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Larry Rosenstein
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Ian: In one sense, this is about approving housing, since that's the only reason why a public vote is needed. The initiative establishes limits on the size of the project that correspond to the concept the developer is proposing. For the housing component, that means no more than 206 units, of which at least 25 are live/work and the rest apartments, with 20% affordable. Also, the housing is limited to a designated area. The net effect is to give the city the ability to approve any project that fits those limits without a subsequent vote. But it doesn't mean that the project the developer is proposing is what will get built. In particular, there's no requirement in the initiative to build the hotel or commercial space. (There's only a maximum size for these pieces.) Because of that, there's no way to know what the ultimate financial benefit would be. Most of the revenue would come from the hotel tax, but the amount depends on the number/price of the rooms and the occupancy level. (Is there enough demand for hotel rooms, given the Holiday Inn expansion?) Since there's no longer a redevelopment area, the city wouldn't get much benefit from property taxes, and the revenue from sales taxes is hard to predict without knowing what businesses occupy the space. (In the adjacent Rockaway Beach area, a lot of the businesses are services that don't generate sales taxes.) One concern I have is whether the terms used in the initiative are specific enough. For example, exactly what is a "live/work unit" and a "hotel bungalow"? Election Code section 9212 allows the city to prepare a report on the effect of the initiative. In 2006, the city gave people a chance to submit questions that were answered by the report, and I would like to see something similar done this time as well.
A large part of the open space is dedicated to mitigation wetlands, which the developer is using to help pay for the project. It's a reasonable idea, since it means the development is smaller, but it also means that those areas will be off-limits to people and pets. Also, with a smaller development, the potential tax revenue to the city will be smaller. My back-of-the-envelope guess is that it would be $1.5 million to $2 million, most of which comes from the 200 hotel rooms. I would hope the developer doesn't try for the November ballot. The deadline for submitting initiatives is only about four months away, which isn't enough time to nail down more of the details and do any kind of environmental studies.
Toggle Commented Mar 16, 2016 on Rockaway Quarry Again a Battleground at RIPTIDE
Deutsche Bank is the trustee, but it doesn't own the buildings. The lease agreement is between the City of Pacifica and the City of Pacifica Financing Authority, which is another of those cases where the City Council acts as a separate agency. This is described on page 10. The financing authority assigns its rights under the lease agreement to the trustee (page 11), which generally means that the lease money goes to Deutsche Bank for distribution to the holders of the certificates. But in case the city defaults on its obligations, Deutsche Bank as the trustee could re-let the property (page 46). Also, this agreement wasn't done in secret; it was a consideration item at the June 23, 2008 meeting, and the main purpose was to convert to a fixed interest rate: According to Wikipedia, the purpose of these agreements is to provide financing without requiring a bond, which would require a vote. Doing this obscures the city's debt situation, but the decision to do this goes back to at least 2006, when the city did have a finance director.
Toggle Commented Mar 15, 2016 on Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap at RIPTIDE
The city already has to administer the TOT tax funds, and I doubt that adding the BID tax requires much extra work beyond writing the check to the Chamber of Commerce. As for why the hotels don't do it themselves, it's probably simpler to do this as a BID tax, rather than have the hotels collect and manage the funds.
Toggle Commented Mar 6, 2016 on Surprise: Too Much Information at RIPTIDE
The rest of the amount that Dan mentioned comes from check #28787 ($706.54) for something called "CA EMPLOYER POSTERS". From what I read, the hotels vote on whether to continue the BID tax, and if they didn't find the Chamber of Commerce management fee worthwhile, they could decide to discontinue it or complain to City Council about the fee. As for whether this is public money, the agenda packet for the 5/27/14 council meeting says: "Mayor Nihart thought it would help if the City Attorney or City Manager could give a brief explanation about how a BID works, because it sometimes sounds like it’s our money but it isn’t. It is money that the hotels, with the Chamber, have chosen to tax their guests." The same packet also has a report from the chamber on what it does with the money.
Toggle Commented Mar 3, 2016 on Surprise: Too Much Information at RIPTIDE
For more background on the project, look at the original draft EIR available here: In particular, compare the original Project Description document to the new scoping document to see how drastically it has changed. It's normal practice in cases such as this to prepare a supplemental EIR. It will be important to insist on studying most of the same environmental issues again (e.g., traffic, aesthetics) since the original EIR is almost 10 years old. I read elsewhere (I believe it was the notice for the study session) that the density transfer is permanent, so whatever concessions were made for that are out the window. Otherwise, the entitlements expired, so I don't think there are any conditions of approval to be jettisoned in this case. But the project will have to adhere to the current development rules (e.g., green building ordinance). The Planning Commission agendas from this time are archived on the city's website, so if someone remembers exactly when it came up for discussion, it would be possible to find the right agenda and get some additional information from that.
