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Alameda Theater Still Not Delivering on Retail Sales Tax Promise

Boosters of the cineplex attached to the Alameda Theater and the butt-ugly seven-story parking garage – imagine! a seven story parking garage in a town that preaches public transit and non-automobile alternatives! – promised that the development would generate a retail sales tax boon for City coffers. Another quarter has passed, another city staff report to Alameda City Council, and still, no retail sales tax boon. This should make Alameda residents wary of the promises attached the redevelopment of Alameda Point.

On Tuesday evening, City of Alameda staff presented the sales tax report for the period ending March 31, 2009 to Alameda City Council. Taxable sales transactions for the period decreased by 14% from the same quarter in the prior year. According to the report, the top 25 businesses in Alameda represent 51% of the quarter’s sales transactions.

The General Retail category was down 23.6%, and Transportation – due to the loss of auto row on Park Street – was down 58.2%. The only bright spot was Business-to-Business sales tax. We have long argued that the city’s focus on generating retail sales tax is mis-guided – the City of Alameda should focus on putting to work the buildings and facilities at Alameda Point to generate more Business-to-Business sales tax. More businesses like Peet’s Coffee, and Clif Bar. Oh wait! Clif Bar was scheduled to re-locate to Alameda Landing, but Catellus screwed that up, so we lost Clif Bar.

The “Park – South of Lincoln” district – where the Alameda Theater, cineplex and parking garage roost – suffered a decline from the previous year same-quarter of 18.2%. If the theater and parking garage are such economic boosters for the City of Alameda, then why is sales tax down 18.2% ?! Oh, sure, we know the answer – “It’s the economy stupid!”

However, the district’s share of retail sales tax is not growing – it held steady at 10% even though the “Park – North of Lincoln” district dropped 62.6% from the previous year. This massive decline in retail sales tax at the other end of Park Street should have meant that the theater district’s share of sales tax would have gone through roof. Woulda, shoulda, coulda. Even in difficult economic times, if the cineplex and parking garage are boosters of retail sales tax, then their district’s share of retail sales tax should grow relative to other districts. But it isn’t!

These facts are illustrated in the charts below. In the first chart – which plots the year-over-year quarterly change in sales tax receipts for the Alameda Theater sales tax district – starting from the left, the first bar colored green represents the first quarter after the parking garage opened in February of 2008. The green bars show a steady decline – increasing declines quarter after quarter, up until the most recent decline of 18.2% from the previous quarter, mentioned already.

The second graph plots the overall share of retail sales tax for the theater district – it’s holding steady, down, at 10%. One would expect this number to rise, as the theater made up for lost sales tax in other districts, but it’s not. This means that the theater is not a big driver of retail sales tax for Alameda.

Year-over-Year Change in Quarterly Sales Tax Receipts for Alameda Theater District

Year-over-Year Change in Quarterly Sales Tax Receipts for Alameda Theater District

Theater District's Share of Sales Tax Relative to Other Districts

Theater District's Share of Sales Tax Relative to Other Districts. Where's the growth?!

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