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Flummoxed SunCal Representatives Grilled at Joint City Council, AUSD Meeting

Under questioning from school board members, SunCal representatives first asserted that Measure B commits SunCal to building a school at Alameda Point, but when pressed to provide a reference to the language in the initiative, they conceded that it does not.

Further, board members challenged SunCal to support their assertion in a recent color glossy mailer that “Measure B commits to building schools” for Alameda Point.

At the Mastick Senior Center last night, about 100 people, roughly divided between proponents and opponents of Measure B, gathered for a two-hour presentation on the Alameda Point Development Initiative, which is on the ballot as Measure B on February 2nd.

The meeting, led by Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant, gave members of City Council and the school board an opportunity to direct questions about the initiative, and the City’s analysis of it, at City staff and SunCal. SunCal’s representatives, facing growing opposition to the measure, including from local union groups (Alameda residents received a color ‘Vote No on B’ mailer this week.), were eager to try to defend themselves.

While it was clear that the initiative itself does not commit SunCal to building any schools, less clear was how the 2% cap on property tax assessments in the initiative would impact attempts by the school board to raise money through parcel taxes. SunCal wrote the 2% cap into the initiative to evidently protect themselves from rising property taxes between the time they take title to the land until they dispose of it to a builder or end-user, like a homeowner. (Such a cap may mean that rising municipal costs in Alameda due to the development of Alameda get forced onto taxpayers in the rest of Alameda through special services taxes.) Both school board and City Council members asked for clarification on the point – does the 2% cap apply to school board parcel taxes too? Does it limit AUSD’s ability to raise funds to help pay for an estimated 1,300 to 1,900 new students at Alameda Point? What about Mello-Roos taxes? City Attorney Teresa Highsmith tried to sum it up – “Whoever gets there first, wins.” she said.

The meeting concluded with a public comment period from members of the audience, but by that time it was after 10pm, and many people had left. City officials arranged in advance for the meeting to be videotaped, and it will eventually be uploaded to the City of Alameda’s webcast center.

SunCal Representatives on the Defensive

SunCal Representatives on the Defensive

Members of the public assemble for joint City Council, AUSD Meeting.

Members of the public assemble for joint City Council, AUSD Meeting.

3 comments to Flummoxed SunCal Representatives Grilled at Joint City Council, AUSD Meeting

  • Vania

    The presumptuousness of SunCal protecting itself by setting a real property tax cap, while at the same time not creating the same sort of tax cap for the rest of the residents of Alameda, is an equal protection problem under the California Constitution which guarantees litigation to invalidate Measure B if it is approved.

    That said, the other tax questions raised in Action Alameda’s comment above, similarly inviate litigation to invalidate or clarify Measure B.

    As I have said all along, the only people who would ultimately benefit from the passage of Measure B are the lawyers who wrote it for SunCal, who presumably will be paid on an hourly basis for defending it in the courts should the measure pass.

    The City of Alameda, and based on the discussions above the School District, would be indispensible parties to such litigation, i.e. forced by the California court rules to participate in the litigation whether they liked it or not. Clearly, the School District would have to divert money otherwise used for teaching purposes to pay for a private litigation lawyer to represent it. Whether the City of Alameda would be represented by the City Attorney’s office alone, or hire expert outside lawyers to lead the City’s offense or defense, is an open question. Obviously, the cost of hiring outside experts would be both “well worth it” as well as divert important city revenues from other purposes.

    At every turn, we learn more and more about the depth and complexity of the presumptuousness and selfishness of SunCal, and its never present and perhaps phantom financial partner from the D.E. Shaw group of companies, in putting Measure B on the ballot.

  • Vania

    If one goes to, presses continue, checks and presses I agree etc, presses Advanced Search, and then puts “Silicon Valley” into the California Courts’ free view search engine and website of case law, you end up at an “earth shattering” case, from cities’ points of view:

    Silicon Valley Taxpayers’ Assn., Inc. v. Santa Clara County Open Space Authority, S136468, SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA, 44 Cal. 4th 431; 187 P.3d 37; 79 Cal. Rptr. 3d 312; 2008 Cal. LEXIS 8667; 38 ELR 20174, July 14, 2008, Filed, Reported at Silicon Valley Taxpayers v. Santa Clara County Open Space, 2008 Cal. LEXIS 9306 (Cal., July 14, 2008)

    That case discusses but one part of statewide Proposition 218, which dates back to 1996. Proposition 218 was passed by the voters to plug “holes” in Proposition 13 which money grubbing local government agencies had created through case law over the years.

    Propositions 218 and 13 provide, in simple summary, that a 2/3rds affirmative vote of the electorate is necessary to enact a local tax or special assessment unrelated to school funding.

    One of the interesting questions which will be litigated, relating to Measure B, if it passes, is whether approval of Measure B by a 2/3rds majority is necessary in order to give SunCal and friends the benefit of the 2% tax cap referred to in Measure B and in the story above.

    Lots of fun and billable hours for lawyers ahead, taking money out of the public purse, if Measure B is approved by Alameda’s voters.

  • barb

    Vote now, in the basement at 1225 Fallon Street, the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse. If you have a jury summons, have to go to court or the Oakland Library, EVEN IF YOU VOTE ABSENTEE- take your ballot in and put it in the slot – no waiting in line. And it ensures that it gets there on time. Avoid the rush, avoid the risk of the US Mail, and avoid bad weather. Carpool, have coffee, go vote. I already did. See if we can’t keep all these SUNCAL lawyers and executives from earning a living off of the legislation they are trying to pass and litigate.

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