Mayor Helene Schneider

Paul Wellman

Mayor Helene Schneider

Mayor Protests Parking Lot Power Grab

State Proposal Would Require City to Auction Off Downtown Lots

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
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Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider sent a letter strenuously objecting to a last-minute proposal by the California Department of Finance that would require the City of Santa Barbara to auction off all its downtown parking lots. The proposal, added as an obscure trailer to the proposed budget, is part of the state’s ongoing effort to shut down all redevelopment agencies throughout California and reconvey their assets to new owners. “I cannot express to you in strong enough terms how much we object to this newly inserted provision,” declared Schneider in a letter sent to Assemblymember Das Williams, State Senator Tony Strickland, and to Joan Buchanan, the chair of the Assembly Budget Subcommittee on State Administration.

Schneider argued that the creation of the downtown parking system has been part of a 50-year and multimillion-dollar effort engineered by City Hall — in conjunction with private property owners. At the very least, she argued, the parking lots should be transferred to another governmental entity, preferably the City of Santa Barbara. “To declare these public parking lots as not serving a governmental purpose and force the sale of them to a private entity could be detrimental to the long-term economic vitality of downtown and upend 50 years of sound community planning,” she wrote.

The parking lots are the cornerstone of longstanding efforts to maintain the economic viability of downtown Santa Barbara, initiated in the 1970s in response to the economic threat then posed by La Cumbre Plaza. Certainly, without downtown lots 2 and 10, there would have never been a Paseo Nuevo mall. The Department of Finance currently finds itself scrambling to respond to two overwhelming problems. The first is to administer the instantaneous and simultaneous dissolution of more than 500 redevelopment agencies, undertaken by the governor and the Legislature in response to the state’s ongoing multibillion-dollar budget crisis. By eliminating the redevelopment agencies, the state estimated it could increase revenues that otherwise were getting short-stopped by the redevelopment agencies of city and county governments to the tune of $1.4 billion.

The second is that the state’s budget hole is considerably deeper — $7 billion more — than originally estimated. Santa Barbara’s Community Development Director Paul Casey said he only discovered the new proposal on Thursday. The language would require cities to divest themselves of any redevelopment agency assets not deemed a “government purpose,” and parking lots were explicitly excluded from the “government purpose” definition. By contrast, schools, roads, libraries, and police stations could be construed as serving a “government purpose.” Casey said he’s not sure where the idea came from and how much support it has, but added, “We’re taking it very seriously.” He said he hopes that the Democrat majority controlling the statehouse will have second thoughts “The Legislature has already stopped redevelopment agencies from funding anything new,” he said, “but my frustration is now they’re trying to claw back what we’ve already done.”

Assemblymember Williams, who has argued that redevelopment agencies siphon off funds that otherwise would have gone to education, said the new proposal goes too far. “I draw the line at selling off existing assets,” he said, adding that the lots have been essential to the city’s economic vitality. “This is an issue I’m going to take to the top, immediately and with great urgency.” In addition, Schneider and Casey expressed opposition to plans to take the $5 million of affordable housing money set aside by the city’s redevelopment agency and give it to the state, whose shortfall has grown in recent weeks from an estimated $9 billion to $16 billion. Schneider termed the “sweep” of such funds “very bad public policy.” If the state government is going to mandate cities like Santa Barbara do more to allow the development of more affordable housing, she argued, it “shouldn’t take away the most effective tool we have to deliver in that mandate.”


Independent Discussion Guidelines

The State is broke. It is broke because it has spent more money than it earns. The broke State is looking for money under every couch cushion because it spends more money than it earns. The broke state is doing their best to scare the public into voting for tax increases because it lacks the courage to reduce the spending.

