Based on information taken from a variety of sources, including the H.B. City Council Candidates Forum held on Sept. 18, as well as from Voice news stories, interviews and from campaign literature provided by the candidates.
Q. How would you speed up construction of the new senior center on 5-acres of land in Central Park?
Issue background: Makar, the developer that agreed to build the senior center in Central Park in lieu of providing park space in its downtown mixed-use development, Pacific City, is behind schedule in construction of the $22 million structure, according to the city’s interpretation (opa-correspondence1)of the Owner Participation Agreement (OPA). The $22 million construction amount (or fee if the developer backs out) is based on an appraisal of the Fair Market Value the Pacific City site, located downtown at PCH and 1st. The city appraised the land for about twice that amount, but a court ruled that its appraiser was under qualified and Makar’s appraisal technique was more accurate (makar-park-fee-arbitration-award2).
The developer argues that due to the legal battle, environmental laws protecting wildlife species located on the site, as well as a citizen lawsuit in progress challenging the senior center Environmental Impact Report (EIR), project delays are justified and it is not obligated to pay up the $22 million. All that exists of Pacific City so far is a very large pit that looks like the result of an asteroid hit.
The senior center project was conceived on shaky grounds to begin from the start when it was presented to voters (who narrowly passed it) in highly vague terms. Opponents say that the city charter requires the city council to pass a detailed project, including the EIR, prior to placing it on the ballot. They also object to spending all of $22 million in one place when all of the city’s parks are in dire need of infrastructure repair that is already way underfunded.
Hansen: Part of it will be ultimately deciding which direction we go with the developer under the obligations of the OPA…it’s almost an either or choice for them at this point: deliver the senior center or write us a $22 million check. But…our financial markets are in complete chaos right now. We have to be aware of what’s going on out there and we have to work with people who are going to put a significant investment in here.
Brandt: I don’t know what recourse there is legally but I think this was done very improperly because I think we should have collected the fees from one project and put those monies in the city coffers. Then we should have got multiple bids for the senior center from at least three contractors and that would have been the right way to approach it.
Note: Brandt is referring to the conflict of interest present by having the developer build a center and then able to keep what is left over in fee money.
Kalmick : We’re expediting something that may never happen because we can’t guarantee that the fees are there. We should move the senior center-because we do need a new senior center-to a new location and then and pay for it with less money out of general funds. Building it in Central Park would set a dangerous precedent.
Bohr: We have to be reasonable. The markets are shaky, the construction money is much different than it was a year ago. So we’re trying to go to the developer and say ‘we understand the situation today, what can you agree to and how can we work together to make you successful sooner rather than later.
Dwyer: I really feel that it’s the city and their delaying tactic over the park in-lieu fees that may have cost us the project because over a year ago capital markets were completely different. I think we need to do everything we can to work with this developer and see this project through so we get our senior center.
Baylis: We need a new senior center, but I think the best way to speed up the construction of the senior center is to find a place that’s not going to cost so much money. There are existing former school sites that could be made available.