Tag Archives: acorn
I truly wish for the sake of all San Franciscans that there were a good, honest, realistic and forthright development project forthcoming for Treasure Island, but unfortunately this is not the case.
On December 16th, the mayor’s office held a much-ballyhooed press conference to announce that finally, San Francisco had reached an agreement with the Navy to purchase Treasure Island for the sum of $105 million. The City will pay this amount over an unspecified period of time according to the Chronicle, for what Mayor Newsom termed a “Grand Vision” for the Island, replete with 3 residential high-rises for 6000 new homes, a 60 story hotel, commercial complex, marina, and believe it or not, a 40 acre organic farm! Never one to miss an opportunity to spin a new idea, Newsom was most excited about the 8000 new jobs that would be created, in fact so much so that he mistakenly stated that the jobs had already been created in his latest “State of The City” address along with some 70,000 more jobs for the Bay View Hunters Point project!
Following the Dec. 16th “fantasy press release” issued by the mayor’s office, several newspapers and television stations solicited my response. As the former Executive Director for Treasure Island, I was exposed to the intricacies and complexities of any development relating to that Island. I will share a few of my concerns with you here:
1. With a current City budget deficit approaching $600 million dollars, thanks to the mismanagement of this administration and this Board of Supervisors, where is the supposed $105 million dollars going to come from to pay for the project?
2. Even if the true cost were only $105 million dollars, why are we now paying that amount for only 450 acres of the total 550 available acres? Those 550 acres we could have had for nothing five years ago when the Navy wanted to give it to us if the City did the environmental clean up, at a time when there was a much stronger and more expensive real estate market? (And surprise — who benefits from the control and development of the remaining 100 acres that the City does not buy?)
3. The Mayor’s office claims the Navy has agreed to do the toxic cleanup. Any novice base re-use developer knows that the Navy will only comply with federal standards, not more stringent and expensive State or local requirements. This alone will add hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to SF taxpayers.
4. Treasure Island is man-made of seismically unsafe toxic landfill 8 to 15 feet deep and sits on top of one of the strongest quake fault lines in the State. The cost to taxpayers to stabilize the perimeter of the Island and to eliminate the present rate of “sinking” will also be in the hundreds of millions of dollars which has been documented in multiple in-depth studies commissioned by the Treasure Island Development Authority. Without the proper seismic stabilization that encompasses anchoring the entire Island at least 150 feet down to bed rock, and the proper soil remediation and toxic clean up, how is the Island going to support the three 60 story high rises, 6000 new homes and commercial center, or the 40 acre organic garden that this mayor is dreaming of?
5. The financial partners in the development scheme are Wilson Meany Sullivan, a firm that, I assume, will want to get paid for their work, and Lennar Corp. and Kenwood Investments, two corporations that are experiencing solvency problems of late.
6. Most importantly, there is no public or private lender that will loan money or insure a development of this nature in today’s real estate market, without the positive results of all phases of a properly completed Environmental Impact Report (EIR)?
My reponses were published in the Fog City Journal on Dec. 19th, (Somalia By The Bay), the Examiner on Dec. 22nd, (Nothing But Smoke and Mirrors on T.I.) and the Chronicle on Dec.28th, in a featured article titled Treasure Island Gets a reality check, in the Wall Street Journal on Jan. 9th, (Treasure Hunt in S.F. Bay), and in several other publications as well as broadcasts on local TV stations.
Responding to questions in another article (Chronicle, Jan. 15th) Shortfall Could Scale Back Treasure Island Plans, Michael Cohen, the author of this latest fantasy plan, and the mayor’s so-called economic guru, revised the story. Now the developers will pay the $105 million for the Island. This is wonderful news, except at the time of printing, the developers, namely Lennar and Kenwood would not confirm that any such financial arrangement exists. Cohen, in a last ditch effort to portray himself as a grown-up player in the real developers world, adds that “the revenue to build out the infrastructure for the project would come from taxes and fees that the project will generate.” My question to Mr. Cohen: How can we collect taxes and fees before the project is built? I’m sure his answer will involve some convoluted form of “bonding” that will inevitably be in conflict with my response #6 listed above. The Chronicle postulates that an admitted shortfall of funds could unravel the entire Treasure Island scheme and the Navy is reluctant to sign the Island over without a real deal being consummated!
Why is all of this happening? What interest would the mayor’s office have in promoting this Treasure Island scheme? The answer is simple: smoke and mirrors. A quick-fix poster board attempt to polish his image. It looks good. That is, before actual analysis.
What we have here is Newsom “exploiting” another issue that people are concerned about to boost his rapidly declining poll numbers. Lets call this one “care not jobs.”
Here is the play to come: The Treasure Island scheme will have to go before the Supervisors. Some of the board members, in their bumbling self-serving way, will question the validity of such a strategy, and rightfully, vote against it. At this point, the Mayor, knowing full-well that the project was a loser all along, designed to appear as if he were “trying” to create jobs, has the perfect platform to blame the Board for stopping him from creating jobs. This isn’t the first time he has pulled such a maneuver.
The only one that makes out under this scheme is the Navy which has nothing to lose. Mr. Mayor stop trying to fool the people you represent. If perhaps you are not willing to do that at this point in your political career, then look around and see if you have any political donors left that you can coerce into a “sweetheart deal” so that you can continue to keep the “Treasure Island Fantasy” alive until you are finally out of office.
OBSERVATIONS and PREDICTIONS:
1. Treasure Island will never be developed in any form under this administration.
2. Jobs will be central to a multitude of schemes put forth in attention grabbing press releases in upcoming months, but will they really be created?
3. San Francisco will be ready for a welcome makeover in about 6 months to a year, as the real natives are getting restless.