drdan93109 (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 10:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The original DrDan (a proud 93101 zip) disagrees with his drdan93109 colleague above: California is in budget trouble because, yes, it has overspent (prisons!!) but also because with that 2/3rds majority rule for taxes in the legislature it hasn't been easy to increase REVENUE. The state does not "earn" money, it isn't a company. As noted in other posts by me, California's budgeted money per student is just under $10,000 per kid which is shameful for a wealthy state like ours: NY State spends over $18,000 per kid, and most of the northeast averages 15,000 per child.
My gosh drdan 93109 the State of Calif. has made many reductions in the last two years: where have you been? We will have to make more yes, and I am on record for public pension reform in order to save them.
The state has been forced to reduce spending already, it isn't about courage, the Legislature is gridlocked, it's whole system... Don't worry, our local parcel tax measures WILL be passed and I hope Gov Brown's tax increase passes as well.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 10:40 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Smoke & mirrors....the lots ARE gonna be auctioned because we`re talkin about a billion dollars.
Ms. Schneider can send letters til the cows return,but the gov. won`t stop. Vote,protest,send your own letters,but the crying & teeth gnashing WILL commence,period. AND new taxes will arise..believe it....Oh yeah,in case one has`nt figured it out...SB will get a little chunk for their`s all been agreed upon....$5,000 says I`m right.

PeterPeli (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 10:46 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Readers want to know if the same State proposal-raid is applicable to other cities or counties with defunct Redevelopment agencies.

John_Adams (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 12:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

If I understand this correctly:

- RDA's are being shut down in CA to 'improve' the budget.
- Our city's parking lots are funded by an RDA.
- Assets owned by RDA's are being unwinded across the state.
- The proposal to sell SB's lots is related to the unwinding.

I tried to educate myself about the unwinding of RDA assets and found this:

One option cities have been using ... is to transfer RDA assets like parking lots into a BID (Business Improvement District). BID's do not require voter approval.

Although SB's city lots have been a good use of RDA funds in my opinion, there certainly have been abuses. This $52M parking garage to support a private art collection is an example of RDA funds gone wild:

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 2:29 p.m. (Suggest removal)

CA is 6th out of the 50 states in per capita taxes. (Property, income, sales combined) Clearly, we don't have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. What good is it going to do to blindly raise taxes without changing the culture in Sacramento that put us into this mess?

What's the definition of insanity again?

Botany (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 2:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

What would Dr. Dan Secord think about this?

billclausen (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 3:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I don't think its a power grab, I think the council for years and with politicians of both stripes abused the RDA process to fund pet projects while diverting money that would have rightfully gone to our schools and other agencies. RDA's were supposed to be used to combat blight its been used for far more than that locally.

Santa Barbara's RDA clearly states on its own website that the State has to pick up the shortfalls caused by this diversion of tax dollars to schools and other agencies, how is it wrong for the state to finally step down on this abuse and use the funds as they were supposed to be used..

I do hope this causes the council to step up and start acting like leaders (like Governor Brown has done). Its time to put on the big girl dress Madame Mayor and by the way how are we going to come up with the 4,000,000.00 or more every 10 years to pay for getting Cliff Drive from the state. You support Measure W and X to raise 4,000,000.00 for the schools, would we even need that if the council hadn't been diverting 20,000,000.00 million a year of tax dollars into the RDA? We will all soon be paying more for water and trash to fund repairs which it took Channelkeeper doing the right thing thus forcing the city to do protect our beaches. The tax dollars diverted for the Granada Theater Parking lot rarely over a 40% full would have covered the schools for 4 years of W and X and the water repairs with some money left over.

I'm trying to figure out what projects since Paseo Nueveo have actually been necessary for the good of the RDA zone and the Housing Authority becoming its own little fiefdom which owns 17% of the rental stock and removing those from the tax rolls isn't one.

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 3:43 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A number of Southern California cities recently filed a lawsuit stopping the State from this continual raid on local revenues.

Huh, in looking up the lawsuit, no mention of City of SB anywhere. I guess they missed the bus.

BeachFan (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 4:41 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Good Article a key line from it

..."A group of cities including Pasadena and Glendale are asking a judge to prevent property tax money in dispute from being paid out Friday to school districts and other entities, as the state intends"....

So should we spend 2.3 million on redesigning the exterior of the library which the council wanted to do and had hoped would then be paid off by bake sales and event rentals in the space so they said, our should our local tax dollars have gone to our local schools and who knows maybe having the library open more?

The only people who were raiding local revenues are the RDA's

pointssouth (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 5:01 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Can you believe that the this no-crap-sherlock drdan93109 was ever a council member. The broke state, the broke city, the broke county, the broke U.S.A. the broke evicted homeowner, the broke Italy, the broke Greece, the broke Spain, the broke Portugal, the broke etc. Most of us know why we're broke.