Toggle Commented Oct 28, 2015 on Nightmare Prospects: Fight Fassler FUBAR at RIPTIDE
Direct from Lorie Tinfow: "Our other funds -- 24 to be exact -- are 'special', mostly because the source of the funds has strings attached as to how the money is spent. We keep these outside the General Fund so we can properly track the accounting activity individually."
According to an article in the Chronicle a couple of weeks ago, Pacifica has the lowest police staffing in the Bay Area among cities with more than 25,000 people: 1 employee per 1,052 residents per capita.
Norm: Thanks for posting the county alert info; I forgot to include that originally. The alert you mentioned was about the accident. There was no notice about the planned work Monday or the subsequent backup. There was an alert Monday afternoon about planned work on Tuesday, which ended up being cancelled. As for what happened, according to the accident caused a delay in the planned work and then Caltrans ran out of asphalt.
A second notice says that the closure will be from Fassler Ave. to Reina Del Mar Ave.
I got a notice on the county email list that this will be happening again tomorrow: On Tuesday, August 4, 2015 between 9:30am and 3:30pm Caltrans will be doing road work in the northbound #2 (right) lane of SR1. The right lane will be closed and you should expect traffic delays. Please plan accordingly.
"Based on the information on page 7 of the Planning Commission staff report, the trucks would take up a total of 29 of the 406 available parking spaces -- not ideal, but certainly not 'half' the available spaces." According to the staff report, the 406 number includes all the public parking spaces in the area, including the Community Center and SamTrans Park & Ride lots. From the diagram in the agenda packet, the trucks are going to take up about one-third of the spaces in the north parking lot. It looks like this is being treated as any other applicant seeking permits for a similar event, and I wonder if the Planning Commission can even take forecasted revenue into account. (My guess is that it's not going to be much, based on the projected number of attendees.) It seems like this event is something that should be discussed at the City Council where these types of questions can be answered. Finally, Sharp Park Beach is not being considered as an alternative venue for Off The Grid. It's being considered for an entirely different event that has no event operator, and is vaguely described as being for "On-going community gathering and socializing..."
I don't think the situation is as simple as the council thinks. My suspicion is that Airbnb will take the position that it is not in the hotel business, but that it is just facilitating transactions between hosts and renters, and the hosts are responsible for following the laws in their cities. This includes collecting taxes and applying for business licenses. The way the company frames the tax question on its site ( is that it has agreements with some cities to collect the tax on behalf of its hosts. I think it makes those agreements largely for political reasons. These types of rentals either fall into a gray area or are technically illegal in some places, and it wants to avoid cities cracking down on the practice. In San Francisco, there has been a battle about exactly how to regulate these rentals. Pacifica isn't big enough to have this kind of leverage, so it might be a struggle to get Airbnb to collect the tax for the city.
Even if you give Victor Spano all benefit of the doubt about the Fix Pacifica blog, which I don't, the fact remains that his response was to call up the letter-writer and threaten a lawsuit. Someone like that doesn't belong on the city council.
As they say on the legal blog, "vagueness in a legal demand is the hallmark of frivolous legal thuggery." Spano could have just sent his rebuttal to the Tribune or left a polite offer to talk, but instead he played the defamation card. If this is how he deals with criticism, then he is unfit to serve on the City Council. It's fortunate that we get to see Spano's true nature before the election rather than after.
Hillsborough isn't a good example for price comparisons. $27.50 is the monthly bill, but there's also a $25/month charge that's added to the property tax bill. See
What does "smaller" even mean? It's not as if Caltrans can make the lanes narrower or eliminate the shoulder or only add a lane in one direction. And even if there was a way to make the project smaller, any redesign would at least require a new traffic study to show what the benefit would be, which would require some sort of EIR revision.
Big Banker: As I said before, I don't object to the Harmony @ 1 project, provided it's built according to the agreed-upon conditions. My objection is with the idea that development projects are the way for Pacifica to solve its financial problems. Despite all the development projects that you list, East Palo Alto needed a parcel tax to solve the city's crime problem, and all that development still didn't solve the city's structural deficit. The original article ends with the line that Harmony @ 1 is "a start in the right direction," but there's no evidence that this is the case. I would also support a parcel tax. The one that the city tried to pass would have raised 10 times the revenue of the Harmony @ 1 project. So for Harmony @ 1 to start in the right direction, the city would have to approve nine other similar projects, which means 90 more $4.5 million homes. For homes that are more typical of housing available in the city, the number of units would have to be three to four times that. But it's going to take a lot of work by the city before the voters will approve any kind of tax increase. Rather than focusing on housing development, it would be better to focus on commercial development. The city projects that developing the old wastewater treatment plant will bring in almost $500 million/year, on a site that is currently an eyesore. It's also a parcel that the city owns, so it has more control over the shape of the project.
