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Letter to the Editor: CSUS Would Shore Up Belmont's Troubled Budget

A 26-year Belmont resident says the controversy surrounding the CSUS proposed middle school campus is blown out of proportion.

Dear Editor ~

My family and I, 26 year residents of Belmont Heights,
would be delighted to have CSUS join our community,
and are grateful for its additions to our educational offerings,
as a good citizen, and bearer of financial support beyond
our wildest dreams.

Any school in any location always brings added benefits
to the neighborhood - I've always wished I could bring my
children up next door to a school - with all those wonderful
playgrounds and happy children - what a positive environment
with great icons for little people growing up.

How lucky can we get to have CSUS volunteer to shore up our
troubled budget with a $1MM gift to the City's General Fund?
As well as a $250K/year recurring payment - more than doubling
the current revenue from that unoccupied site which we have not
been able to fill for so many years?!  We in Belmont would benefit
from its being one of if not the highest revenue-generating sites
in the entire town.  Who are we trying to kid - this is FABULOUS!!!

The controversy surrounding this potential new neighbor feels blown
up out of all proportion, and we so hope to take the blind "no change"
mentality and emotion out of the debate.  Do we want Belmont to slide
backwards with such heavy financial burdens?  Do we want that building
site to continue unoccupied from now 'til kingdom come?  Do we not
have enough to do that we can spend so much time trumping up issues
that make CSUS sound like ogres?  Let's come clean and be grateful for
this once in many lifetimes opportunity and welcome this wonderful new
neighbor - who has already done so much for many Belmont families!!
We're all in this together :)

Elsa Schafer Raval and Family

P.S. One of our closest neighbors who's taken great care of us through
thick and thin had both their children graduate as valedictorians of both
their CSUS classes - please realize how important a part of CSUS Belmont
has been for decades.

