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Letter to the Editor: Resident Rebuts Letter From CSUS Proponents

"Many residents opposed to the CSUS project have lived in Belmont for years, raised children, and run businesses, yet they are adamantly opposed to this diminution of our unique Belmont quality of life." Joe Brennan

Dear Editor:

Rebuttal to the October 2012 letter sent to Belmont homeowners by seven residents:

They said:

"We have lived in Belmont for years. We’ve raised children, owned homes, and run businesses here. We have also been engaged in Belmont civic and community activities at all levels. We want you to know why we—and many fellow residents—are excited about Crystal Springs Uplands School’s proposal to turn a vacant office site on Davis Drive into a beautiful, green middle school campus that benefits our community. We are not receiving any personal benefit and are not directly connected to the school. We simply care deeply about Belmont and its future."

Fact:

Many residents opposed to the CSUS project have lived in Belmont for years, raised children, and run businesses, yet they are adamantly opposed to this diminution of our unique Belmont quality of life. Also, the authors leave out the contract that CSUS has had with the seller of the buildings for the last few years that prevented it from being rented or purchased. We who are opposed to the CSUS project also care deeply about Belmont and its future; that's why we are opposed.

They said:

"First, we believe that the use of this site for a middle school is an excellent and better use than commercial alternatives. The campus will have a lower intensity than potential commercial uses of the property. Crystal Springs will significantly reduce the square footage of the buildings, remove hardscape, construct energy efficient buildings and install an all-weather soccer field to which the community will have access. Also, the majority of the owners or property representatives of neighboring commercial buildings on Davis Drive support the proposal."

Fact:

It is the authors' opinion, not shared by many residents, that the school is an excellent and better use than commercial alternatives. Ask current owners of businesses on Davis Drive who do not have a conflict of interest involving the seller and CSUS.

They said:

"Second, the financial benefits to Belmont are substantial. Crystal Springs’ guaranteed annual payment of $250,000 ensures fiscal neutrality to the City of Belmont and exceeds current tax revenue collected from the site. This is enough to allow the Belmont school district to not suffer from loss of property taxes, and is also likely higher than what alternative commercial tenants would provide. Crystal Springs has been in business 60 years, and this annual payment is a phenomenal opportunity to secure a stable long-term revenue stream. Crystal Springs is also offering a one-time payment of $1 million that Belmont can use to make a real difference to its infrastructure, services,
parks, and schools. In addition, building the campus will inject $33 million into the local economy, creating 200 new jobs as a result of the construction in Belmont and boosting economic activity."

Fact:

What the authors failed to mention is when the $250K payment will be made (If one year after the school opens, that could mean 3 years). Also, the 2% cap on cost-of-living increases could spell financial disaster for the City in high-inflation times that seem inevitable. The increase in the City's $116K cost of services to the proposed campus could EXCEED the CSUS annual payments! The $250K payment, after deducting the City's cost of $116K to service the proposed campus, is more like $134K net to the City that probably would be shared with County schools and facilities. Taxes from businesses, especially new ones, seems like more secure revenues for the City. The financial security of Belmont could be impacted by a liability forever created by a tax-exempt property; would this potential forever annual liability be worth a $5.12 benefit to each Belmont resident?

Also, the $1M one-time offer by CSUS is due one year after the proposed campus would open, which would make it at least 3 years in the future, which would lower the value to close to 800K. It stretches the average imagination to think that this payment will make a real difference to Belmont's infrastructure, services, parks, and schools in a city of 26,147 residents - approximately $30.50 per resident!

The claim of the campus injecting $33M into the local economy, creating 200 jobs, and boosting economic activity has been completely debunked in prior Internet postings as Black-Magic accounting by the Belmont Chamber of Commerce. Shame on the authors for repeating these assertions.

They said:

"We are convinced that the benefits of the proposal overcome the concerns that have been raised. We know that any business that moves into the Davis Drive office park will generate traffic, but Crystal Springs has a long history of being a considerate, quiet neighbor in a completely residential area. It is planning an early start time to avoid overlap with Ralston Middle School and peak commuting hours. Belmont’s own studies confirm that the school will not have a material impact on existing Ralston Avenue traffic issues. Plus, the school has agreed to long-term monitoring to make sure that its traffic never becomes an issue. It’s hard to imagine a commercial business doing the same."

