HAYWARD -- The Dorris family, which has run a salvage yard on Depot Road for more than 50 years, says the city is putting its business at risk by running a road through it.
"They're splitting our property; that road cuts it directly in half," said Howard Dorris of Dorris Auto Wreckers. "What's going to happen when we can't run our business on one lot?"
A long-planned an extension of Whitesell Street will provide a north-south route from Highway 92 to Winton Avenue on the western edge of the industrial area. The city has begun eminent domain proceedings against the Dorrises and five other property owners to ensure the project starts on schedule, said Morad Fakhrai, city director of public works for transportation.
In July, the City Council adopted what are called "resolutions of necessity," a legal step required to initiate the eminent domain process. Fakhrai stressed that the city's action does not mean negotiations over fair compensation for the land have to stop.
"This is a court order that allows the city to take over possession of the property we need for the project, and we can continue negotiations with property owner. In my experience here, we have never gone to eminent domain," he said, adding that he has been with the city for more than 20 years. "We have always found a way to reach an agreement."
The roadwork, with the unwieldy name of Interstate 880/State Route 92 Reliever Route Project-Phase 1, will cost an estimated $26 million, funded by Measure B, a half-cent sales tax to improve transportation approved by Alameda County voters in 2000.
"This will give more direct access from the industrial area to 880 and 92," Fakhrai said.
The Depot Road owners balked at the low price the city offered, said Steve Chess, who owns an outdoor storage lot that will be cut in two by the new road.
"Not one person along Depot agreed because the price was so low," he said.
Chess said he would prefer the city buy his entire parcel, but at a higher price than he was offered for the portion being used for the road. The project will take just under an acre of his 3.7-acre lot, making the entire parcel useless, Chess said. Unable to sell or lease the lot, he said he is losing money now that Hayward is moving forward with plans for the road.
The city offered him under $8 a square foot, less than half of what he received from Pacific Gas & Electricity for an easement to run power lines above his property, he said.
In addition to the eminent domain actions on Depot, the city is proceeding with others. Whitesell will be widened, and to accommodate that, eminent domain has begun against a property owner at Enterprise Avenue and Whitesell.
The project will upgrade some intersections, including Winton Avenue and Hesperian Boulevard, which gets a heavy amount of traffic, Fakhrai said. To add a turn lane, eminent domain also has started against owners of a Valero gas station at that intersection.
The Dorris family is dealing with the city on two fronts.
They also are trying to get a conditional use permit for their property, which was annexed into Hayward in 2008 along with three other salvage yards on Depot. Because their business is now in Hayward, they have to adhere to the city's zoning laws, which require them to apply for a conditional use permit and come up to city standards.
Ruby Dorris, another family member, said she has been going back and forth with the city, trying to get approval for the permit. The city recommends that property owners hire experts to go through the permit process for them, but planners try to work with those who try to submit plans on their own, said Ned Thomas, city planning manager.
The Dorrises don't have the kind of money needed to hire expert, Ruby Dorris said.
Chess said the city is trying to run the salvage yards out of business.
"The city decides to annex them. Then it tells them now you need a permit, and you need to improve your property, put in gutters and sidewalks. These guys can't afford that," he said. "And how can you have a salvage yard separated by a street?"
Thomas denied that Hayward is attempting to shut down the salvage yards. "They're legitimate, historic businesses that have been here a long time," he said.
If the salvage yards decide to move, the city will help them relocate, said Kevin Briggs, project manager. But the owners would have to purchase or lease the new sites themselves.
Chess, who is an industrial real estate specialist, said there are no sites suitable in Hayward except on Depot.
"You'd have to go to Tracy," he said. "No yard owner would consider leasing to a salvage yard. They're messy, but they provide a service. I defy the city to find a property in Hayward that will take them."
The Dorrises want to remain where they are, Ruby Dorris said. "We are part of Hayward," she said.