Steve Hayes September 21, 2012 at 05:20 PM
Hi Coralin I think you should remind everyone that you have already stated that you (one council person) have agreed to share CSUS contributions with the two school districts. So it is likely the schools will get much more money than they do today, assuming the deal is approved and two other council people are as reasonable as you are. Of course the deal must be structured so the City does not have to do anything against the CA Constitution. As for polls I agree the polls are not scientific, but the only one that was clearly biased was the one in the SMDJ. The SMDJ editor sent me a message yesterday and confirmed the results were 60/40 in favor of the proposal on the first day of the poll but over the weekend 500-600 votes came against the proposal. The editor said the number of votes over the weekend were well beyond the norm and it was obvious one or more people were trying to manipulate the results.
Timothy E. Strinden September 21, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Steve, There probably would be more people reading the Daily Journal and participating in the poll over the weekend, when they have more free time, so why is that a surprise? Why does that show manipulation? Also, if there was manipulation of the Daily Journal poll, why didn't the same highly-motivated people manipulate the Belmont Patch poll?
Steve Hayes September 21, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Tim As I stated, the editor of the SMDJ concluded the results were manipulated. He said normally a poll count is about 300 and when it goes past that you have to question the results. Also the fact that so many votes over the weekend was not normal.
Coralin Feierbach September 21, 2012 at 06:23 PM
To Steve Hayes, As a separate item from voting for/against CSUS, I would give part of the $250,000 to the various agencies. That vote needs to be a separate vote from the CSUS vote since you know my stand on CSUS. To Mary Beth, Belmont is not anti anything. It looks at each application as it comes. Until our Redevelopment agency got dissolved we had made arrangements with Bohannon to build hotels and offices on Shoreway Road in Belmont. That is not anti-business. We are currently negotiating with Sares-Regis developer for Firehouse Square - I hope that will work out well as long as know step by step how it is going along. Remember, there were residents very against Shalizar Restaurant and it got built anyway. And now Shailzar is finishing up another building right next door. We had purchased a lot of land downtown for future redevelopment (housing,businesses etc) but since the state took away our redevelopment agency, we have to rethink what to do with that land. If the council votes against CSUS it doesn't mean that it is anti-business - they may have their reasons (staff reports, planning commission recommendations, traffic reports, public input etc). If the council votes for CSUS, then again they have their reasons which I am sure they will make them known at the time. One thing to remember, we have only one East/West artery, Ralston Ave, the more we add to that traffic the worse it gets until stagnation happens for all businesses and residents.
bystander2 September 21, 2012 at 06:33 PM
well there you have it...please residents in favor of CSUS show up, make yourselves heard, email, call. send letters, make a stand, make a stand for what is right as it seems to me that the people need to be heard and make themselves impossible to ignored by the politicians....
Steve Hayes September 21, 2012 at 06:36 PM
I agree with Mary Beth, Belmont is anti business and a no vote against CSUS will further reinforce that image. However, I understand people may have different perspectives about our image. I would like to see a poll on that specific issue and it is so important the City should do a scientific poll so there is no confusion about the result. That poll should compare Belmont to RWC, SC and SM. We should get a clear understanding about where we are and thne decide what to do about it.
Justin September 21, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Steve--you're normally a pretty intelligent guy, but your sweeping generalization of "Belmont is anti business and a no vote against CSUS will further reinforce that image" is a bit much. A CSUS denial in no way means that Belmont is anti-business. We have a Five Guys coming, a Mercedes dealership, thriving Safeways, Peets, Starbucks, and more. Even a Panda Express (yuk). You can't compare Belmont to other cities, as we're the only peninsula city without a "Main Street." San Carlos has completely OVERdeveloped Laurel Street. There is no parking, restaurants spilling out onto the sidewalk, and residents who can't even park on their own street. I don't even go there anymore because it's so congested.
Coralin Feierbach September 21, 2012 at 07:04 PM
Justin, I agree with you. I love downtown Laurel Street in San Carlos but it is over-loved. I don't go there any longer either - parking is difficult at best and I don't like to park in the neighborhoods either - not fair to them. It has achieved critical mass. San Mateo and Redwood City are big cities with a lot of businesses. They and Belmont are incomparable. I think Belmont was originally designed as a residential town way back when in the 20's and 30's. Lots in the downtown are very small and it is hard to consolidate them. That is why the city purchased with redevelopment funds quite a few lots to consolidate them and allow developers to create an interesting downtown. Safeway plans on replacing the downtown store with a new, bigger one with a lot of interesting stores around it. I'm all for that. The anti-business is an old myth repeated over and over again. As far as Belmont is concerned, i'm sure we will have some even more pleasant business surprises in the near future. One thing we have that other cities don't have as much: 350 acres of open space for everyone to enjoy. That is pretty neat I think, don't you?
Tim Hoffman September 21, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Justin wrote: "I don't even go there anymore because it's so congested." Ms. Feierbach wrote: "I don't go there any longer either - parking is difficult at best and I don't like to park in the neighborhoods either..." I think Yogi Berra said it better... (No offence in this post intended -- just couldn't get out of my head my favorite Yogi line: "nobody goes there anymore it's too crowded") ;o)
Coralin Feierbach September 21, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Tim, Many people go there but it is over crowded. I like your Yogi Berra saying! I'm not saying other people don't frequent San Carlos - they do in abundance! It's thriving well! But look, want to compare other things? We have our own fire dept, they don't and are having difficulty hiring new fire personnel. We have our own police dept. they depend on the county's sheriff dept. These are just a few things. Belmont was just not designed right in the first place - that is why we have been trying to correct it by purchasing small lots in downtown for future consolidation.
Steve Hayes September 21, 2012 at 07:17 PM
