Opinion 1999, part 2
Recommends Perka as best for EC
Rarely is one presented with an opportunity to do so much good and undo
so much that's less than good with something so simple as a quick trip
to the polls. This is that opportunity; it's why I'm writing today enthusiastically
and emphatically to recommend Kathie Perka as the most sensible, responsible,
prudent, and overall best choice for City Council--she is indeed "the
best for El Cerrito."
As a longtime citizen, Kathie Perka has shown herself to be a tireless
crusader for El Cerrito. I had the good fortune to meet and work with
Kathie as a member of the General Plan Process Team. Disgusted with Staff's
bungling, I resigned from that group in protest, but Kathie stayed on
through the project's end, providing a calm voice, endless patience, and
doing the work Staff wouldn't, or couldn't do.
While reasonable people certainly can find things to quarrel about in
the General Plan that the City Council finally adopted, one fact is beyond
debate: what the Plan does right is a direct result of Kathie's level-headed
leadership and selfless, dedicated work.
As most El Cerrito residents well know, it was Kathie who gathered over
10,000 signatures--an eyelash less than half of El Cerrito's population--to
bring a major department store to El Cerrito Plaza.
It was Kathie whose leadership--in the form of hard work, patient analysis,
coalition-building, and good business sense--brought Gottshalk's to the
table, ready to sign on as the anchor store for "the plaza that could
have been" at absolutely no cost to El Cerrito.
Sadly, a citizen working in an unelected capacity can only do so much:
watching Gottshalk's slip through the City Council's fingers demonstrated
how badly we need real leadership in El Cerrito, the kind of leadership
that understands how to get business to come to the table, and once at
the table, how to keep it there--without throwing fiscal sense to the
wind to buy big boxes. Kathie Perka will provide that leadership.
Put another way, Mayor Gina Brusatori supports Kathie Perka. Councilmember
Larry Damon supports Kathie Perka. Councilmembers Jane Bartke and Norman
LaForce don't. Vote your conscience. This one's easy.
Department Store Economics 101
El Cerrito doesn't have have a department store because we aren't willing
to spend the $7+ million required to subsidize even a small, lower-end
store like Gottschalks. Not even Emeryville--which is awash in redevelopment
funds--can afford to subsidize a department store, as we learned from
a recent presentation to the Economic Development Task Force.
We can't turn back the clock. Department store economics just don't work
for most communities any more. El Cerrito's new economic development program
must be based on realistic goals. And it must look to the future--not
to the past--for solutions.
Let's elect council members who will help us develop an innovative--but
realistic--economic development strategy. One that takes us forward, not
backward. Vote for Letitia Moore and Janet Abelson on November 2.
Vice-Chair Economic Development Task Force
How did we waste all that money?
All the back-and-forth about Gottschalks finally brings the El Cerrito
election issues to what it really is about: How did we waste $34 million
on Redevelopment, without even getting the Plaza fixed up the way most
Council candidates and Political planning commission appointees Letitia
Moore and Janet Abelson, joined by Rita Minjares, now echo the Plaza owner's
claim that a department store would need a huge Redevelopment subsidy.
If they were so concerned about subsidies, why did they support all the
previous giveaways of public funds?
There is a difference. Past Redevelopment projects used public money,
way beyond any possible future financial benefits (a case aptly made by
Mayor Brusatori). Gottschalks asked for a good deal from the owners, i.e.
private money for attracting additional shoppers who would otherwise go
to Corte Madera, Hilltop, etc. American Stores wanted its huge super-grocery
to remain the only anchor and chose to price Gottschalk's out of the market
via a highly overstated and self-serving budget analysis.
If our Redevelopment Agency had been better managed, it would have bought
the Plaza half that American Store got, for a fraction of what was wasted
elsewhere. Unfortunately, redevelopment enthousiasts seem incapable of
learning from past mistakes, else we would not have such recent disasters
as Wilton-Terranomics at the Plaza, or the Del Norte Marketplace strip
mall, all of which have wasted millions.
The scary part is that Moore and Abelson are so certain that most residents
are uninformed about who is to blame for the past lack of economic sense,
that they do not even try and hide their Planning Commission involvement.
