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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.

David Kippen

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.

Lori Dair

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 people want?

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 group.

Peter Loubal

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 Plaza owners.

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 money.

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.

George Amberg

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.

Rose Lernberg

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 costs.

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.

Letitia Moore

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.

Rita Minjares

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 reliable.

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 $75,000.

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?

George Amberg

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 for everyone.

Laura Kondrick

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 loridair@earthlink.net 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!



Lori Dair

Run dates: 1999-09-01 - 1999-11-01

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