San Carlos Real Estate Agent, San Carlos Realtor Development: It May Be a Necessity for San Carlos | The White Oaks Blog

Development: It May Be a Necessity for San Carlos

by Chuck Gillooley

Small Town Feel vs Big Time Deficit

It’s ironic…the very thing that many San Carlos residents have steadfastly resisted over the years — large scale development — may turn out to be the bootstrap that pulls this town out of its financial woes.   For many years, San Carlos has resisted any type of large residential or retail developments for fear that it would erode the “small-town feel” that makes San Carlos a unique place to live.  Certainly, it has only been in the last decade or so that big-box retailers like Best Buy and Home Depot have made any headway into San Carlos, and that’s only on the east side of El Camino.  The west side still remains largely devoid of any retail chain outlets (excluding Starbucks, of course.)

But the current financial crisis in San Carlos may force us to re-think that position.

Cut Costs, or Raise Revenue

At the risk of over-simplification, those are the only two ways to erase a budget deficit.   Let’s take a look at the former — cutting costs.  The City of San Carlos has cut its budget each of the past 11 years, and is now at a point where it has chosen to disband its own police department to save money.   A similar disintegration of our fire department is certainly right around the corner too, as soon the Belmont-San Carlos Fire JPA concludes its divorce proceeding in 2011.

But even after cannibalizing itself, the City will be lucky if it can stay in the black for any significant period of time.  Note to the City Council:  Despite your pipe dream that outsourcing public safety will be provide endless years of savings, the cost of these contracts will go up.  Count on it.  The cost of living always goes up — it never goes down.  So we may very likely be right back at the same table in a few years wondering where that $2M in police savings went.

Raise revenue?   If you’re talking about taxes, there are only two ways to raise revenue — increase the rate that you tax, or increase the gross tax dollars that you take in.   San Carlos residents have made no mystery about their opinion of higher sales tax with the defeat of Measure U, and the Fire Parcel Tax a few years back.  So if a higher tax rate isn’t the solution, the City needs to bring in more raw tax dollars.

And that’s where development comes in, whether we like it or not.

Times Have Changed

The quaint, small town model that has supported San Carlos over the past 85-ish years may not apply any longer.  And San Carlos is not alone in this quandary.  Virtually every other city on the Peninsula is facing the same reality.  Only Colma seems to enjoy a sizable budget surplus, largely because they have lots of dead people and lots of shopping malls ;-).    San Carlos won’t need to take that extreme of a measure, but look for development projects such as Wheeler Plaza, and the Transit Village to take on renewed interest with City Hall and residents alike, as the Town of San Carlos grapples to stay financially afloat in the new economy.
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Development: It May Be a Necessity for San Carlos, 2.5 out of 5 based on 3 ratings
Comments 10
  • What is not pointed out is that development won’t necessarly solve the spending problem. I think any citizen-approved development must include a mandate to the city that it budget and spend responsibly, possibly through the establishment of a rainy-day fund and/or caps on annual budgetary increases across all city departments and services. It’s too easy to spend all the money it has during the boom times. And while we’re busy undoing the small-town feel of our city let’s at least get something to help make up for it in the form of endowments from developers for parks & rec, SCSD, etc.

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  • Chuck,
    This post is so ridiculous, it really deserves a slow-clap. Of course costs will always rise! But, how does the $2 million in savings disappear? If the Sherriff’s budget is 6.8 million and the SCPD is at 8.8 million, the savings for the first year are $2 million. Let’s imagine two scenarios. The first is that the Sherriff’s office increases its bill by 5%, the second is that the City Department remains and it increases by 5%. In the second year of the contract the Sherriff’s bill would be $7,140,000 and the SCPD budget would be $9,240,000 so the city would be saving $2,1000,000 in the second year. In the third year the sherriff’s bill would be $7,497,000 and the SCPD budget would be $9,702,000 for a total savings with the sherriff of $2,205,000. So the savings still remain! It is middle school math!

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    • Ridiculous? Really… You missed the entire point of the post.

      First, though, your point about the Sheriff’s contract. Bear in mind that the $2M number is gleaned from a very basic service proposal. There’s no overtime factored in, nor any provisions for additional expenditures (staffing, additional equipment.) Those additional costs always eat into anticipated savings — that’s reality. That’s probably why the City Council has already declared that there is much more negotiation and fine-tuning that must be done before they award this proposal to the SM County Sheriff. Check with other communities that outsourced their police (and fire) departments. It’s well documented that many cities who chose this path either a) didn ‘t achieve the savings they anticipated or b) weren’t happy with the service. Not condemning the Sheriff’s Dept here, but this is always a possibility. Only time will tell after the new contract is in place.

      But the premise of this post is that the City will need to find ways to increase its tax revenue in the long term to stay in the black. Do you disagree with this basic statement too? San Carlos has repeatedly shot down any attempts to increase taxes. That’s a fact. So what’s left? If increasing tax revenue through aggressive development isn’t the answer, then please provide us with your solution…without posting under “anonymous”, of course.

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      • Isn’t the $2 million savings based on a Sheriff’s proposal that doesn’t include a full-time captain here in San Carlos? Their own consultant said that would be a mistake. Andy Klein said we have to have the same or better service; let’s see what that will cost.