Voters will either have learnt from the past, or will have a chance to
repeat history. In either case, the other two candidates, Kathie Perka
and Bea O'Keefe can be counted on to keep the costs down. Preferably as
Council members, else as deservedly proud members of our Council watcher
Moore in error
Letitia Moore's letter regarding a claimed Gottschalks public subsidy
is in error on its face. The evidence she cites shows clearly the fact
that Gottschalks (Mr. Joe Levy) asked the Plaza owners for a land grant,
not the City of El Cerrito. The request from Levy was turned down by the
It was thus the Plaza owners, not Levy, who sought the public subsidy.
That giveaway had to be refused because the Redevelopment Agency had no
If Ms. Moore is incapable of distinguishing between a private business
proposal and a public subsidy, I have serious doubts as to her qualifications
to be a City Council member.
El Cerrito at a crossroads
This is a crucial election for El Cerrito. We've got some tough problems
to solve over the next few years, and we need creative and insightful
leaders who can balance competing demands and make difficult decisions.
I have seen all four candidates in action at dozens of community meetings
over the past several years, and it is clear to me who our new leaders
should be. Please join me in voting on November 2 for Janet Abelson and
Letitia Moore for city council.
Revisionist History by Gottschalks
Twice in the past week, Joe Levy, Chairman of Gottschalks, has asserted
in the newspaper that the proposal for a Gottschalks at El Cerrito Plaza
would not have required a public subsidy. He thinks that it is "important
that Gottschalks be accurately portrayed." Mr. Levy has a faulty memory.
Let’s look at the facts and really set the record straight.
On July 6, 1998, at a meeting of the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency,
representatives from the Plaza owners and Mr. Levy himself presented to
the Redevelopment Agency the proposal for a Gottschalks at El Cerrito
Plaza. The proposal required over $7 million in public subsidy.
At the meeting, Mr. Qualls, for the Plaza owners, explained that Gottschalks
wanted free land and reduced common area maintenance fees. Mr. Bilak of
El Cerrito Plaza Co. presented the site plan showing the land that Gottschalks
would own but not pay for, and additional land to be acquired to have
Gottschalks at the Plaza.
Mr. Briggs, an economic/redevelopment consultant for the Plaza owners,
explained that under this plan Gottschalks would cost about $7.2 million
-- $3 million for Gottschalks’ "free land," $1.09 million for site work,
$1.2 million for the additional land, and another $1.9 million for work
on the additional land. Mr. Briggs also talked about the cost annually
for Gottschalks' refusal to pay their full share of common area maintenance
Mr. Levy then addressed the Redevelopment Agency. He talked about how
much Gottschalks would spend on construction and merchandise for an El
Cerrito store, talked about annual sales, and offered that everyone should
work together. During the remainder of the meeting, members of the public
and the members of the Redevelopment Agency discussed where the public
subsidy would come from. Council Member Gina Brusatori suggested a tax
or bond measure because "we simply don’t have the money."
This information is taken from the City’s Minutes of the July 6, 1998,
Regular Meeting of the El Cerrito Redevelopment Agency. The facts show
that the plan that Gottschalks negotiated with the Plaza owners required
millions of public dollars. Mr. Levy’s notion of accuracy leaves a lot
to be desired.
Supports Abelson, Moore
Records show a letter from Gottschalk requiring a subsidy to come to
El Cerrito, so it is wecome news to our citizens that they are now coming
to El Cerrito without one, With such news you expect in good faith that
they have started negotiations and picked a prime location. Your anticipation
for this to happen is the same as if you had heard that they intend to
buld El Cerrito a new swimming pool as well.
Janet Abelson and Letitia Moore are two of the most dedicated and intelligent
people I have met in El Cerrito. They have my complete respect for their
honesty and integrity. They have the interests of every citizen of El
Cerrito at their hearts. I join the honorable George Miller, Dion Aroner,
John Gioia, the El Cerrito Professional Firefighters Association. the
Sierra Club and the majority of the El Cerrito in my endorsement of Janet
Abelson and Letitia Moore for CIty Council.
Consider the fiscal factors of Honda move
The attempts to be sure that the viable and desirable Honda agency stays
in El Cerrito are to be commended. I've had the good fortune to have my
car cared for there.
Nonetheless, it is important to consider the fiscal factors involved.
What follows is a Net Present Value analysis. Readers can make their own
decisions about City involvement.
