Let voters decide on Burlingame II
August 16, 2011
Over the last few weeks, my letters have been about our affordable housing program, about prioritizing categories, supply and demand, specifically what our local work force will look like in the next five to 10 years, and what they will earn.
Simply put, I have suggested we do our homework. But, I’m afraid my suggestions have fallen on deaf ears.
Currently, City Council seems to be of the mindset to build 160 units at Burlingame II with the real estate transfer tax (RETT) money we have on hand and are projected to generate for the next 10 years – a subsidy in excess of $53 million.
Economists would tell you cash on hand is very valuable in today’s unpredictable economy, and with interest rates low, borrowing would be the smart thing to do.
So, why not borrow?
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The fact is if the city wanted to borrow the funds to subsidize Burlingame II, they would have to go to the public with a bond, and let them vote. It is it because City Council is not sure they would win – thus spending the RETT is a means to an end.
Now, Burlingame II might be the best use of RETT funds, but I’m not convinced, nor has City Council done a comparative use of funds. Why not?
One might argue we could use the RETT funds to improve our current housing stock, or an out-of-the-box idea would be to buy the Boomerang property and convert it into retirement housing, offering an in-town option to aging individuals living in two- and three-bedroom units alone, because they have nowhere to go, freeing up a number of multi-bedroom units for families at a lower price. Or, how about a public-private hotel project with the city providing the employee-housing mitigation, or kicking in the BMC land?
My point is simple: Shouldn’t other options be explored?
In my opinion, and I believe most, City Council should not make a
$53 million decision until all the options are put on the table and vetted.
If the public wants Burlingame II, why not let them vote for it?
And if they don’t, a little cash on hand never hurts.