After a court dispute with an affordable housing developer over relocation expenses, Taqueria La Bamba is being evicted this week from its longtime location at 2058 Old Middlefield Way.
Owner Leo Munoz said that ROEM development corporation Eden Housing -- the affordable housing developers the City Council picked to build 48 studio apartments on the site -- backed out of a deal to help relocate the taqueria last week. A ROEM official denied Munoz's charge.
"I can tell you our goal has always been and still is to relocate 100 percent of all the tenants fairly and under the requirements of the project," ROEM's Derek Allen said Monday.
The City Council had required that ROEM also relocate 48 apartment residents and several small businesses, including another popular taqueria, La Costena, which re-opened a few weeks ago at 235 East Middlefield Road, near Whisman Road. Both La Costena and La Bamba have held the title of "best burrito in Mountain View."
"We've been in business for more than 25 years," said Munoz, who also owns two other La Bamba taquerias in Mountain View. The restaurant he's losing is the original location and "our money maker," Munoz said. He said the two other locations have been kept short-staffed in order to absorb the displaced employees.
Munoz claims that in late November ROEM backed out of a deal to compensate La Bamba at the last minute. Munoz said La Bamba has a lease for the site until 2023, and ROEM is expected to provide a new space for the taqueria on the site on the first floor of the new affordable housing project.
"The La Bamba relocation, that's more complicated as a result of the lease provisions he entered into with the previous owner," Allen said.
Allen said it was unfortunate to see a press release Munoz sent out last week about the conflict. "We've never backed out of any final deal," Allen said.
Munoz said ROEM had offered $265,000 in relocation expenses and $300,000 to install tenant improvements in the new building, but backed out at the last minute in court. A judge "didn't allow some information to be presented which messed up our case," Munoz said. "We lost whatever leverage we had against ROEM and Eden."
The most difficult thing about the eviction is "the amount of money that we're losing," he said.
"The downtown location isn't doing that well. One location pays for the other location. Our main source of income is actually gonna get shut down," he said. "The amount of money they are offering doesn't resemble the amount of money we are losing."
"They want us to come back but we have to spend money on improvements, we don't have that money," Munoz said. "We have zero money to come back. To start from scratch costs $400,000."