Sunday, August 28, 2011

Traffic, More Traffic and the Cooked Numbers behind the 49ers' EIR

Dear Santa Clarans,

It's taken nearly two years.  But someone is shining some bright lights on the completely insupportable claims that the San Francisco 49ers have made concerning the massive traffic jams and private-parking mess they'll be causing in Santa Clara.  If you can, pick up a copy of today's Sunday San Francisco Chronicle, and see: 

49ers' stadium plan stirs debate over parking 

The Stadium EIR was the perfect example of consultants telling a client just what they were paying to hear - but those cooked numbers did a great disservice to Santa Clara and to Santa Clarans.  Now, a real traffic analyst from Walnut Creek, Mr. Steve Abrams, has analyzed the 49ers' claims the way this should have been before the team ever presented their EIR.  He's done so at no cost to anyone.

The issue of the massive traffic jams on NFL game days - and the use of a 160-officer traffic force to manage about 20,000 private vehicle-trips - is rooted in one of the biggest howlers we heard in the fall of 2009:  The claim by the San Francisco 49ers that mass transit utilization would be 26% at a stadium here at the same time that it was less than 19% at Candlestick Park.

Keep in mind that CalTrain at the time was going through a severe financial crisis.  Only this March, before that crisis had abated somewhat, CalTrain was actually proposing to close College Park, Santa Clara and Lawrence Stations - the three stations closest to the proposed Santa Clara stadium site!**

Bye, bye, mass transit crowd.

If you have a moment, please give a fair reading to what Mr. Abrams has written about the 49ers' traffic jam plans.  The increase in private vehicles packing our streets north of U.S. 101 is not merely incremental - it will have a serious effect on the level of service, or LOS, at intersections which even the 49ers themselves were finally forced to acknowledge are already among the worst in our county.

As for the statement that the 49ers took the issue up "conservatively," and that the infrastructure here is "equal to or superior to any in the NFL," I'll simply refer everyone to this one figure from the 49ers own EIR.    I'll then ask, "If our infrastructure is as good as you're claiming, why are you closing four streets, barricading 31 intersections, and demanding identification from residents in the Agnews area as they try to return to their own homes?" 

Note that none of this is required at Candlestick Park today.  Note also that the 49ers will be reimbursing us only a portion of what game-day traffic management - and public safety - will actually be costing us.  In view of the shootings and the beating at Candlestick last weekend, we're entitled to ask hard questions on that second point alone.

At any rate, four years from now, let's ask Santa Clarans who make their homes in the Agnews and Lafayette corridors if the 49ers told the truth in 2009.

By then, of course, it will be way too late.

Santa Clarans, you have a stake in this wherever you reside in our city - but if you live north of U.S. 101, this will affect just about every aspect of your daily lives, both during the construction of a subsidized NFL stadium and in its operations after that.  Santa Clara Plays Fair urges all Santa Clarans to inform themselves on just what the stadium subsidy is truly costing all of us, and not just in dollars.

Please take a moment to share your concerns with the Mayor and City Council here, and contact Santa Clara Plays Fair anytime if you have questions about the EIR or about the stadium subsidy itself.

Thanks for your continuing support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer


** Front page, San Jose Mercury News, Feb. 4, 2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

49ers' Stadium Subsidies: Our RDA is now the 49ers' ATM

Dear Santa Clarans,

It's about the Stadium.  Really.  It is.

When Council voted this evening to hand over to Sacramento, EVERY YEAR, ten percent of the property taxes generated in our Redevelopment Agency, we were told about the hardship that would ensue if we couldn't operate the RDA in perpetuity and force it to dispense cash to the San Francisco 49ers all along the way.

Yes, other projects are at stake.  But the real purpose of Council's actions this evening is to protect the ability of our RDA to borrow cash from the 49ers and pay it back at a rate of up to 8.5% a year - using our property tax dollars.

The use of public monies to subsidize a millionaire's private enterprise, in fact, makes Santa Clara's RDA a poster child for eliminating RDAs in California altogether, which our City Council and RDA were obviously unwilling to do.

