I know my memory sometimes misses things, but in a search of records and the website, I cannot for the life of me find when the City Council ever had a public session and invited the public to come and discuss whether or not to sell off prime property a block from the ocean. That property would be the Civic Center, Lincoln Park, the Main Library, a parking structure and the old Superior Court.
Now you’d think I could remember such a public session where we invited the public to hear what City management had in mind for the not-yet-39-year-old structures. And I don’t ever recall the City Council giving direction to City Management to proceed in planning on selling this property – property that I might add has not had a public appraisal and is probably at its lowest value in 10 years due to the recession.
That’s why I strongly objected to the City Attorney Bob Shannon about the plan to put this discussion into a closed session out of public view and hearing this week. Apparently the City Attorney agreed because he pulled it out of closed session and opined it had to go into open session. Unfortunately the item is not available for public review even though we have in place a rule that council agenda items have to be submitted 12 days in advance of the meeting so the public has time to review and to have notice if they need to come to City Council. But I do understand it will be submitted under the deadline on Friday and the public and council will get to have only 3 days to review.
I am not sure who on the City Council or if it is the Mayor that is pushing City Management to start the process to sell off the City assets. But you have to ask yourself why? It does not make sense economically. The City cannot afford police services and just removed a fire engine from Gary DeLong’s district in Belmont Shore. We can’t maintain our parks right now. Our libraries don’t have enough funds to update materials. Real estate values are the lowest in 10 years.
So say we sell all this valuable property at dirt cheap rates, then what? What are we going to do to replace the buildings and pay to move everyone out and then back in? Where are we going to get the money to purchase or to lease new properties? Right now the buildings are paid for so why would we incur these costs?
Don’t even mention a public-partnership because everyone of those are nothing more than sweet deals for private developers that leave the taxpayer holding the bag for paying the costs. Take for instance the new courthouse in Long Beach. It is magnificent. However, the independent California Legislative Analyst's Office has found that the public-private partnership now building the state's $490 million Gov. George Deukmejian Courthouse in downtown Long Beach is costing $160 million more than it should because cost estimates were flawed. This money is being taken out the court system statewide.
No one seems to care about the taxpayer in these flight of fancy ideas to sell off public assets or to build new Taj Mahals.
It does not matter that the Mayor hates the design of Civic Center because the external appearance can be altered significantly for less than a new building. If it has design defects it is only 39 years old and the designer and construction company are both still around to be held accountable.
Keep in mind when a former Director of Public Works, who by the way was named the top Public Works professional in the U.S., wrote a memo showing how the Main Library and City Hall could be fixed and did not need to be replaced, she was promptly removed. She then left to head public works in Santa Barbara.
This is your city hall, your main library, your Lincoln Park and your courthouse. You should decide what happens to all of them. This Council and this Mayor won’t be in office when their plans get implemented. You will still be here paying taxes on whatever folly they put in motion.
Come on down to City Hall on Tuesday, February 12 at 5pm and let us know what you think about this plan.