        We certainly need to increase revenue, but it will take a lot of development. Because we get such a small percentage of the property tax, we have to have a lot of development to bring in serious money. A Target store with smaller stores around it would bring in about $500,000/year according to Mark Weiss but would require 5 acres, which we don’t have. Unless we allowed it between Industrial and 101 south of Holly, which we won’t unless we change our General Plan. John Baer had a project over there that would have brought in money and attracted more redevelopment to the area, but the city shot it down. Andy Klein fought it in GPAC and is now on the council. If we’re going to continue to let the desk jockies retire at 55 with full medical, we’re going to have to build several of those every year.

        Of course the council overlooked the General Plan when it approved In-n-Out, so maybe that won’t be a problem.

        The reaction to Target in this town is, eeeeeeeewwwww! Well folks, our dollars are going to Redwood City and San Mateo because we don’t have any stores in SC that sell affordable kids’ clothes and shoes, towels, sheets, etc.

        If PG&E sells their parcel on Industrial it will be a big space, but will the city allow it to be developed? Some want it for a sports complex; they don’t say how they’re going to pay for the land, let alone the sports complex.

        People like Andy and Randy are willing to cannibalize city services in order to keep the precious nature of the town. Let’s face it, precious is down town, not east of Industrial. They’re willing to pay for a Director of Parks and Rec even when they’ve cut his employees to a dozen or less.

        They have an agenda and they’re going to ram it through, whether it makes sense or not.

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        • Pat,
          As always you are underinformed. The $6.8 million proposal includes a captain, the $6.3 million proposal which would save $2.5 mllion does not include a captain. Also, the Baer proposal was voted down 5-0 in the Planning commission, not the GPAC. That proposal was opposed by staff and could have jeopardized our industrial area, which you are all for!

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          • Andy Anon,

            As usual, you never miss an opportunity to attack me, whether you have reason or not.

            The first sentence in my post is a question, not a statement.

            It is interesting that you are trying to distance yourself from your GPAC chairmanship, of which you have always been so proud, even though you nominated yourself and no one else wanted the job.

            There has never been a shred of evidence that the Baer project would have jeopardized our industrial area.

            Are you still in favor of In-n-Out, which flies in the face of all the GPAC talk about protecting our neighborhoods?

            You might as well have signed your name; this one is just too transparent to deny.

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  • As part of staying in the black, we need to seriously look at selling some valuable properties. It has been suggested by quite a few on this blog that selling Crestview Park and the Adult Center on SC Ave. might bring in some badly needed bucks. In the case of Crestview Park, it should be rezoned to allow apartments/townhouses to be built. Wheeler Plaza and the Transit Village are excellent starters.

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    • This is the dumbest thing I’ve read in quite some time – do you ever get out of your cave Guiseppe? Are you possibly aligned with Matt Grocutt?

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  • Are we sure that additional development will bring about a net increase in revenue to the City?
    Will City costs go up with increased development?
    So are we sure the increased revenue from greater development will offset the costs associated with new development?
    In terms of retail, that may be the case.
    In terms of residential development that may not be the case – more houses, more condos, and more residents will bring greater demand on City services and schools.

    Chuck – you are right – outsourcing to County does not eliminate the problem of the demand by most government employees, whether City or County, of annual salary and benefit increases. The budget issue isn’t what uniform our public safety officers wear. The issue is we have continued to give government employees annual increases of 4% to 5% every year despite going thru the WORST recession in my lifetime. That is the fundamental problem.

    Until we stop doing this, no city, county, or state will EVER have enough money. Until we stop giving public employees better retirement packages than available to 95% of all OTHER – ie – non government employees – Americans employed in the private sector, we will not have enough money.

    I submit that if the salary and benefit packages of all government employees were rolled back to 2006 or 2007 levels, most if not all of these budget defecits at the City, County, and State levels would disappear.

    Now some will scream this is unfair.
    But in truth, Millions of Americans have been out of work for several years, Millions of Americans have had their salary reduced in order to keep their jobs and Millions of Americans have had to work harder for the same income to handle the work of employees laid off in the private sector.
    Is that fair?

    Every day we see, more and more public employee unions agreeing to rollbacks. This should have started several years ago but late is better than never.

    This is the fundamental and ONLY answer to the financial issues facing all levels of government. The sooner we deal with it, the better for all.

    Mant try to present this issue as either:

    Less Service or Higher Taxes

    That is not the only choice.

    We can maintain service levels without higher taxes if total compensation for public employees is brought back in line with what has happened economically in the private sector.

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    • I submit that there are numerous options, not just fewer services vs. highter taxes. Certainly there are more options than the two paths proposed by the City Manager and swallowed hook, line, and sinker by the majority of the council.

      If we combine employee give-backs with higher fees for things like the Youth Center, pension reform (the biggest money pit), fewer managers (Parks and Rec has a Director for a department of 12 people), etc. we might still need a tax for something we want, but we’d have a sustainable, livable city. The possibilities are infinite if you combine different amounts for different categories.

      My complaint is that the majority of the council did not consider any of these options; they just followed obediently down the city manager’s preferred path. If the city manager is going to make the decisions, why have a council? Three of them are rubber stamps for his agenda and ignore the input of citizens. In all these months of public comment, they’ve only gotten a handful of supporters for outsourcing the police department, and none for outsourcing fire and the rest of their agenda.

      Little League offered to take over field maintenance months ago. What happened to that offer? The city didn’t take them up on it, did they? So don’t whine about the lack of money for parks and rec.

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