As Elk Grove pursues District56 Elevate lifestyle shopping center, will taxpayer be pickpocketed again?

Obscured during the hullabaloo of the censure controversy during the Wednesday, August 12 Elk Grove City Council meeting, another item was heard during the proceedings that taxpayers should monitor. That item was an update on a proposed lifestyle-center on the property currently owned by Elk Grove taxpayers on Elk Grove Boulevard that is part of the so-called District56 complex.

The lifestyle center update, which the Elk Grove city employees have dubbed Project Elevate, was presented by the city's innovations czar Christopher Jordan. During the presentation, Jordan said the intention is to upgrade shopping options and by extension sales tax revenues in Elk Grove that have historically been big box stores like Walmart and Target and a proliferation lowbrow retailers like Dollar Tree and Elevate Elk Grove's reputation.

The shopping and multi-use center is meant to mimic other upscale developments. Among the developments the city is seeking to imitate are the Fountains in Roseville and Santana Row in San Jose. 

Jordan said the project has several proposed components aside from entertainment venues, dining,  living quarters, and upscale retailers. Those would include a possible hotel and meeting facilities which would encourage visitors to stay at the development for longer periods of time.

"The idea here again that someone can visit for an extended period of time perhaps for a half-day or longer and not just for one simple errand trip running out to grab something at the store," Jordan said.

One of the requirements of the 20-acre project to proceed is that the city must declare this property as surplus because is not being used for civic purposes and seeks proposals from developers. This is where taxpayers need to keep an eye on matters.

Once the parcel is declared surplus, they must first allow other government agencies and qualified housing developers to have first dibs. Given the cozy relations that the city council members have with qualified housing developers, and that it is unlikely the State of California or the federal government will find a need for this property, the city then can pursue other options.

The city council adopted the staff's recommended Wait and See option (see graphic below) which unlike two other possible recommendations does not currently have taxpayers subsidies attached to the proposal. 

In his comments as he recommended Wait and See, Jordan added that the city council may at some point switch to the so-called Early Win option that would require taxpayer subsidies. 

"As things start to change we can begin some informal outreach with potential development partners, and potentially even move quickly into option b [Early Win]with a formal RFQ-RFP process," Jordan said.

Put another way, once the economic effects of the COVID19 subside, Jordan was telling the city council to adopt the Early Win process. Put yet another way, taxpayers should get ready to once again be pickpocketed by developers who contribute money to Elk Grove City Council members. 

Sadly, this should come as no surprise to Elk Grove taxpayers, because if there is one singular thing our city government is really efficient at is giving taxpayer money to multimillionaires and billionaires. For their own parochial political reasons, the Elk Grove City council is par excellence at socializing risk and privatizing profit for their benefactors. 

The prime example of this is the millions of dollars of taxpayer money the city council though the last several years has given Pappas Development for projects including an office building for a State of California agency, and the notorious 20 year-long sales tax kickback they gave them to develop the city's Costco store.

But there is one more dimension worth remembering as it relates to Elevate lifestyle center that suggests the fix might already be in for Pappas and more incentives.   

In reporting from public document requests, in October 2017 Elk Grove economic development director Darrell Doan was already in communication with at least one developer regarding the project. The most revealing item of Doan's email exchange was the acknowledgment that Pappas Development, for political reasons, would have to be given first shot at developing the parcel.
Doan's email said the following:

Ashton thank you so much. This will help us. We met with Pappas today. As expected, politically [sic] we have to give them first crack at being our developer/partner but I think there will be a way to bring in another group (Sywest) that can help get it right. We are going to perfect the RFP/RFQ for a week or so and then ask Pappas to develop their proposal for our consideration. Stay tuned…

Doan understood the city council as it was comprised then and continues through today, kowtows to Pappas Development. In a more oblique manner, it seems Doan's use of the phrase that another development "can help get it right," suggests he has a low opinion of Pappas Development's ability to develop the lifestyle center that the city thinks will make Elk Grove a tourist destination.

Regardless, as the project moves along the process, which could take several years and has an uncertain future giving the changing retail environment if it does proceed there are a couple things to look for. 

First, as Jordan suggested, when the Wait and See scenario is swapped out for the Win Early option, will there be bid-rigging by city staff at the suggestion of the city council to favor Pappas Development?  Will there be a fair and transparent bid process or will the city council deny bids as they have in past ala Downtown Ford and award the project to Pappas Development even if the are not the apparent winner?

Equally as important, especially for Elk Grove taxpayers, is regardless of who wins the bid, how much will be pickpocketed from our purses and wallets. City Council members win, developers win while the taxpayers pay the prices - as they say, two out of three ain't bad.  

Copyright by Elk Grove News © 2020. All right reserved.



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D.J. Blutarsky said...

When it comes to the City business, what you hear ain't exactly what is being said; what you read ain't exactly how it is written; and what you see ain't exactly there!

Take for example, the Aquatic Center. CBS13 news reported yesterday that Roseville is not allowed to open their waterpark because of the COVID. But they said Elk Grove's aquatic center was given permission to open because it was classified as a gym and fitness center. "Quick Lil' Johhny, stop flopping around and start moving your arms in a swimming motion, the state regulators just pulled up!"

Naw, take everything the City says with a grain of salt...

Atticus Finch said...

Does the wait and see also include the flattened ghost mall? The City can't seem or is unwilling to learn from its past mistakes.

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