By Rachel Cohen
SAN LORENZO — After 30 years of talk and two years of serious investigations, the county has begun the physical process of widening East Lewelling Boulevard.
The section of East Lewelling Boulevard that runs between Hesperian Boulevard and Meekland Avenue outgrew its two lanes long ago.
“With Lewelling being just one lane (in each direction), there’s a lot of traffic,” said resident Roy Deno. “Especially when a train comes and San Lorenzo High School lets out.”
In addition to passing through two railroad crossings, East Lewelling is also a main route to Interstates 238 and 580.
Hedged in by dirt and broken sidewalks in some places, the road will be widened to four lanes with a planted median and bordered by nearly 10-foot sidewalks with landscaping.
A total of 65 properties will be affected by the road widening. About one to five feet will be taken from these properties, said Rory MacNeil, Alameda County Public Works Agency assistantchief of the real estate division.
Public Works held three public hearings July 10, 24 and 31, and the county Board of Supervisors voted July 31 to begin the eminent domain proceedings that grant the authority to take the properties along the road from those owners who haven’t reached a monetary settlement with the county.
Some 20 properties already have been granted to the county. MacNeil said eminent domain was filed on roughly 40 properties, whose owners were notified by letter within the past couple
of months. In following federal guidelines, the county provides the appraised property value and the owners may do their own appraisal study so that they may be paid fair market value.
“They had the opportunity to meet with me, the appraiser, at the appraisal property and go over the project as necessary,” MacNeil said.
As part of relocation assistance, MacNeil added, the county helps with packing and unpacking, advertising the new location and the reestablishment of phone and computer connections.
The state Legislature recently passed a law — Senate Bill 1210 — which extends the eminent domain process from about four months to six months, which the county also incorporated into its timeline during July’s hearings. The county plans to own all the property it needs for the widening by the end of year.
The county has condemned four buildings that businesses now occupy along Lewelling, MacNeil said.
Among these is the Shamrock Realtors office, which has been at 153 Lewelling for 42 years.
“We were going to tie our bodies to the building,” joked Realtor Rosalyn Esmeyer. “We’re in therapy about it.”
This building will be razed, and Shamrock Realtors will move into the craftsman-style 1930s bungalow behind the office.
“We’re hoping to keep the same address,” added Rosalyn’s Realtor husband, James Esmeyer.
They had rented out the bungalow to a couple who are also being forced to move because of the road widening. James Esmeyer added that a nearby barber shop, which the county also condemned, already has packed up and moved out. About a month ago, he said, the county bulldozed an empty building a block west.
A block east of them are two other successful businesses that also now have to move from Lewelling due to the widening.
Over the past two years, Martha Barragan has established Martha’s Hair Salon as a neighborhood favorite.
“It’s been really good here,” she said, “because there is a lot of clientele including from the schools close to here.”
She said she looked for a new location along Hesperian Boulevard from A Street to San Leandro, but the rents were too high. She planned to visit two more locations, along Foothill Boulevard and A Street, in hopes of finding something suitable. She said she expects the steepest costs in the move to be the plumbing and electricity in outfitting a space to serve a salon, which she said the county will not be able to assist with.
The county plans for Pacific Gas & Electric and communications companies to begin laying underground pipes and cables next spring.
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