Friday, November 28, 2008

Are the library closings really secret land deals?

Blog of San Diego
by Pat Flannery

Mayor Sanders made an abrupt proposal to summarily close down several libraries. Here is Andrea Tevlin's much more thoughtful budget cutting proposal. Hers shows a wider perspective and allows for community input.

Tevlin's recommendation is: "keep these facilities open until a more deliberate and comprehensive plan for facility closures is developed and presented to Council." She notes that a number of libraries are on Sanders' closure list and also on his expansion list. Is this just incompetence or something else? If it is incompetence it is really gross incompetence.

Take the Ocean Beach Library for instances. Is Sanders aware that:
"In 2005, the City purchased land adjacent to the Ocean Beach Library for an expansion. According to Council reports at the time, this property is collateral for a HUD Section 108 loan of $2.0 million garnered for the Ocean Beach Library. Loan payments are approximately $223,000 annually through FY 2017 and are being paid from District 2 CDBG allocations."
Here is the public record, from the Tax Assessor. It confirms the IBA's findings but does not reveal the sale price from attorney Thomas Bryan to the City. It would take a little more digging to get that. The fact that the City later borrowed $2 million against the property tells nothing of the sale price or the value of the property. The important point is that the City is on the hook for $223,000 per year for that property. They have probably used the $2 million elsewhere by now. They move such money around all the time.

It seems to me that this whole library and park closure business has more to do with secret land deals than balancing the 2008/09 Budget. If Sanders is about anything he is about land deals. It is my guess that somebody wants that OB site. The library lot together with the lot next door would make a perfect mixed-use development. How many of the other library lots chosen for closure would make excellent development opportunities? Here are aerial pictures of the seven properties, all prime developable lots.

It would explain why Sanders is so sore at Andrea Tevlin. Is she spoiling a well-laid plan? Her recommendations make all the sense in the world. She says: "we are recommending a comprehensive facility plan addressing proposed closures along with proposed openings be brought to Council by February 2009 in order to prepare for the future." Sanders was very scathing about that suggestion. Why? His demeaning remarks about Tevlin brought public protests from Councilmembers Atkins and Young.

Sanders argues that because of an implementation delay, Tevlin's recommendations will result in a "cost". He failed to mention that she has offset this "cost" by raiding two of his pet projects: a BPR (outsourcing) surplus and his reallocation of a Transient Occupancy Tax surplus (he wants to use it for promotional expenditure on his hotel friends). Look at the attachment to her Report to Council. Sanders has a very weak argument.

The best thing that came out of the new "Strong Mayor" form of government was IBA Andrea Tevlin. We are immensely lucky to have her. Let's hope the City Council votes to support her sensible recommendations over the very suspicious proposals of Sanders on Monday November 24, 2008.

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