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Monday, January 16, 2017

Wareham Development Seeks $3/4 Million Tax Rebate

Wareham Now Wants Retroactive Tax Credit After Transit Center Approval

Wareham Development Corporation, among developers, Emeryville's largest receiver of government largess, is seeking a retroactive rebate and credit of almost $729,000 from the City's developer impact fee schedule for Horton Street's Transit Center because four bus bays associated with the office tower will assist "public transportation facilities", something the developer claims the City agreed to, an argument that will be presented Tuesday.  A reading of the municipal code however negates Wareham's claim, a fact that will be presented by City Hall staff when the City Council considers whether to grant Wareham the tax relief Tuesday night at their regularly scheduled meeting.

The Transit Center
The 165' tall building will have four bus bays 
(hence 'transit').  The City Council overturned the 
Planning Commission who rejected the 
Transit Center because it has 
"too little public benefit". 
The Transit Center, a beleaguered and controversial project, features a 165' tall office building with 250,000 square feet of floor area and (together with it's parking structure across the street) will have almost 900 parking spaces.  It required special density bonuses to be granted to build the main tower over 100', leaving the developer's rebate in jeopardy the City says.   At issue is language in the municipal code that would preclude the City from giving the rebate to Wareham stating, 'no credit shall be provided against impact fees otherwise owed if an applicant has received a development bonus in accordance with the Planning Regulations for providing the specific facility'.
Wareham CEO Rich Robbins
Emeryville's most connected developer.
Not satisfied with all he's gotten from Emeryville 

up until now, he's been lobbying the City Council 
trying to get them to give him another gift of cash
Tuesday at the taxpayers expense. 

A vote by the City Council in Wareham's favor would rack up one more approbation from City Hall for the Transit Center, adding to the well documented litany of favors already showered upon Rich Robbins, Wareham's politically connected CEO.

The Transit Center project has already received indulgences from City Hall in the form of tax relief and forgiveness from codified internal City Hall adverse constraints; the General Plan was amended to exclude the 55 foot height limit at the future Transit Center site to allow for taller buildings there and the City Council put taxpayers on the hook for financing the project with public money by way of unprecedented tax increment financing, a deal that lets Wareham avoid taxes for 12 years that normally that would be paid to City Hall if the developer were to finance the project with his own money.  Additionally, Mr Robbins announced after approval was given for the project he would not remove all the toxic soil from the project site, regardless of former claims to the contrary; the main reason given for the project by former City Councilwoman Nora Davis and her colleagues.  Unabashedly, concerns over the remaining toxic soil on the site triggered Mr Robbins to get the City Council to agree to a 'no lawsuit clause', making it impossible to make the people of Emeryville whole, should a future problem occur.

Mr Robbins, a perennially favored developer with many friends on the former City Council, for years railed against the Horton Street Bike Boulevard, worried the 1800 car trips per day his project will put onto the boulevard would tend to make the City Council, with the public watching, skittish about approval for the project. However the Council has opted instead to ignore the 3000 vehicle trip per day constraints called out in Emeryville's Bike Plan for the street, letting Mr Robbins put all the extra traffic on the street unimpeded, regardless of its bike boulevard status.  Earlier, Mr Robbins incredulously maintained not one project generated car would use Overland Street (part of the Horton Street Bike Boulevard).  The 'not one car' claim was codified into an environmental document prepared for the project called a Mitigated Negative Declaration and was later found to be fraudulent. The claim drew strong condemnation from Jim Martin, the former Chair of the Planning Commission.
Sensing the irony of the glut of traffic generated by the ostensible bus/train project, former City Councilman Ken Bukowski was moved to publicly proclaim the Transit Center more accurately be called the "Automobile Center".  The Planning Commission rejected the Transit Center and then later again, rejected the Transit Center a second time, calling the project 'too short on public benefit', a cause former City Councilwomen Jennifer West and Jac Asher took up in their dissenting votes against the project on the Council.

1 comment:

  1. You've created quite a nice list of all the Wareham infractions over the years with this story. It's like a central repository on Wareham in Emeryville. Thanks Brian for compiling this.