The blather, frankly, began almost immediately after the RDA Giveaway this evening.  One of the more absurd claims I overheard was that we were wrong to oppose the "new" RDA - because the money comes back from Governor Brown, freshly laundered and folded, 'for schools and stuff.' 

Don't you believe it. 

Balancing the State Budget will never favor local schools.  If you really want to protect local schools:  Phase out redevelopment so that those property taxes can finally be disbursed the way they were originally intended to be shared.
It won't happen immediately.  But forcing the RDAs to pay off their debts and clock out would mean at least $10,000,000 per year into Santa Clara Unified Schools EVERY YEAR - far more than the pittance being passed through by the SB 211 amendment the Council passed for the 49ers in February  (To get an idea of the dollars involved, see the July page in your City Calendar.).

There's an even darker side of the precedent that our Council-and-RDA chose this evening, though:  Imagine that day in the very near future when the next Governor decides that $2.7 million a year out of our RDA is not enough for his budget shenanigans in Sacramento.   He demands $6 million per year instead.  What then? 

We could imagine an even worse scenario:  A State Legislature so addicted to those RDA dollars that it actually prohibits the dissolution of local agencies in order to keep our local property tax money flowing their way.  Think Sac politicians won't interfere still more in our local affairs?  They certainly did with SB 43.

What the Santa Clara City Council did this evening is foolish and dangerous on multiple levels.

But worse than that, it protects the interests of the San Francisco 49ers far more than it protects Santa Clarans.

Thanks for all of your support,
Bill Bailey, Treasurer


Sunday, August 14, 2011

49er's Stadium Subsidies: Property Taxes now Payable Directly to Sacramento

Dear Santa Clarans,

This Tuesday evening, the Stadium Boosters on our City Council will probably cave in - again - on the 49ers stadium subsidy.

It's likely that they'll agree to pay 10% of the North-of-Bayshore's property tax increment to Sacramento, year after year.  That's after paying Sacramento $11.2 million dollars upfront.   The City's own Council Agenda REPORT is here.

Terribly sorry.  But this is the price of keeping  the RDA alive so that it can continue to subsidize the San Francisco 49ers.

A short background:  On June 7th, we were told that the RDA could not afford to write stadium subsidy bonds, but that it would have to borrow cash from the 49ers themselves at a much higher rate of interest.  On June 14th, the city's Fiscal Year Budget for 2011-12 was approved, and it was admitted then that Redevelopment Agency property tax increment would probably be 8-3/4% less this year than last.

The issue documents for the RDA's 2011 Tax Allocation Bonds paint a more serious picture than that:  Our RDA will collect approximately ten percent less in tax increment in the coming year than it did last year.  So, you may expect $27 million in property tax revenues - not $30 million.

Now, we hear that 10% of $27 million, or $2.7 million PER YEAR, EVERY YEAR, is now payable directly to Sacramento, an unprecedented redirection of local property tax money.  This is being done simply so that the Stadium Boosters in our city can continue to pile stadium debt on both the RDA, and in particular, on the Santa Clara Stadium Authority.

If someone had told me five years ago that our city would reach a point at which real property taxes would go out the door to Sacramento - simply so that our city's Agencies could then assume hundreds of millions of dollars in debt for a millionaire's football palace - I simply would not have believed him.  No City Council, and no Redevelopment Agency, I would have replied, would ever lose that much perspective over the mere bragging rights to an NFL stadium.

That, however, is exactly where we are likely to be after Tuesday evening's City Council Meeting.

Please note that this is precisely the loss of RDA funds to Sacramento that the Stadium Boosters told us that Measure J would prevent. 

Santa Clarans, please speak out.  Speak up.  Tell the City Council how wrong they really are on this issue. 

All the best, and thank you for your ongoing support,
William F. "Bill" Bailey, Treasurer,

A fragment from the Agenda Report linked above:

"To fund the initial year remittance of $11,151,131 the following fund sources are available:

  • Forgo 2011-12 deposit into the Housing Fund, which should yield about $6 million...
  • Use 11-12 Net Tax Increment, which should yield about $2 million
  • Finally, use unspent...discretionary 10% Housing Fund monies..."