The four to midnight shift
So much has happened on the SunCal/Alameda Point front over the last eight hours, it’s hard to know where to begin. It’s kind of like being in one of those TV episodes that starts at the end, when the protagonist finds himself or herself on the sudden, unflinching precipice of doom. Will (s)he be able to figure a way out of it in their penultimate moments on the screen? And how did we end up in this mess exactly?
Okay. Let’s start at the beginning, then.
As I reported Monday, SunCal’s Alameda Point person, Pat Keliher, sent a letter to Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant on Tuesday promising to ink a series of agreements that he hopes will resolve concerns about the development initiative that is headed to the ballot. (He also sent a separate 12-pager outlining SunCal’s concerns about a city report detailing potential issues with the initiative. I’ll get to that in a moment.)
Keliher said in an earlier letter that the company has been negotiating weekly with city officials to resolve the issues, and he said the new agreements would be legally binding. But at last night’s City Council meeting, City Attorney Teresa Highsmith said … well …
“What’s being negotiated is not the terms of the initiative. The initiative is going forward. There’s nothing the city can do to change what is in that initiative,” Highsmith told the council. “We are not negotiating the terms of the development agreement (in the initiative). What’s being negotiated are the terms of a disposition and development agreement that is a separate legal document.”
When asked by a reporter for more information, Highsmith said it’s still not clear whether any new agreements would trump conflicting items in the ballot measure if it is approved by voters.
Meanwhile, Mayor Beverly Johnson – who announced last week that she’s now got some misgivings about the ballot initiative – asked the council to schedule a special public hearing to lay out a city staff-generated analysis detailing what’s on the ballot and the measure’s possible impacts, including concerns about its potential fiscal impacts on the city.
If members of the council get their way, we may also get some details on the project’s financials. The folks from SunCal may also be asked to take part, at the very least to explain their concerns with city staff’s analysis of their ballot measure.
In a 12-page letter to Gallant (referenced earlier), Keliher accused the city of ignoring a wealth of information that supports SunCal’s initiative in writing the report, and of failing to include in it the consequences of not developing the base using SunCal’s plan.
He said the reports authors ignored cost analyses, business plans and other financial documents in putting together the report, which listed a host of concerns about the initiative’s potential fiscal impacts. SunCal had shared the documents with city officials but has insisted they be kept out of the public eye.
“In the absence of this context, the Report, although purporting to be objective, merely raises questions for which the City has answers but felt compelled not to disclose,” Keliher wrote.
And he said a number of issues city leaders have listed as concerns – including the project’s potential fiscal impact, project phasing and affordable housing – won’t be decided by voters, but by SunCal and the city’s redevelopment arm as they negotiate that development and disposition agreement. (Oh, and the picture on the city’s web page for the report is out of date.)
Shortly after midnight, the council decided to let SunCal spend upwards of $2 million of its money for an environmental impact report that would assess environmental, traffic, noise and other impacts that could be caused by the development spelled out by the ballot measure and would list plans for blunting the impacts.
A draft of the report could be available by August, which could be after voters decide on the initiative. City Clerk Lara Weisiger said the council will be asked to put the measure on a ballot at its next meeting. She said available dates are in February, April, June and November 2010.
So would now be a bad time for me to tell you that the state’s proposed taking of millions in redevelopment money could make it really, really hard for the city’s redevelopment agency to bond for the tens of millions of dollars the city and SunCal expect they’ll need to make this development happen?
And that brings us back to where we started. That precipice I talked about. Will our hero fall in? Or will they save the day?
Unfortunately, this one’s a cliffhanger. So you’ll have to stay tuned.