Wednesday, March 15, 2006

City Eyes Plan to Revitalize Texas Street Corridor

City Eyes Plan to Revitalize Texas Street Corridor
By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD - Fairfield wants a plan to revitalize the Texas Street corridor with new businesses and residences - a plan that could include the option of using eminent domain.

The Texas Street corridor starts at Interstate 80 at West Texas Street, runs through downtown, curves north near Armijo High School and continues as North Texas Street to I-80 again. In the mid-1900s, it served as State Highway 40.

Today, the corridor is a major Fairfield street lined by strip malls, shopping centers and multi-story buildings. The city wants to do more to revitalize the area than putting in landscaping and aesthetic improvements, as it has in the past. It is looking at changing land uses to fit the changing times.

The City Council and Planning Commission met Tuesday in a study session to discuss West Texas, Texas and North Texas streets. They also discussed whether the city's redevelopment agency should have eminent domain powers along the corridor. They made no decisions.

Fairfield has some elegant developments on its outer edges, City Councilman Jack Batson said. By creating a Texas Street plan, Fairfield will give the inner part of the city the attention it deserves, it said.

"I've seen cities let the attention be riveted on the outside and let the inside of the city rot," Batson said.

Some positive changes have already taken place along the corridor, city planners wrote in a memorandum. The 107-home Providence Walk development on Travis Boulevard replaced a crime-ridden trailer court. The Park Crossing apartments replaced the old county hospital on West Texas Street. Solano County built a new government center downtown. The McInnis Corner development across the street from the government center renovated an old building and added such businesses as Starbucks.

City planners identified several sites for infill development which they think could stimulate new investment. Among them are the city-owned bowling alley property, the corner of West Texas Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the 1000 block of Texas Street near the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts and the southwest corner of Texas and Jefferson streets.

Fairfield wants to work with the private sector on infill development there and other places. However, eminent domain may be required in some cases, the memo said.

Eminent domain allows a city redevelopment agency to condemn and take private property for fair market value. Its use became more controversial in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year involving the Connecticut town of New London. The court ruled New London can condemn homes and give the properties to developers.

California subsequently looked at changing its eminent domain laws. Sen. Tom McClintock wants to limit eminent domain to obtaining land for public uses, such as parks or road right-of-ways. But his proposed law stalled.

City Councilman Frank Kardos called eminent domain "the third rail." He urged judicial use of it.

Planning Commissioner Chuck Wood III said the city needs to have all the tools available, including using eminent domain on blighted property. He stressed city staff's proposal that no single-family, owner-occupied homes be taken.

Staff does not have a list of projects targeted for possible eminent domain, Senior Economic Development Project Manager David White said. But trying to put together infill projects with several parcels and property owners is challenging, he said. Eminent domain would be a last resort, he said.

Mayor Harry Price praised the idea of having a Texas Street corridor plan.

"This is an opportunity for the City of Fairfield to take a look at that corridor and realize what it can be," Price said.

Doing a Texas Street plan could cost $350,000. Reinstating and extending the redevelopment agency's eminent domain powers for the various segments could cost $150,000 in legal and other fees, a city report said.

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at

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