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.

Published by The Fly

The Fly is a weekly column written by San Jose Inside staff that provides a behind-the-scenes look at local politics.

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14 Comments

  1. Before everyone rushes to make David look like a victim, you should know that he’s on his like fifth attorney in 2 years. Maybe he’s a difficult client. Maybe he has a weak case. Or maybe he won’t produce the right financials to help make his case. Or all of the above.

    The taxpayers of Santa Clara don’t owe him. He had a business arrangement for public property. It was good for him it sounds like. Not sure it was any good for the taxpayers.

    1. Agreed here. On top of that, the restaurant doesn’t seem to be getting much business. As a local looking to get a bite I would never go there for several reasons – and one of them is pretty bad reviews online. The only explanation on how the restaurant is somehow staying afloat is because it gets waves of occasional football fans. The area won’t grow if we keep old-school, stale businesses like this.
      If you are honestly concerned about the banquet business in Santa Clara – look around, there are tons of hotels surrounding the neighborhood that have way better options to offer. David’s business is destined for destruction, if not by a “rich developer” then by a number of hotels.

      The city is doing him a favor IMHO.

  2. > after the city knocked his lease from a multi-year deal to month-to-month for his facility by the municipal golf course.

    HOW did the city “knock” his lease?

    Did they do it lawfully and ethically?

    Or did they just say “we’re the government and we’re bigger than you are”?

    The notorious and awful Kelo decision undermined property rights by allowing the government to take private property just because they wanted more tax revenue. It was NOT taking of property for “public purpose”, just for public (i.e. “politician”) greed.

    Although this case involves public property, a lease agreement certainly is in the character of “private” property, and should not be abrogated arbitrarily.

    Using “eminent domain” to get out of a lease deal certainly seems like a slide down the slippery slope to hell that the Kelo decision made possible.

  3. The City of Santa Clara is LYING!! There have NOT been “years of closed-door talks to relocate the banquet room” … or if there were talks — where’s the proof?? Just Santa Clara entering into another lawsuit because they dint do their homework. The lease was in place when the City Place deal was inked … they need to work around the pre-existing longterm and known lease. Where is the notification to the tenant when the deal was inked? The Ass Mgr lips were moving and lying all the time they were moving attempting to CYA on this big City screw up … yet again. The City needs to lose … they have screwed up once too often and it is inexcusable to punish a faithful, longterm leaseholder for a City caused problem …

    They offer David’s $5000 for his business that he built for more than 3 decades and $300,000 to the Hilton to take away their use of the tennis courts and golf course for their patrons?? Where is the equivalent treatment in that? Hilton didn’t build a thing. They can’t even show how many guests ever even used the facilities. David invested his life into his business.

  4. David Ebrahimi is totally wrong when he says “They’re trying to take my property from me and give it to a rich developer.”

    It’s not his property. It belongs to the City of Santa Clara. The City has approved a major new development. The City will continue to own the land — not a developer. Ebrahimi has a lease that he doesn’t want to give up. But the City has the right to end the lease, especially if Ebrahimi is not paying much. Apparently, he’s not. An independent appraiser concluded he should be paid $5,000 for his lease.

    Ebrahimi has not provided documents to challenge that amount. That’s suspicious. I’ve been covering this story for awhile.

    Here’s my brief take from last night. https://santaclaranews.org/2018/12/12/city-council-meeting-review-city-starts-eminent-domain/

    1. Why is Santa Clara is doing business with Steven Ross anyway this guy tried to poch away England premier league teams in the premier league to for a super league which would elimate uefa he is the one who is has a friend who is on the board city football city for Manchester city and got related in Abu Dhabi Steven Ross failed to get a La Liga game in Miami Daniel Levy the chairman of Tottenham doesn’t like him mr haugh why is project allowed anyway these are facts about Steven Ross if you are reporter report facts on Steven Ross which I just said are true who are the main players in this project the cast off avenue q

  5. Ebrahimi has a VALID long term lease and had that lease in place when the City entered into the lousy arrangement with Related, Robert! Are you still pandering for Lisa? When are you going to finally get some facts correct? Do you EVER do any research? DAvid obviously had a valid lease … Why else would the City move his establishment from one location to the other and Ruth even tell one of his customers that he has a longer lease?

    Ruth is known to get the city into lawsuits (is this her third, fourth or fifth? And why is she still employed? She should have been fired years ago. She must have good dirt on someone) with both her lying and her incompetence and her pure stupidity too … Seems like she’s at it again. Guess she doesn’t even remember what she had been talking to the Ebrahimi’s about in the past … Good thing they have records — does she? And here goes Santa Clara into yet another lawsuit too. Guess they like giving the public’s money away to people they try to screw.

  6. This is fishy. Did the city sign a multi-year lease or not with Mr. Ebrahimi? If so, they should honor the terms of the lease. If they are trying some eminent domain workaround, this is an massive abuse of power and all property owners should stand by Mr. Ebrahimi. Because you next if you don’t.

    1. YES … The city HAS a signed lease (since 1999, I believe) with David’s restaurant (Mr, Ebrahimi) and that lease was in place long before the City Place deal was inked with Related Company too. All parties involved in developing the publicly-owned golf course, KNEW he had a long term lease and there was never a single mention in a single public document or discussion that his business would be taken away from him using eminent domain. In fact, not too long ago, the recently re-elected Mayor Gillmore said that the City of Santa Clara “NEVER uses eminent domain”. And it never has!!

      The City must keep their commitment and honor their lease to their long-standing tenant. He was there LONG BEFORE the Related deal was ever on the table … Grabbing his business just benefits Related Company … The City doesn’t get a dime from Related at all for years …. David’s Restaurant contributes money to the city’s general fund too … Money the City of Santa Clara desperately needs right NOW.

  7. From the linked article, if they can’t agree on a deal and start the seizure process, it starts with a Resolution of Necessity (RON) which is why you need to size the property. Let me think how this can be worded a little more diplomatically: “We need to seize the property of this one private entity who has less money so we can give it to this other private entity who has more money.” I think I heard the golf course is an old dump, just like shoreline in mountain view. Are they really going to build on top of a dump? Watch out for hypodermic needles when you walk people.

  8. Eminent domain is a very bad precedent. And offering $5,000 is truly insulting. The Fly never mentions the monthly rent. Why not? From the looks of the business property, $5,000 is far lower than the monthly rent.

    Since there was “a war of words” between the parties, this looks like the city is being vindictive, just because they can be. Anyway, it’s not their money, is it? Thery just want to confiscate someone’s business cheaply.

    This is what happens when City Councils turn over the duties they were elected to do to a city manager. If they take away the owner’s business, they can crow about it. But if they fail, they can blame the city manager. Simples. But hardly ethical.

    The whole thing stinks. If they want to buy out someone’s business, who has been operating it for three decades, then offer the owner a good buyout. Instead, they’re being juvenile and petty by offering $5,000.

    If I were the owner, I’d pour plenty of money into alternate candidates in the next election. Could anyone else be worse?

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