Big Banker: Your suggestion that the wealthy people who buy these homes will generate a lot of sales taxes is just a variation on the trickle-down economic ideas that haven't worked at all. But the bigger issue is that the city benefits only from sales made in town, and even after these houses are built, the businesses in Pacifica will still be the same. Pacifica just doesn't have the kind of businesses that generate a lot of sales tax revenue; if it did, then the city's financial situation would be better. Even if you ignore all that, and assume that each of these 10 new families somehow manage to spend (say) $100K/year within Pacifica (a tall order since that's almost $300/day), then the city will see only $10,000/year of sales tax revenue (1 percent of $1 million). Sure, there's a bunch of other revenue from utility taxes, franchise fees, permit fees, etc., but those are even less. Bottom line: There is no "big picture" when it comes to Harmony @ 1. As a development project, it's fine. The original property owners gave a lot of thought to creating an environmentally sound project, which is why it was approved without much controversy. (Hopefully, the current owners will adhere to those conditions.) It will generate more revenue than the typical 10-unit development, but not enough to make a significant difference. But it's also a unique project that can't be replicated throughout town. BTW, the situation in East Palo Alto doesn't seem to be as rosy as you imply. Regarding the crime problem, the city passed a $100/year parcel tax specifically for that: In February, East Palo Alto also looked at outsourcing its police service due to a $1 million budget shortfall: And in the fiscal year 2014-15 budget, East Palo Alto's city manager warns that "the City's expenditures are outpacing the City's revenues, creating an ongoing structural deficit." Sound familiar? So despite having several big-box retail stores, East Palo Alto faces many of the same problems as Pacifica. The same is true of most cities in California, since the recession caused a drop in both property tax and sales tax revenue that is just now recovering.
The idea that this is going to build Pacifica's tax base is fantasy. The total property tax from this project is about $500,000/year, but the city gets only 12 percent to 15 percent of that. The jobs, permit fees, etc. are not sustainable revenue; once the project is finished, those things go away. So in the end, the city will get about $75,000/year in revenue, and that amount will go up only 2 percent a year. This is certainly enough to pay the cost of services for 10 houses for a few years, but it's not going to be a windfall for the city. Plus, it's not something that can be replicated elsewhere in town. There are only a few places where $4.5 million homes are financially viable. For example, the article mentions the project on the other side of Fassler, and I doubt those homes will be in the same price range.
The San Mateo study was about general land use issues, but there was no study about whether housing pays for itself. The paragraph Bob posted even says: "Although this kind of fiscal analysis has not been performed specifically for the City of San Mateo..." It provides general conditions where housing might be expected to pay for itself, without anything to back up those statements. I would also argue that those conditions don't apply in Pacifica: (1) housing prices here are among the lowest in the county, (2) the cost of city services is known to be high, and (3) there's a lack of retail to capture sales taxes. The Harmony @ 1 project will likely pay for itself, since the home prices are so high. But that project is not the norm in Pacifica, and it's certainly not going to make a dent in the city's deficit. Regarding the number of units, there are 10 luxury homes, but there are supposed to be a number of affordable units built as well. The FEIR has a statement from the original developers about this and the other proposed CCRs:
Chris: I was at the Pacifica Chamber of Commerce office two Saturdays ago, and the office was closed with a sign on the door that says it is open only Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The same information is on the chamber's Visit Pacifica website: Some of the chamber activities you listed elsewhere on Riptide are also part of the chamber's member benefits, and it's difficult to separate the two. Even if the city cuts the $10,000 funding for the visitor center, the chamber will continue to market the city to help its members, since that's what a chamber of commerce does.
I did some digging on the county website, and I could find only one parcel in the area (APN: 022-055-140) owned by someone from San Francisco. On the parcel map, it looks fairly large, so perhaps the owner is planning to subdivide it into two lots. At the other end of Oddstad is a project approved by the city in 2006. Since then, the property changed hands, and the current owner has gotten development permit extensions every year since then. Recently, the parcels next to this project have been put up for sale: When I looked at the MLS the other day, I noticed two other lots in the area up for sale.
Toggle Commented May 14, 2014 on Odd Doings on Oddstad at RIPTIDE
I got a notice directly from the city, and it was also posted on the Nextdoor site. The city has mailing lists for General Plan info as well as City Council agendas; you should be able to sign up here:
You can get DSL service from other providers besides AT&T. The service is the same, but the ISP takes care of dealing with AT&T so you don't have to. We have 3Mbps DSL service from PacificaNet (which I think is really in HMB) for $30/month, but in the past I've also used, based in Santa Rosa. DSL is likely better than the PacificaNet wireless Internet, but slower than what you can get from Comcast. (That's unlikely to change anytime soon since AT&T is trying to get out of the wireline business.) We recently switched our cell phones to T-Mobile and I've found that its wireless data speed is surprisingly good in Pacifica. But this will come with a relatively low data cap per month (e.g., $70 for 11GB/month).