4. David Canepa, Daly City Councilman is the officeholder to watch in local politics. His commitment to his constituents as opposed to special interests is a rarity on this side of the City and into the peninsula, where he is being touted for higher office.
If you are interested my blog is tonyhallsf.wordpress.com and twitter.com/TonyHallSF
In the May issue of The Westside Observer newspaper, I discussed the parking meter increases and escalating issuance of parking citations that our city policy makers have forced on San Franciscans who choose to use their own auto as a means of transportation. Well, needless to say, it has now become such an abuse of power that many people are reacting and searching for ways to fight back against this new form of “taxation without representation.” Once again we are being “conned” by our electeds as we have repeatedly been told that parking enforcement is all about the turnover of available parking spaces for customers of small businesses, and the encouragement of public transportation usage. Nothing could be further from the truth! Parking enforcement in San Francisco is first, foremost and last, only about the accumulation of revenue, revenue that is then poured into more useless and politically motivated programs that require more and more money to fund with no apparent end in sight or common benefit to be achieved.
Rather than repeat many of the examples and facts that I stated in my May column, I will comment on just a few of the ramifications that the more recent idiotic measures implemented by the Municipal Transportation Agency have resulted in.
Life in the western ring of the City, and especially here in District 7 is becoming increasingly more difficult because of parking control that has gotten out of control. As many of you know, the city is now issuing parking tickets for meter violations on most of our holidays. An unlucky few even received several tickets on this past Labor Day much to the embarrassment of the MTA. A disproportionate number of tickets are issued to Westside residents both as meter violations and on-street time limit violations simply because the Dept of parking and Traffic knows that generally, homeowners are a much easier target to both police and collect from. Homeowners are much more responsive to any type of fee or fine because they live here, and unlike tourists, visitors and renters, they are easy to locate should they not pay within the allotted 30 days. They are usually too busy with regular day jobs to take time from work to go downtown to protest a ticket. By and large they prefer to have as little to do with the punitive and harassment aspects of a dysfunctional local government as possible, so they pay the “tax” and put it behind them as quickly as possible.
Any retail business owner in any San Francisco neighborhood will tell you that one of the biggest impediments to the success of their business is the lack of available and adequate parking for their daytime customers. With $3.50 per hour meters and one hour time limits, (in many places just 20 minutes!) the MTA has done a masterful job in destroying small business and more and more shoppers flee to the suburbs to avoid the harassment. Now that our elected geniuses want to extend parking meter hours to 8 or 10 p.m. in a desperate effort to make up for their excessive spending that has caused the City to be a half a billion dollars in debt, they can embark on their mission to destroy movie theaters, restaurants, and all remaining forms of nighttime entertainment that our lifeblood—tourism—enjoys.
Time limits for residential street parking permits are being reduced from 4 hours to 2 hours in many neighborhoods under the guise of discouraging outsiders from parking there. The DPT is more than anxious to impose these permits because of the easy revenue generated. In many cases, residents were not even informed, surveyed or aware that their street was to be permitted, it just “happens” because “somebody” supposedly complains. Many people have come to me in the past six months to inquire as to how they can rid their streets of permit parking because they now realize that it’s not about keeping unwanted day parkers out, but an enormous source of revenue to the City. Rates are currently about $78.00 per year per car for street parking stickers but I can assure you that they will skyrocket under this administration. In Boston and Seattle, rates for permit parking on the street where you live can go as high as $5000 to $10,000 per year per car so I am sure our mayor will be looking to them to cite his beloved “best practices.”
The latest gimmick to raise dollars at the expense of drivers is the blatantly obvious speed traps that have sprung up around the Westside. Overstaffed with cops who obviously aren’t directed to do something better with their time, these strategic “entrapments” seem to be designed to snag unaware and in most cases, local or older drivers who may be outright “dangerous criminals” because they dared exceed the newly posted limits by a mile or two per hour, or failed to stop abruptly because a decoy has put a foot in a cross walk. Give us a break guys, there’s bigger fish to fry out there!
You might have read in the daily where the Oakland City Council is expected to roll back extended meter hours, increased rates and “ravenous ticketers” to avoid a revolt and recall of council members. (Chron: 9/21/09). They recently extended meter operation until 8 p.m. Their average meter cost per hour is less than $2.00 or about half the cost in S.F. Apparently the elected there are a bit more responsive to the cries of the people, who themselves seem to be a bit more concerned about how they are being ripped off. Perhaps they have discovered what the old-timers in the S.F’s municipal court knew long ago—if you raise rates too high, you reach a point of diminishing returns. The revenue collected no longer matches the effort to penalize and collect. Rather than hold the line or cut back, administration novices here tend to keep raising rates so that they can spend more, because that is all they really know how to do. Folks, Its time to make your feelings known.
OBSERVATIONS and PREDICTIONS:
1. It just came out in the news that the Obama administration does not favor turning Treasure Island over to the City for little or no cost. It is obvious that there are certain costs involved to the Navy for toxic clean up and they would like their costs to be covered. What is not revealed is that after the very embarrassing ACORN scandal, the administration does not want to be linked to giving such a valuable real estate gift to a group that controls the island’s development that is rife with corruption and the financial interests of very high ranking public figures.
2. As many of the residents of District 7 are now noticing, the potholes are starting to reappear on recently repaved streets. This was predicted as far back as the 1980’s in a report produced by then Chief Administrative Officer Roger Boas. He correctly predicted that unless the aging under surface infrastructure is dealt with properly, such street problems would reoccur at an ever-increasing rate. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been wasted by this administration in an effort in to make things “look good” but not really fix the problem.