Hamilton a golden opportunity

Novato Advance, Wednesday, April 12, 1989  

It is less important to redistribute wealth than it is to redistribute opportunity.”

Arthur Vandenberg

 By DWAYNE HUNN

Trying to redistribute wealth is an unfortunate habit America falls to after it misses productive opportunities.

Novato voters should approve Hamilton project with a yes vote on Measure F because It offers a golden opportunity to:

  1. Redevelop a blighted area.
  2. Attract business and generate sales-tax revenues.
  3. Create jobs for some of the 78 percent of Novato residents who commute out of town to work.
  4. 4. Provide funds that would allow up to 1,000 Novato families to ob­tain affordable rental and owner­ship homes.

If voters reject the Hamilton pro­ject, the costs of “doing business as usual” will continue to:

  1. Force long Sonoma commutes that gridlock 101.
  2. Deprive the region of Increasing and balancing the supply of jobs with affordable housing.
  3. Weaken the possibilities of making the train economically viable on the Northwestern Pacific railroad right-of-way.
  4. Allow the military to develop Hamilton, thereby depriving the ci­ty of any economic benefits.

Voting no on Measure F will force future generations to find more expensive means “to redistribute wealth” in order to try to regain today’s present good-planning opportunity. From this perspective I address some of the issues raised by the opponents

The 400-plus acres purchased by Berg-Revolr for $45 million will be a master planned community. Op­ponents unfairly distort Hamilton by comparing It to non-master planned communities where haphazard, piecemeal develop­ment at higher densities has oc­curred

The Hamilton plan calls for 215 residential acres to have 2,550 housing units, only 12 units per acre. Seventy acres have been set aside for parks, open space, lighted bail fields, etc. Woven throughout the project are bike and walking-running paths. Hamilton Field’s boarded-up barracks, unused and rundown

hangars and decaying underground utilities make It a blighted, stagnant area. Hamilton generates no tax revenues for the City of Novato.

Incidentally, do you realize that Novato generates the lowest tax revenue per person of any city In the nine Bay Area counties?

In 1985 the use of redevelopment-agency bond financing was an op­tion available to the purchaser. At that time the cost estimates to Im­prove the freeway, frontage road and add interchanges (which until the Hamilton project have never been required expenditures of a private developer) were $7 million. In 1988 those cost estimates mushroomed to $24 million.

The costs to totally replace sewer, electrical, water utilities, drainage and flood control (Im­provements which benefit the ex­tended Hamilton subregion in­cluding Lanham Village, the mobile-home park and Hamilton School) also increased.

When these escalating redevelopment costs were added to the $33 million of Berg-Revolr site improvement costs, financial logic dictated – that available Novato Redevelopment Agency bond financing be requested.

Opponents claim that using bond financing will steal Novato tax­payers’ dollars. The California Community Redevelopment Act Law refutes that distortion:

    “Blighted areas are an economic and social drag upon the communi­ty and it is good public business to eliminate them. By the adoption of this constitutional amendment it will be made possible for the pro­perty to pay its own way and finance the cost of redevelopment without any additional levy upon the already overburdened taxpayers.”

Project opponents claim there is some deep, dark conspiracy in­volved In redevelopment financ­ing. Opponents must believe that Novato’s city staff, unified school district, sanitary district, fire district and police department as well as every member of the Mann County Board of Supervisors were blindfolded and arm-twisted into giving their support. Do you believe those 3upporters are all a group of “uninformed wimps” or “on the take”?

After every new Hamilton-generated city-service cost —every police, fire, school, park and road personnel or service is paid for — the city will annually receive approximately $165,000 in general revenues for about 30 years while the redevelopment-agency bonds are being paid of off.

Alter the bonds are paid, the city will receive $2 million to $2.5 million per year. In addition, the city’s sales-tai revenues will jump by approximately $500,000 (non­-inflated) per year over the next 30 years.

    Perhaps most importantly, redevelopment-agency financing is estimated to generate $36 million (non-inflated~ or $105 million (inflated) to assist on-site workers In owning or renting at Hamilton.

Recently I analyzed for Novato Ecumenical housing how many low-Income households could be assisted In their desire to live and work on site at Hamilton. By pledg­ing future cash flows from Novato’s RDA housing set-aside funds, 365 (29 percent) of the rental units and 292 (23 percent) of the ownership units could be made af­fordable to low-Income households.

This conservative analysis:

—  Used only 12 of the projected 30 years of redevelopment-agency financing that are mandated for af­fordable housing.

—  Used Mann’s criteria for defining low-Income households (3.5-person household earning $32,000) to determine how many ownership units could be purchas­ed.

What does this mean to the traf­fic scare that opponents constantly throw at the public to get them to oppose the project? It means those potentially long traffic lines can be drastically reduced because Novato RDA housing set-aside funds were not considered in tabulating the traffic effects under the environmental impact report.

The EIR also did not consider the 101 traffic-reducing impact of hav­ing a commute train operate on the rail tracks that run through the middle of the Hamilton project.

A yes vote on Measure F can set the tone for how land owners up and down the rail line develop. On­ly by abandoning suburban sprawl development in favor of pedestrian pocket communities along the rail line will Mann and Sonoma ever offer people the opportunity to escape the gridlocking single-occupant vehicle.

Only by voting with a vision for the future that provides diversity and opportunity for all can Mann really have it all.

Please listen to those who want to educate you on Hamilton’s social and environmental benefits. Golden opportunities seldom knock twice.

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