In case you haven't figured it out it has to do with the drdan93109s political party. The party that bankrupted just about everyone except the top 1%. So the best that any republican or 'independent' can do right now is just not say anything because all your ideas, policies, quagmires and wars, along with lack of oversight of the banking industry have bankrupted quite a bit beyond our lil'ol State.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 7:28 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Not that I am especially fond of the Republican party, Don, but just to set the record straight it was President Bill Clinton who signed the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, and that repeal set the stage for the current banking crisis. There is enough blame to go around on both sides of the aisle.
Getting back to the issue of our city parking, what do you think will happen to the 75 minutes free and affordable parking rates if the lots/garages get sold to private owners? And what do you think that will do to downtown businesses? And once people stop patronizing downtown businesses, how will that in turn affect the city budget? So what do we do? Have a bake sale in front of the library so we can buy the lots from the RDA?

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
May 30, 2012 at 11:32 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Oh yes we all know that it was the, embattled, distracted and idiotically impeached Bill Clinton that ended Glass-Steagall. But it was at the behest of the so called conservative side of politics and especially the far right wing. And not only has Bill Clinton pretty much acknowledged his stupidity and apologized but he must now realize that he was even more stupid for thinking that there would always be enough competence in any successive administration for oversight. Then came along the ultra conservative and republican George W. Bush and Cheney administration. We're in a 1% conservatively led mess. Conservatives need to stop blaming Bill Clinton, Governor Brown, The State, Greece, Barack Obama, Barbara Streisand and George Clooney.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 6:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Bill Clinton had sold out to the financial industry long before he became "embattled" over his dalliances. He created the DNC for this very purpose and a big part of what he and they promised was that the Dems would be at least as friendly to big money as the GOP. The repeal of Glass-Steagal was "bipartisan" and over the objections and expert advise of most academics and all progressives. Don't act like the Tweedle-dum of US poliltics is any better than the Tweedle-dee.

RHS (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 8:24 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Don, doesn't the fact that Obama never even proposed reinstating Glass-Steagall tell you something? Please take off the blinders. Market manipulation by leftists George Soros or John Corzine is just as pernicious as when it is led by their right wing counterparts.
We need to stop worrying about whether elected officials are Republican or Democrat, and start examining whether they have integrity and the competence to make decisions that will benefit the country.

blackpoodles (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 9:52 a.m. (Suggest removal)

"It is broke because it has spent more money than it earns."

Governments don't "earn" money; this is a complete misunderstanding of economics. The state is broke because it has deprived itself of tax revenue, due to a group of corporate bribed anti-tax Republican ideologues in the Assembly, together with the disastrous prop 13 that gave this minority a veto via the 2/3 vote requirement.

truth_machine (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 9:54 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Selling parking lots, spaces, meters to private corporations is insanity. Just look at what happened in Chicago, or better yet, ask a Chicagoan.

spacey (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 12:10 p.m. (Suggest removal)

pointssouth is right!
But I would question if we even needed Paseo Nueveo? The city's reasoning behind Paseo Nueveo was to capture the sales tax revenue that was going to La Cumbre plaza. I like Paseo Nueveo but was it worth the expenditure?
And what about affordable housing? The RDA only spent what they had to on affordable housing, 20% of RDA funds. The housing authority appears to spend every penny it gets in rent on administration and can not even cover major repairs. And given they pay no property tax shouldn't the affordable housing pay a fee to schools and safety?

loneranger (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 5:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We could always start a boycott of all the parking lots..
Bike, bus, or carpool..

BBOY (anonymous profile)
May 31, 2012 at 7:45 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Mayor Protests Parking Lot Power Grab? Seriously?
The RDA's have been about a giant money grab for years and veered so far away from their original intent that it is laughable.
I do not know if it is a good idea to sell the lots or not but this mayor claiming indignation is equally bizarre.

italiansurg (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2012 at 5:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

What is it about conservatives and our average Joes that want all this socialized subsidized parking. Where do you think you are Sweden. Sell and privatize these parking lots! And if you can't find affordable parking go complain to the slick and smelly cologne splashed corporate car salesman who sold you that piece of crap motorized transportation. You all sound like a bunch of babies who had their lollipop taken away.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2012 at 6:18 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Let's not forget that encouraging everyone to buy a house, whether or not they could afford it, goes WAY back into the 1970's and encompasses many presidents and parties. And that mark-to-market and the suspension of the short-sale-uptick-rule were decided by FASB. All of these measures, including ending Glass-Steagal, were causative to the financial crisis. People who took out $500K mortgages on $50K incomes were causative as well. But how much easier to try to hang it on a few individuals instead of looking for root causes.

