PACIFICA CHAMBER OF COMMERCE
Pacifica City Council Candidates Forum
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Questions from the Attendees
Why hasn’t Pacifica had the economic progress like other neighboring cities?
If you fly, your plane ride experience is as good as your pilots are. You might hope that instead of a “greenhorn”, you might have a pilot with hundreds of thousands of hours of experience, like that guy who landed the plane on the Hudson, with nerves of steel and unparalleled skill. Otherwise you might find yourself in a heap of trouble, there have been a few airline incidents that have ended tragically in the news over the years. Same goes for Council. Some times the best intentions have negative effects. Pacifica’s current and former councils allowed an adverse development climate to evolve and proliferate. In other words, the reputation for investors and developers that Pacifica has, is that Pacifica is a place where you will lose money, because the neighbors come out an oppose your project and your project will not be approved. Or your building permits take “forever” to come, just like the co-owner of Surf Spot wrote two years ago in Pacifica Patch. The new coffee shop owners taking over in Linda Mar have also been delayed. Instead of the outside consultant, let us talk to South San Francisco, San Bruno or Daly City about doing our permits and being our ‘permit desk” if the people we have here cannot speed things up. These are just two reasons, why Pacifica has not had Economic Progress.
My career was in Economic Development, making things happen, to help facilitate new revenues. I want to bring my experience to the table here where I own a home.
What can you do, if elected to City Council, to increase public, (including visitors and tourists,) awareness and use of Golden Gate National Recreation Area parklands and trails?
I would like to work with federal representatives Speier, Boxer, Feinstein, as well as State representatives Hill, Mullin and others to establish a Golden Gate National Recreation Center Visitor Center in Rockaway Beach, preferably in the vacant space next to the Chamber of Commerce, or elsewhere. Such a visitor center can be found near Sutro Baths. A Visitor Center would draw tourists to Pacifica, as well as bring new traffic to our restaurants, hotels and other businesses in Rockaway and throughout Pacifica.
The Chamber of Commerce has done an excellent job of marketing Pacifica, I served on the Tourism Committee while it met, one of the great outreaches done is the youtube video, “Pacifica’s Time in the Marketplace” which has universally drawn great responses. I feel an outreach to the BRICS countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China, to publicize Pacifica as a great destination in the San Francisco Bay area as a “base” for tourists to discover the GGNRA in our midst, can up our visits 5-20%.
What steps are you going to take to find the $3-4 million dollars that are missing?
I support the City Manager who has retained a “Forensic Accountant” to look at the city’s books over the years and determine the disposition of the “missing funds”.
Large inter-fund transfers, or temporary to long-term loans from one fund to another should appear in the City Council consent agenda, for public view, and to inform the Council.
I join many Pacificans in being infuriated at members of Council for the lack of stewardship of this substantial amount of the public’s funds. A squandering of the public’s trust.
In terms of both short and long term revenues, if the best offer for the Beach Blvd. project was for the property without the Library or the pump station, would you support it?
Yes, sure. We need to get a broker now to cast the net and find us the best offer. The expression “Time Value of Money” applies here. The City could have began negotiating a year or two ago, as it proceeded with entitlements via the Coastal Commission and other bodies. So, by the time the Coastal Commission gives the project it’s “blessing”, instead of needing to start from scratch, we could be well along the way in negotiating a project. So by not acting, the City loses tens of thousands per month, or hundreds of thousands per year when it cannot afford to.
Palmetto is a “pioneering location” for a hotel developer. Any hotel developer will need concessions from the city, including, but not limited to free land, or rebate of transient occupancy tax. Construction costs will be high. I think that the Council’s or certain council person’s idea of the value of the site may not take that into consideration. The hotel will be the “loss leader” for this project and diminish the value for the entire site. New hotels that I had a hand in in Daly City, as well as the Four Seasons property in East Palo Alto had some concessions to get them going.
With all that said, I believe a 22,000 square foot piece, at the corner of Monecito and Palmetto….a small piece of the entire nearly 4 acre site, can be reserved for a library. If the library doesnt happen it can either be sold to the selected developer on a first right of refusal basis, or some other party for some other purpose. I don’t think reserving a small piece of the site for a library affects the marketability of the balance of the site, or a library use. This is a great site whether it includes it or not, I am aquainted with a boutique hotel developer who loves this site and wants to do the project.
