Today we run the responses to the second of our reader questions for the two candidates running for mayor of Mission. A new question will run each day this week.
The East Gateway project has been a multi-year process. Are you concerned about the delays in the start of substantial construction on the project? What is the city’s appropriate role in keeping the development on track?
Like everyone in Mission I am frustrated that we are not seeing substantial construction at the Gateway project. I actively participated in drafting the development agreement between the City and the developer, Mr. Tom Valenti, as well as supported it in December of 2012.
As President of the City Council I routinely talk with Mr. Valenti and he continues to assure me that he and his partners are not walking away from their significant investment in the project and that they will build a mixed-use development that we can all be proud of.
The only taxpayer money in-play at the Gateway is the $12MM investment that was spent to take the property out of the 100-year floodplain, which incidentally benefited many properties upstream in Mission. The City has protected itself and the taxpayers through the current development agreement and through a special Benefit District to ensure the City is completely reimbursed should Mr. Valenti decide to sell the property.
The Community Vision for this piece of ground calls for mixed-uses and high densities. As a result, the governing body has determined that a public-private partnership makes sense to encourage this kind of development. The development agreement gives the City a sizable stake in the project and provides latitude for the City to withdraw the agreement if milestones are not met.
I believe the City’s appropriate role in keeping the development on track is to maintain a working relationship with Mr. Valenti and adhering to the articles of the development agreement, including the progress timeline. We must also recognize that Mr. Valenti was not hired by the City to develop the property, rather Mr. Valenti owns the property and the City has limits on what it can demand.
You can learn more about my campaign at www.DavidShepard.org
While the City did make the decision to make flood plain improvements to the East Gateway site, this is still a private development. There is a plan in place to reimburse the City $12 million it invested in the flood plain improvements, but that will not happen until construction begins. It is unfortunate the economy slowed to a crawl right after the site was purchased and cleared, but we are all hoping the developer is working toward seeing the project started and completed. I am very concerned about the delays and setbacks, and the City should use all its leverage to hold the developer to his promises. But the City’s role in financing the development should be non-existent, as the City should not be using tax-payer monies to fund a private development. However, in recent years the City has tried to operate like a business by investing in private enterprise. The City should not get involved. If the developer from the Cameron group would have had to stand on his own, he would have either developed the property or sold to someone that would have developed it. The City is not blameless in this eight year debacle. The developer keeps asking for more money and the project keeps getting delayed. He needs to start building – not just talking. We want to see action so that the east Gateway becomes the thriving and profitable community asset that it should be.
Tomorrow we will publish the candidates’ responses to our third question:
Redevelopment and retail projects at both the east and west ends of the city have been a focus in recent years with some city financial support. Now Johnson Drive will be rebuilt. What else can or should the city do to help rejuvenate the Johnson Drive downtown district once the street project is complete?