Justin - that is just my opinion, but I am pretty sure it is true. Belmont completely alienated most of the Harbor area businesses - what caused that? Shalizar, for example, wanted an outdoor eating area and it was foolishly rejected by our Planning Commission - it happened again with Cafe Mossant. We do have nice grocery stores, but food does not generate sales taxes. BTW I never have any problem parking around Laurel St. and I like the outdoor dining. Again, it is an important issue and a good poll would end the debate and give us a clear answer.
Bob September 21, 2012 at 08:48 PM
I have been watching this argument and engaging from time to time. Then it hit me when someone mentioned CSUS will be a huge project valued at $30million. I thought wow that will probably be the largest entity in Belmont with the exception of Notre Dame. I checked the assessed value of Notre Dame it came in at $32.5 M and pays no taxes. CSUS will be $30 million and also not be paying taxes. Sure they have an agreement to pay $250K but then as many are tossing out property rights, those rights include the sale of property. A simple change of title would release CSUS from any deal. The school building and non profit status would remain. I am glad Belmont can afford to pass on the taxes in perpetuity, I imagine we should be free from any bond measures in the near future.
Heidi Hagler September 24, 2012 at 08:51 PM
I'm wondering if we could get some clarification. Steve Hayes said that Ms. Feierbach would "share CSUS contributions with the two school districts." But Ms. Feierbach says she would give "part of the $250,000 to the various agencies." The two school districts are starved for money and it's my vote (like I have one) that they should get a substantial financial boost if CSUS comes in, both from the $1M and the annual $250,000. So my question is, what are the "various other agencies" that are referenced and what exactly would the plan be, for that additional income?I'm imagining a day when no necessary basic school programs are required to rely on School Force/Save the Music for their year to year survival. As an aside, my daughter is a high school senior and my son's in college so the decision won't impact my family directly. It just strikes me as the right thing to do. And indeed this is getting the cart before the horse but I'm still curious.
Bob September 24, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Ms Feierbach said she would vote to share the funds. She is one of 5 votes and can only say for certain how she would vote. The City on the other hand has it's own laundry list of things that need to get done and shortages. I can see the city offering up money on occasion but anything more would be irresponsible with the task they are obligated to do. Police, Fire, and Parks and Rec are just a few. In my opinion with the current number of homes and cars burglarized Police could use some assistance. That assistance won't come cheap.
J.P. September 24, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I don't understand the claims that Belmont is anti-business. This seems a bit of an oversimplification, based largely on political ideology. A restaurant or two are denied expansion and, suddenly, all potential investors refuse to invest in the town? If that were true, prices would fall sufficiently so that businesses would eventually come to Belmont because it is cheaper than neighboring towns. The fact is that Belmont is sandwiched between several other existing downtowns - San Mateo, San Carlos, and RWC. The sad fact of the current economy is that there isn't enough discretionary spending in the area to support another downtown, especially in a hilly community where so few are able to walk downtown. Another challenge for retail in Belmont is the high mix of college students and seniors, both of whom are lower spenders.
ronny September 25, 2012 at 12:23 AM
KB Builders just turned a profit this week for the first time since 2008. All the largest home builder stocks are up based on revenue growth. There is a real estate turnaround occuring right now. This area will be a big beneficiary in the near future. This is why I strongly believe this proposal sells Belmont short. Good arguments Tim and Tim. Charles, yes they can change their mind if the agreement gets overturned by new councilpersons.
ronny September 25, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Or...we can do some projections based on facts, not emotion. With just a small amount of planning, this prime location could be a home of any expanding tech firm or VC.
ronny September 25, 2012 at 12:36 AM
Any dialog for or against based on Internet polls is absurd. The error rate is so high, no serious pollster or data collection entity would use it. The industry norm is +/- 3% maximum. These polls can be manipulated by either multiple family email addresses or multiple family devices reflecting multiple unique device IDs, gang communication or plain old hacking. Let's move on.
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Ok, let me try again. The $250,000/year that CSUS would give the city is divided in two parts: Part I: $116,000/year is needed by the city for maintenance of CSUS (police etc) Part II: $134,000/year that I would support to go the various agencies and school districts THAT ARE CURRENTLY RECEIVING THAT MONEY from 8 and 10 Davis Dr. now. One would be the library which is receiving $5000/year for example. I would vote for this on a separate item for I will not support CSUS from going to Davis Dr. I have made my position very clear. There is a fly in the ointment: Let's say that CSUS gets the yes vote to go forward and they purchase the property of 8 and 10 Davis Dr. asap. Well the question is, when will CSUS start paying the $250,000/year? After the school is finished? When? As soon as they purchase the properties or after they are finished completing the project? I have to look at the Development agreement again.
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 01:06 AM
I need to clarify something: The City cannot give any money to these various agencies like the school district etc because it would be a gift of public funds. So I would support that the city keep the $116,000 and CSUS can distribute the $134,000 the way it wishes. My feeling is that CSUS should distribute the remaining $134,000 to the school districts and agencies that are now receiving the money from 8 and 10 Davis Dr. from the general property taxes of 8 and 10 Davis Dr.
Heidi Hagler September 25, 2012 at 02:57 AM
Thank you for the clarification Ms. Feierbach and I apologize for making you go through it again. I'm sure the information was already presented but I'm new to the challenges of city governance so your patience is appreciated. Is the original $1M also already earmarked or would it be handled in the same way as above (some to the city for dealing with the school and some to be given by CSUS, allocated by them)? Is that allocation in the Development Agreement? As to when CSUS would start paying, is this a "fly" or just another question to be asked (if it isn't in the Development Agreement already)?
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 03:39 AM
