A quick Point postscript
If you’re a regular reader of The Island – heck, if you live here in town – you know last week was a pretty exciting one regarding development plans out at Alameda Point, with Mayor Beverly Johnson’s stunning about-face on SunCal’s ballot initiative.
But there was another revelation that was just as interesting, that received a lot less elucidation: City staff and SunCal are deep into negotiations that could moot key portions of the controversial business deal contained in the initiative before it ever reaches voters.
In a letter addressed to Mayor Beverly Johnson and cc’d to the rest of the City Council, SunCal’s Pat Keliher wrote that the company’s reps have been meeting weekly with Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant and city staff to negotiate major concerns that include the city’s potential fiscal exposure, a cap that limits the amount of money the developer is required to pay for public benefits, project phasing, the payment of development fees and the allowed uses of redevelopment bond funds.
“While we understand that there has been concern raised in the election report regarding the fiscal protections and provisions of the initiative, we believe that these issues could and would be resolved prior to the vote on the initiative,” Keliher wrote. “To that end, we have been working in good faith over the past several months in weekly meetings with the City Manager and staff to address the election report concerns and incorporate appropriate protections through legally binding agreements.”
So how did we get here? SunCal’s inclusion of a development agreement in its ballot initiative apparently came as a surprise to Mayor Johnson and to the dismay of city staff, who typically would negotiate it and a second document, called a disposition and development agreement, with a developer.
That second document ordinarily is negotiated between the developer and the Community Improvement Commission, an entity that is legally separate from the City of Alameda. But a number of key elements typically found in that document are instead contained in the development agreement with the city, which is on the ballot, Economic Development Director Leslie Little said. And she said that if the initiative passes, they are set in stone, and can only be changed by the developer.
This initiative contains a (development agreement) that has a lot of things in it, but also is missing things that the City might have in a D.A. The Initiative D.A. also crosses the typical separation of these two documents. For example it commits the City to (Community Improvement Commission) public funding levels, regulates transfer/sale rights without conditions, sets a cap on public benefit contributions, etc. These things would usually be found in the D.D.A (with) the CIC and would be negotiated as part of the process of a D.D.A.
SunCal had planned to hand in their petition signatures in June for a November ballot but they held off until almost the last minute to, among other things, negotiate with Gallant and city staff over the city’s concerns. The council had even looked into whether it could change the initiative without sparking a do-over and putting its own measure on the ballot (Johnson said last week that they are not considering that option at this time).
So how close are they to resolving this? And more importantly, will whatever gets negotiated be legally binding over the deal contained in the initiative if it is okayed by voters? For now, nobody’s saying for sure. Keliher didn’t return a call seeking comment, and Deputy City Manager Lisa Goldman said she couldn’t comment on the city’s confidential negotiations with SunCal, which she said are being conducted under the exclusive negotiating agreement the city holds with the developer through July 2010.
“The ENA expires in July 2010, and staff will meet that deadline in recommending to the City Council/CIC/(Alameda Reuse and Redevelopment Authority) as to whether a DDA has been successfully negotiated and whether staff is recommending approval of its terms and conditions,” Goldman wrote in response to The Island’s request for comment.
Goldman said she couldn’t share the city’s legal analysis, but she did offer this tantalizing tidbit:
Whether an agreement is binding over the ballot measure will depend on whether the agreement goes about making changes to the ballot measure in line with the provisions in the ballot measure that explain how changes can be made.
More to come.