The proposed Honda move requires a cost/benefit estimate for any subsidy
provided by either the Redevelopment Agency or the City. The two must
be separated because the RDA gets the property tax increment and the City
gets the sales tax.
Tax Increment (TI) to the RDA
This is estimated to be $43,000 per year. However, about 30% of that
must be passed through to other taxing agencies so the net to the RDA
would be about $30,000. This estimate of the increment is probably reasonably
Assuming a 10-year payback and an interest rate of 5.5%, the net present
value (what the RDA can afford to pony up) is about $227,000.
If the RDA gets only 1/3 of the TI because the new location is partly
in Richmond (as in the Home Depot case), the net present value is about
Sales Tax to the City
The sales tax increase estimate is said to be $125,000. It should not
be assumed that all will come to El Cerrito since much of the proposed
site is in Richmond. Again using Home Depot as a guide, E.C. may get only
1/3 of the increase.
Using the same payback assumptions as above and if the sales tax increase
all comes to EC, the net present value is about $942,000. If EC gets only
1/3 of the increase, the net present value is about $628,000.
It is important that the two sources of income are not mingled since
the money sources are not the same. It may be argued that RDA income benefits
the City but it surely has not in the 22 years of its activity.
The sales tax estimate assumes, I believe, that business will continue
to be as good as it has been recently. It would be well to get a Honda
estimate of how things went, say, when the economy wasn’t so hot as a
worst case scenario. The City should surely not commit funds on the basis
of what could turn out to be an overoptimistic value.
If interest rates rise, the payback will be less effective and the NPV
will be less accordingly.
It would be well also to consider opportunity costs should another promising
business indicate a desire to locate here
Lotsa guesswork, huh?
El Cerrito: Good and Bad
I am newly arrived to El Cerrito from the Midwest. I have a wonderful
apartment with a view to the bay and Albany Hill Park just down the street.
I own a dog and love the outdoors, so I was happy to find an off leash
dog park, Point Isabel, just under the freeway. It's eight blocks from
BART and has a variety of convenient shops.
Among these stores is the new Asia Pacific Mall with it's fabulous supermarket
and myriad restaurants and shops. I went there my very first day and was
amazed. And I know I am not the only one, because the parking lot is always
full, no, make that overflowing. And that is the bad.
Patrons of the Asia Pacific Mail are parking on residential streets because
the lot is full. They wheel their grocery carts to their cars. They slam
doors, security lock their cars (beep, beep!) and the younger patrons
favor higher speeds and loud music. Customers are using Belmont and San
Diego streets to access the rear of the mall. There is a sign on San Diego
that says that this is not a through street which everyone ignores. Many
patrons ignore or don't see the stop signs at Belmont and San Diego.
The rear entrance to the mall has a gate that is always open, so I haven't
yet determined the use of this gate. Of course I would like the gate closed
and the San Deigo marked as not a through street. I know my landlord shares
some of my concerns because she specifically mentioned she didn't know
what effect the new mall would have on the neighborhood when I called
to inquire about renting.
It's really a shame. El Cerrito is a cute and convenient neighborhood.
This delightful little corner of El Cerrito is unfortunately being spoiled
by the success of the Asia Pacific Mall. Can the mall and residents of
El Cerrito exist in happy harmony? I would be interested in hearing what
city council members and the planning department might see as a good solution
Vote for Moore, Abelson
El Cerrito desperately needs leaders with vision and energy who will
take a constructive, positive approach to solving our city's financial
problems, and move us forward--not backward.
That's why I am endorsing LETITIA MOORE and JANET ABELSON for City Council.
They are thoughtful and effective Planning Commissioners, optimistic about
our future and committed to making this a more attractive, livable, and
economically stable city. I hope you will join me in supporting Letitia
and Janet. Don't sit this one out--we really are at a crucial juncture,
and this election will make all the difference. With less than a month
to go, they really need your help now:
*DISPLAY A YARD OR WINDOW SIGN: probably the most helpful thing you
could do right now--and it won't cost you a penny--is to display a campaign
sign in your yard or window. If you can display a sign for either or both
candidates, contact me at email@example.com and tell me your address,
and I'll make sure the signs are delivered to your house. If you can get
your neighbors to take a sign, too, even better!
*FORWARD THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS
*and of course, DON'T FORGET TO VOTE ON NOVEMBER 2!
Run dates: 1999-09-01 - 1999-11-01