Hello Heidi, I will get the Development Agreement and try to post it on Patch. I hope to get it tomorrow - I know it is in our city's email but I need to create someway for all to see. The 1M is up to the city council. You know, every council person has their favorite spending place, mine is the astro turfing the fields at the Sports Center and fixing up Barrett Park. Others may want to avoid sewer bonds again and use that money for that. So that 1M can be spent in many places! It can go on and on. Thank you for writing so kindly Heidi! Just to answer another question, I don't believe the 1M is earmarked but I think that would go directly to the city's general fund. Otherwise there would be nothing left of the 1M and the $250,000 if it were to get spent in many other places. Stay tuned - I will try to see if I can get a link to the Development Agreement unless CSUS has already placed it on Patch.
Barbra Green September 25, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Dear Council Member Feierbach: Question please...If you are an elected official, then that by definition you are not required to implement the will of the people? , why do you consistently personalize this issue with the words "I" and "my opinion" and "my preference"...? is it not about you but about the people? If the clear majority of people want CSUS and education, and the people want the very much needed funds provided for schools facing cuts and maybe even to help other services in need (see below), and are satisfied with the mitigation of other issue like traffic, why would you not vote in favor? Sorry but it does not make sense to me but then again i am coming in late to this problem Garbage rates set to go higher in Belmont September 25, 2012, 05:00 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 01:22 PM
Dear Barbara, It is not necessarily the will of the people to want CSUS on DAvis Dr. Where did you get that information? Patch poll? Unscientific. CSUS, on their own webpage, asks people to write positive remarks on Belmont Patch. see http://www.csus.org/belmont?rc=0 I hear both sides, no and yes, not just yes, not just no. Council is elected to make this decision. Four other council people have not spoken how they feel.
Steve Hayes September 25, 2012 at 03:49 PM
To be perfectly transparent Coralin made up her mind a long time ago. Back on Aug 23 she said in the SMDJ "Money doesn’t buy my vote. If a project is wrong, if it’s in the wrong place, it affects the neighborhood,” said Feierbach, who added she would welcome the project on the east side of Highway 101." That comment and her decision were made before most of the community had an opportunity to read the offer and weeks before the City Council presentation. Coralin did say the project would be ok on the other side of 101, knowing that would have the same impact on our property tax base as the Davis Dr. location. Besides there is no space for a school on the other side of 101 so it was sort of an empty offer. The claim that "I hear both sides, no and yes, not just yes, not just no" also seems somewhat empty bcause she has been listening with a closed mind - she already decided. One thing is undeniable Council is elected to make this decision, however we get to judge that decision in November 2013 when Coralin and two other members of the Council come up for election. Nobody will be able to say that poll is unscientific.
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 04:23 PM
Steve, You are right - whoever runs for election in 2013 will use CSUS (pro and con side) for their own election issue, just like it was done for the last election. Who knows who is going to run again? This tine I'm not saying anything about running or not. Warden, Lieberman and I are all up for re-election in 2013. You know that there are already candidates that will want to replace us. So be it. I hope there will be very good people who will be willing to run just in the case that one, two or three of us decide not to run.
Steve Hayes September 25, 2012 at 04:58 PM
I hope the 2013 will bring out more voters. It is a shame that many of elections bring out less than half of the registered voters. There are important things happening at the City Council level of government and our residents should register their opinion. BTW I admire your dedication to public service but I sometimes disagree with your decisions/direction - too much focus on regulating our lives and not enough focus on making Belmont a more self sustaining vibrant community.
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Hi Steve, Well, I guess you and i disagree most of the time on issues. (However I agree with you on your Obama comment, - everything he does gets turned to a negative) It's ok - I don't mind, you bring out some good points that makes me think twice. Also you use your real name. I really appreciate that. I suppose I do like a clean neat town - before I got on the council we had very little code enforcement. I believe in making this town as nice as it can be. It still has a lot to go. I did a lot to save our open spaces. That makes the town really nice too. Lots of people don't vote - that is sad. They have the opportunity to vote absentee - how easy is that? I would like Belmont to be a more vibrant community - downtown is dismal. That's why the redevelopment agency purchased all those properties downtown and I voted for those purchases! Don't you think the Sares-Regis development potential of Firehouse Square could bring vibrancy to our community? Don't you think the expansion of Safeway downtown will also be vibrant? I do as long as it doesn't get everyone upset and we are back to a divided community AND nothing gets done again. I have been a strong exponent of real nice downtown re-development that is livable - not 5-6 story buildings. Let's hope the Safeway project and the Firehouse Square project comes to some fruition. It's time. Sounds like a 2013 election speech, NO, NOT AT ALL! FAR FROM IT! Nice to communicate with you Steve!
Tim Hoffman September 25, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Steve- You wrote: "I hope ... 2013 will bring out more voters. It is a shame that many of elections bring out less than half of the registered voters." By "less than half", you unfortunately mean around 30% for a typical Belmont election. It was something like 32% and 28% for the last two, respectively. And even then, not everyone votes for all races on the ballot. Over 320 voters last November -- seven percent of the total -- didn't bother to mark a box for either candidate for City Clerk. What does that even mean? I'm optimistic for next year, though. Three open Council seats and a perhaps a crucial vote to keep the local schools solvent should make for a bigger-than-average turnout.
Coralin Feierbach September 25, 2012 at 07:42 PM
For all interested persons on the CSUS issue: This is on Belmont's website: The offer made by CSUS to the city: http://www.belmont.gov/Upload/Document/D240008719/CSUS%20CC%20Offer%20Letter%208-20-12.pdf The other staff information dealing with CSUS is at this link: http://belmont.gov/SubContent.asp?CatId=240002457&C_ID=240005023 Hope this helps!

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