As for the pump station, I believe there are engineering or design solutions which can “screen” the new development in terms of visual or other impacts that would not entail the large expense of relocating it.
What Pacifica committees have you served on?
Pacifica Economic Development Committee, 2011-2013, including Chair.
Are you in favor of Quarry development?
I know that the Quarry is “owned” by a consortium of dentists, doctors, attorneys and other investors managed by Ambit in Pennsylvania. I am not sure there has been a full-scale marketing of the property. The website listed on the broker sign either is offline or often does not work. I understand there have been many “tire – kickers” but no buyers. Development climate of Pacifica is notoriously adverse, and any one googling “The Quarry” will learn of the past swings at the bat by Don Peebles and others. The new general plan provides new guidance on the property. We need to listen to Pacificans here and balance their ideas with the City’s needs for new revenues. I would hope that any project would feature a visitor serving aspect, such as a hotel that does not conflict with the west Rockaway Beach business / residential district, but complements it. But right now there is no proposal. The highway issue is not resolved. I cannot say that I favor or oppose because I don’t know what sort of thing a private party might bring. We cannot overwhelm the highway with traffic coming from any use of this site. Also, the City of Pacifica can probably not afford to buy it as a public park. Any private use there will bring new revenues to the city in the form of property tax to pay for needed services. But a substantial constituency would like no development there at all. The future City Council will decide for all of us, what is best for the City as a whole. Whatever happens there, it should and will be a collaboration between many stakeholders.
I like the idea of building more business office center like the Crespi Business Center. Why not one in Linda Mar? Have you ever thought of that? What about one in each shopping center to attract more business to the shops there?
Crespi Business Center is a mixed use project that includes a restaurant, offices and light industrial. So what you are asking is that all of those uses be incorporated into all of the shopping centers? I’m not sure that is going to work out, particularly for the light industrial uses which have noise or fumes. Linda Mar Center already has some restaurants and some professional office space, namely the dentist. Formerly real estate, insurance and other offices were there. Pacifica needs to keep talking to KIMCO about their leasing program. Since Pacifica has a vibrant arts community, perhaps they could follow Eureka Square in sponsoring a “pop up” art gallery. During 2012, I brought KIMCO to the table with Pacifica to discuss issues and plan for entreprenuership events, and the Chamber of Commerce was invited to that meeting.
During 2012, I advocated Small Business Incubators and “Work Space”….places where solo entrepreneurs could enjoy office services, the company and companionship atmosphere of fellow business people, without the cost of renting a larger office or work place. During 2012 and 2013, the Economic Development Committee sponsored entrepreneurship and business education events. We took a list of people interested in sharing a work – space, but there were not enough who signed up and we were unable to make it happen. There is a cost associated for the City to try to start up something like this. My belief is that if private individuals or the shopping center management itself do not want to start these, the city has no business trying to sponsor them.
Regarding sewer fees, in 2012, the five year plan was approved by the City. In 2013 – 2017, there was an increase of 17%, a proposed increase of 16% in the years 2018-2022 and a proposed increase of 11% in the years 2023 – 2027. This equates to an increase of 44% in 10 years! Property owners in our City simply cannot afford such fees. Do you have a solution?
Also, I have a notice of a rate hearing in May 2012 that states “Sewer service proceeds may not be used by the City for any other purpose.” Yet the Pacifica Tribune reports that the City will borrow the funds. Is this legal?
In my canvassing of over 1700 homes, so far, the top complaint I hear is about the Sewer Tax and it’s administration. Seniors and those on fixed incomes cannot afford. I have written for the need to begin an Administrative Appeals Board for those who do not agree with the basis of their Sewer Assessments.
I believe that the massive planned increase may result in a full insurrection here. I would expect and support a ballot initiative, here in Pacifica, to cap or limit Sewer Tax increases to 2% a year, following Proposition 13 limits. The City needs to figure out how to find the balance over and above that 2% annual increase.
A good idea, said before and said again, is to foster Economic Development here, starting with City properties that are unused or underutilized, as soon as possible, so that private buyers can pay and develop more property taxes, transient occupancy taxes and sales taxes for our City. “Smart Growth” of privately owned “infill” parcels, with environmentally sensitive projects will also help. Helping existing businesses here thrive and expand, any way we possibly can, won’t hurt either.