Fact:

What the authors left out is that the original and corrected traffic surveys were suspect because of gross errors, and the latest correction is again being reviewed by the City's traffic consultant. The statement the school will not have a material impact on existing Ralston Avenue traffic is wishful conjecture by the authors. The results of the traffic survey will be in the staff report.

They said:

"You can learn more about the Crystal Springs proposal and its benefits to Belmont’s residents at www.csus.org/belmont.

The City Council will consider the project in October. We encourage you to add your voice to the many supporters who have already spoken and ask our elected representatives to approve this project. You can email the Council members at CityCouncil@Belmont.gov. This is important for Belmont’s future!

Thank you for taking the time to understand the huge benefits to Belmont of approving the Crystal Springs project."

Fact:

Thank you for taking the time to evaluate the negative effects of the CSUS project on the citizens of Belmont that the authors left out and decide for yourself if the alleged CSUS benefits are exaggerations, misstatements or just wishful thinking.

They said:

"Paid for with private funds by Belmont schools parents and by Crystal Springs
parents."

Fact:

It would be interesting to know how much tax-exempt money has been spent on Public Relations for this project by CSUS, and if the so-called "private funds" by parents are tax deductible because that would mean that the taxpayers are also funding the CSUS project. Also, they say they are not affiliated with CSUS, yet this was paid for by CSUS parents - seemingly a distinction without a difference.

Joseph A. Brennan
2836 Wakefield Drive
Belmont, CA 94002-2935

Timothy E. Strinden October 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM
George, while the figures of $33 million and 200 jobs may be valid, you acknowledge they are estimates for the county, not Belmont. Have you posted anywhere how much of the $33 million and 200 jobs would benefit Belmont, and how that was calculated?
Steve Hayes October 20, 2012 at 05:12 PM
Regardless of what spin people want to put on the $33 million figure, the property is currently providing ZERO benefit to the community. Belmont will certainly receive much more benefit than ZERO if the CSUS proposal is accepted.
Jeff Selman October 21, 2012 at 05:34 AM
Mr. Brennan notes above: "The results of the traffic survey [being reviewed by the City's traffic consultant] will be in the staff report." Here is the review of those results as submitted yesterday to the City by its traffic consultant and attached to the staff report. "At the request of the City of Belmont, Crane Transportation Group has peer reviewed the . . . memorandum report . . . prepared by Hexagon Transportation Consultants, Inc. to address City Council comments and concerns detailed by Crane Transportation Group in a Work Task Memorandum . . . for the City of Belmont. The report follows industry standards, employing current field data and valid use of modeling. In combination with the Traffic Analysis, the Hexagon study is considered to provide sound methodology, based on field data and observations that reasonably depict the traffic impacts of the project, and provide reasonable procedures for follow-up mitigation as needed for future traffic conditions. The report substantiates a finding of no significant impact to traffic based upon City impact significance criteria. The analysis demonstrates that the project would not adversely affect traffic operations along Ralston Avenue. Key to this is the proposed start-time of the CSUS campus (7:45 AM), which removes CSUS project traffic from the morning Ralston Middle School traffic backups (8:05 – 8:20). Mitigation measures are tied to monitoring as growth occurs."
Rob October 21, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Thanks Jeff for the above. I've been waiting for Joe Brennan's new revised traffic report and it looks like there isn't a problem at all. The City Council now has all the traffic data they need to make an educated vote in favor of the CSUS project. Traffic has been the oppositions big sticking point they point at as well as the tax revenue and both issues have been addressed and prove to be positive for the City of Belmont. This project has to get approved at this point.
Rob October 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Joe, looks like from Jeff's post below that traffic will not impact Ralston much due to the very early start time of CSUS since they moved to accommodate Ralston Middle School's start time. I think we can put the traffic issue to bed now and move forward with all the positives CSUS brings to Belmont.

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