A terribly expensive mess
Burlingame homeowners are defending their legally-granted property rights to limit density to 236 units. If they feel that their quality of life will be negatively impacted by building more than 236 units, who can blame them? Most property owners react the same way when threatened with projects that may impact their neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, pitted against the homeowners are citizens who also feel that they have been deceived by the city government, which promised 236 units for a total taxpayer subsidy of $14.7 million (promoted in many places IN ADDITION TO the infamous brochure), when the expected taxpayer bill was $85 million plus financing costs. Other housing applicants feel disenfranchised as well.
During the 2005 Burlingame campaign, Mick and the pro-Burlingame issue committee told the voters that up to 330 units could be built. But, after the vote, the city granted veto rights to Burlingame homeowners to restrict the project to 236 units (but failed to inform the public of that). Shocking, considering that the value of those rights to the city was at least $15 million ” based on likely cost to acquire land and infrastructure to build 94 additional units elsewhere. It no longer matters whether or not Burlingame home purchasers knew of their veto rights at the time of their purchases. What is appalling is that the city either didn’t know, or didn’t disclose it, until two months into the process of planning increased density last summer.
The Burlingame homeowners have the right to expect more transparency and competency from the city, as do the voters and taxpayers. When different citizen groups are promised completely conflicting things, tension is sure to result.
Why shouldn’t we expect more honesty from the city officials? Tuesday night at council worksession, Mick again misrepresented the facts, stating, “we did not write the agreement, we inherited the agreement.” No, the city was in complete control of that agreement and chose to execute it, giving away $15 million or more in value without public input. Mick cannot blame this on some prior owner.
Mick also claimed Tuesday that if the city had moved forward in 2001 to build Burlingame, the project would have come in UNDER the $14.7 million subsidy communicated to the voters in May 2005! How could that possibly be true? Even Steve Barwick says that there were never any estimates that low.
Mick has lulled this community into accepting the statements he authoritatively declares on any subject. The papers rarely question his unfounded statements. Hopefully the voters will ask more questions during his campaign.
I don’t know the best solution now for the housing program, the Burlingame owners, or the taxpayers. But I know that we have a terribly expensive mess because of lack of accountability, needed expertise, and most importantly, candor and trustworthiness. Continued misrepresentations from city officials will only cause more divisiveness and mistrust.
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