We urge you to attend the Council meeting, July 15th, on the Northeast Area Plan.
Where and When: Youth Annex, Morris St., 7 p.m.
Some of the Council’s questions will be answered at the July 15 meeting.
Below is Kevin Dwan’s excellent, on-point letter regarding the costs, both declared and hidden, if construction as set forth in the Northeast Plan were to happen.
Attend the meeting. Your presence has made all the difference. Don’t let up now.
‘Paying the Piper’
Surprisingly little attention has been paid to what the proposed Northeast Area Specific Plan would cost. We know that money is tight at all levels of government: this November, the Sebastopol City Council will probably be putting a utility surtax on the ballot to balance the City’s five million dollar budget. Just ask some of the non-profits working for good causes about what’s happened with their requests for help.
Hiding in Plain Sight
A fraction of the Plan’s capital costs is clearly identified in the NEAP. Page 7-5 of the document shows a cost to the City of $5,306,000. How will the City raise this money, half of it required before any tax benefits can be expected, in addition to what we’re raising and spending now?
…Or Just Plain Hiding
$5,306,000 isn’t the real total: on page 7-17, the Plan has an important disclaimer: it says that the cost estimate “does not include site-specific costs such as in-tract improvements, on-site parking, land fill requirements or environmental clean-up. Although these costs are regarded as site-specific, they will ultimately need to be considered in an evaluation of overall project feasibility.”
Let’s look at just one of these undisclosed costs—land fill requirements. An experienced Bay Area contractor estimates that fill costs $20 to $30 per cubic yard. The NEAP may require 500,000 cubic yards.
That’s $10,000,000 to $15,000,000. In-tract improvements, on-site parking construction, environmental clean-up, and other infrastructure will cost even more. The consultant hasn’t attempted to estimate how much more, but it’s obvious that the total taxpayer burden will dwarf the $5,306,000 consultant DC&E has identified. Parking structures cost $25,000 per parking slot and at least one of the major properties is thought to have major toxics cleanup and related environmental issues.
Even if Sebastopol were to float redevelopment bonds, ultimately the responsibility would rest with the City. What would be the total dollar cost to Sebastopol taxpayers? The consultant doesn’t say. City staff, the Planning Commission, and the City Council either haven’t asked, or have asked and gotten no answers from the consultant. So right now we don’t know.
And the Kicker
The consultant warns us about timing, another vital element in an investment plan: “It is estimated that about half of the project-wide public infrastructure costs will need to be incurred before the development of Phase I [emphasis added].” And then, “A significant up-front investment in project-wide infrastructure” will be needed before any of the claimed benefits of the Plan will be realized. In other words, the City will have to somehow come up with about half of a number much bigger than $5,306,000, up-front, before our investment in the NEAP generates any of the hoped-for revenue.
These additional costs “will ultimately need to be considered in an evaluation of overall project feasibility.” But how can the Council decide on feasibility if we don’t know the true costs? And when is “ultimately” if not now?