company... but Wal-Mart refused to sell.
Instead, it offered a new plan that was more in keeping with the overall design for the upscale Waterford District:
On March 31, however, Wal-Mart submitted a new application that it said substantially conforms to city requirements. The same day the company submitted its revised proposal, Councilwoman Charleen Raines was hardly welcoming, although she said she had not read it.
"What the council has said is that we want to buy the property,'' she said, describing the tussle with Wal-Mart as a "David and Goliath'' struggle. "At this point, we're concerned about moving ahead on this property. It's been hanging over us for a long time.''
(In this case, "a long time" means four months, since Wal-Mart originally bought the property in November, 2005.)
Outraged that Wal-Mart would not take the back of Hercules' hand for an answer -- there'll be floggings, I can assure you! -- the city has now moved to institue eminent domain and take the property by force.
This is precisely what we all feared when the Supreme Court decided the Kelo v. New London case: that cities would begin using eminent domain, the seizure of private property for public use, simply as a weapon in negotiations for buying property: Hercules offers some amount less than Wal-Mart wants for the land; but if Wal-Mart refuses, Hercules will simply seize the property and pay whatever they decide it's worth... possibly less than they originally offered.
It is, quite simply, legalized extortion... for which we have to thank the liberal faction of the Supreme Court of the United States.
So what is the state of California going to do about it?
Hatched by Dafydd on this day, May 5, 2006, at the time of 6:51 PM
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Tracked on May 7, 2006 2:15 AM
The following hissed in response by: bpilch
this is a joke in so many ways. Hercules is a dump, they only want to be upscale. A Walmart would be perfect for them, which is why they are trying so desperately to avoid it. I just went to neighboring Pinole to pick up a computer I couldn't get at my local Best Buy...it's the same thing. While million dollar homes in the rest of the nation are a lot, in California it's a dump. All that being said, why don't they just pay more if they want to buy the land-- using eminent domain just shows you what dopes these guys are...Runaway govt is the other part of California
The following hissed in response by: Insufficiently Sensitive
Hercules is putting on airs.
Why's it called Hercules? Not because of some long-ago dude who performed seven superhuman labors to marry the boss's daughter. It was created by the Hercules Powder Company as a site for manufacturing explosives - about as politically incorrect a history as any sensitiver-than-thou City Council must deal with.
So history repeats itself. Here's Wal-Mart wanting to set up a store on the City Council's turf. The mavens on the Council, having profiled Wal-Mart and convicted it without trial as racially, sexually, politically and economically despicable, are setting the company seven superhuman tasks of bureaucratic hoop-jumping. We've only seen the first two, and the third appears to be overcoming the looting, via the obscene Kelo decision, of the very property Wal-Mart owns.
Tune in frequently while the Council creatively thinks up ever more impossible obstructions to conducting a legal business in a free country. Or, if you live in Hercules, consider voting the rascals out.
The following hissed in response by: ResidentsRights
With regards to Hercules and eminent domain:
Wal-Mart agreed to the developer's agreement when they purchased the property;
The agreement states that if the developer does not bring in a project which fits the agreement that the City can condemn the property and take it through eminent domain;
Wal-Mart has not brought in a project which fits the agreement THREE times;
Residents have the Right to decide through the General Plan and Ordinances what they want to zone for property;
This land is NOT zoned for a Wal-Mart and never was.
It's the same as if Wal-Mart were trying to develop a baseball staduim there;
Hercules is suffering economically because of the actions of Wal-Mart;
Three strikes and you're out!
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