Great point re Obama and Glass-Steagal - why didn't he simply work to reinstate it? The so-called Volcker rule he's pushing isn't really much different. Could it be that one DemPres Obama) doesn't want to do what another DemPres undid (Clinton)?

DonM, that last post sounded like it was posted by your enemies. Or have you been drinking that smelly cologne again?

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2012 at 9:03 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Volcker Rule introduced by democratic leadership and blocked by republicans contained corporate restrictions and consumer protections. Elimination of restrictions (regulations) and consumer protections are in the republican party platform. Don't vote for stupid again. Don't vote republican. The Democratic party is conservative enough.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
June 1, 2012 at 11:13 a.m. (Suggest removal)

How much net profit do the parking lots currently generate for the City? Anybody know? Maybe none? So a new buyer will tinker with the rates to maximize the profit, and merchants will likely lose the subsidy. And so they will need to find other creative ways to attract customers. It can be done; free parking can't be that critical.

stevejinsb (anonymous profile)
June 2, 2012 at 2:08 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes paid parking in business districts happens all over the world. Even nearby at Cottage Hospital $2.75 an hour is the fee for a somewhat captive audience.

But it isn't the tradition in Santa Barbara where the capitalist are accustom to a socialized parking system. You can find the details in the city budget online. The parking district is pretty much self-sustaining and even subsidizes a little transit. But mostly the parking district subsidize bar patron parking. The costs of this socialized parking system are never truly calculated. Declining adjacent raceway neighborhoods, devalued by all that arterial and collector traffic from the citys voting Golden Quadrangle the Mesa, San Roque, Samarkand, Riviera the wealthier and better represented neighborhoods.

I don't suspect that the agencies pay property taxes on those high-density parking structures, where ordinarily property tax assessments would be pooled in, outside and around the RDA and throughout the city to fund essential government service or more worthy causes such as public safety (police and fire) or refurbishing schools, parks and after school programs. The loss of property taxes also affect County and State budgets and services as well.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
June 2, 2012 at 6:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hospital parking is free for patients and visitors - the fee for everyone else is to help ensure sufficient parking for hospital patrons. By a similar note, ample, low-cost parking downtown encourages patronage for restaurants and shops, encouraging local spending of both tourist and resident money. It also decreases traffic congestion by heavily mitigating the parking-hunt that plagues so many cities. And it's probably the hardest to quantify, but our parking is just one of those factors that makes downtown SB so appealling and approachable, whether you're grabbing a quick bite to eat or strolling for hours with friends.

I don't know the financial figures for the city lots, but I would readily assume they are at the very least self-sustaining, if not (as said above) revenue-generating.

Political party mouth-foaming aside, the immediate issue at hand is what is best for our community. I firmly believe maintaining these lots according to plan is most appropriate. I understand the state's money-crunch, but this proposal to canabalize local communities seems very short-sighted.

Sothep (anonymous profile)
June 2, 2012 at 11:20 p.m. (Suggest removal)

But another opinion is that someone somewhere has got to start paying taxes. Privatized parking lots and other antiquated RDA assets would generate property taxes for the State, County and City budgets which could go towards public safety, schools, roads and bridges. The RDA has been essentially stealing and diverting property taxes for pet projects for decades at the expense of a comprehensive and a more prioritized budget process.

And why should the City of Santa Barbara (the RDA) promote downtown shopping over La Cumbre. Are the Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Organization afraid of competition. Competition, the thing that makes American way of life so great. And what about all the traffic generated on neighboring downtown streets. High up on the Mesa, Rivera, Samarkand and San Roque that would be known as an environmental impact.

DonMcDermott (anonymous profile)
June 3, 2012 at 6:25 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Schneider is clueless. Where is the guy we pay to run this city - Jim Armstrong? This article addresses a specific issue, but in general, a lot of Santa Barbara's problems are due to the fact that the 3 city employees with the highest salaries, Armstrong, Wiley, and Scam Sanchez, are a lot worse than dead meat.

14noscams (anonymous profile)
June 8, 2012 at 8:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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