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CSUS Concerns

Response to CSUS proposal

I am very concerned that the Belmont General Plan and
rezoning can be bought by any outside special interest group that comes up with
the right influencing number. My wife and I targeted Belmont as a city we
wanted to buy property and raise our family in 15 years ago because we thought
Belmont, of all small cities on the Peninsula would not go down a slippery
slope as other municipalities have, and start to change zoning and the General
Plan, influenced by outside special interests. If this CSUS proposal is
allowed, against the advisement of our city planners, it clearly sets a precedent
that any large developer can come into Belmont and flash dollars to certain
city council members and they will be "influenced". 

My family’s belief is that our General Plan should not be diverted,
at any cost, by outside influence peddlers. This is not Washington DC. This is
Belmont. I strongly believe that if the General Plan is allowed to be
influenced by this outside interest group, five years from now, our city
council and all citizens of Belmont will regret it. What will be next?

This same group tried and failed to get rezoning approved in
their own city of origin and Hillsborough would not allow them to expand in
their own backyard.  You have to ask
yourself why. CSUS knew flashing money in Hillsborough would not have an
effect, but in Belmont, that’s another matter. So CSUS comes to Belmont and gives it a go, thinking that certain members of the City Council can be influenced by the right number.  

This is presented as a win/win for everyone. It is not. That
is why CSUS has hired professional campaign agents, sent flyers, hired callers
and used Chicago–like, strong-arm politics, influence peddling tactics on our
city council and our community.

The negatives and impact to traffic, sewage infrastructure,
noise, natural habitat, long term vitality to Belmont and General Plan are too numerous and any positives will be mitigated in a very few years with zero long term guarantees, including fields usage. This $1M will be carved up into small
pieces among two-three school districts, and other public needs, and then the
citizens of Belmont will be left with all this negative impact. The $250k in
tax revenue per year is a wash at best and possibly a negative, based on the
potential of this incredible site to draw commercial entities in the future.

I say, thank you CSUS!.. for pointing out the weaknesses we
have within our Belmont City Council so we can let our votes be heard at the
next election, and thank you again for peeling back the onion within our
Belmont city government process, that they can be influenced so easily by
outside interests.

And thank you CSUS!... for exposing weaknesses in protecting
the Belmont General Plan even when a unanimous vote by our planners recommended not to rezone and potentially open the door to other, bigger outside influence peddlers.

A big thank you CSUS!... for demonstrating to Belmont residents
our lack of any plan by the Belmont City Council to attract new businesses into
the existing commercially zoned areas. Instead, these same city council members
sit back and wait for influencers to come to them waving wads of cash. Way to
do the job you were elected to do (certain) Belmont City Council members!

A bigger thank you CSUS!... for demonstrating in real terms
Belmont’s lack of funding and attention to our athletic fields, which keeps our
kids safe, healthy, involved ......and off the streets!

And again, thank you CSUS!.... for drawing attention to Belmont’s
lack of attention to the enormous traffic issue from Ralston Ave. and feeder
streets, and Belmont City Council’s lack of attention to the grossly
"severe" sewage infrastructure problem we have in Belmont, (EPA violations
and effluent flowing into the Bay).

And lastly, thank you CSUS!.... for showing Belmont
residents that certain members of our Belmont City Council can be so easily be influencedmand sidetracked by a measly few dollars as to ignore recommendations from professional city planners that our tax dollars pay for, and to even consider for a moment giving away the city’s general plan to an outside influence for a short-term, minor revenue contribution.


Ron Tussy
Small Business Owner
Belmont

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

ronny September 14, 2012 at 05:26 PM
Steve Hayes, You're right - (Nueva), which means the local economy is getting better, and the potential to tax monetize the existing Davis Drive area even greater- without rezoning/changing the general plan. This piece in the Journal is clearly a viewpoint written for Hillsborough residents that the paper serves, and ignores the overwhelming opposition and issues from residents who do not have political platform motivations, but would actually feel realistic, negative impact from this project and could alter the quality of life and safety in this area of Belmont. A number of respondents on this blog are using this project as a political platform issue to try and oust existing council members and really, you are not impacted as much as homeowners surrounding Ralston and this project. I'm one of them. This project serves only 0.42% of the Belmont public school population and the revocable "gift" represents only 1.78% of CSUS’ annual revenue for this site. The title of the piece stated it clearly, it is not a fit for Belmont at this location, at this time, but not for the reasons the author trumped up. Belmont City Council has two real mandates: 1:- to provide safety for the gen. population, 2: to mitigate and manage risk. "Being progressive" is nowhere in the City Coucil for Dummy's handbook. Get your hands on the CSUS Scorecard and immerse yourself in the real issues and this will illustrate why there is so much opposition to this project.
Buck Thomas September 14, 2012 at 06:09 PM
Truth by repetition? The malcontents seem to collect on Patch blogs with their misinformation that they repeat endlessly. I can almost hear them say, "Don't confuse me with the facts." I'm driven to the inevitable conclusion that they are interested in one thing: Belmont ELECTION 2013. CSUS, like Koret field in the last election, is just something to create an election issue over. They don't give a damn about CSUS, they are using CSUS as a excuse to get Reed, Selman, Stone or others of their ilk elected to Belmont Council. The Belmont City council has done a great job in leading the nation in the smoking ordinance that was based on solid science. They have saved open space, created more parks, saved the Belmont Fire department when San Carlos pulled out, balanced the budget in trying times, hired a great city manager and city attorney, acquired downtown properties for redevelopment, well ... the list is long. Clearly, logic is of little use in dealing with these cranks who use tea-party tactics for their own ends.
Buck Thomas September 14, 2012 at 06:45 PM
Annie, you are the best example of a fountain of misinformation. Koret field was never on the ballot. The city council approved the CUP for Koret field after some changes were made to allow the Belmont/Redwood Shores school district children to use the field. Call (595-7413) Belmont City Clerk to verify this for yourself. I'm awaiting to hear your correction.
Annie September 14, 2012 at 06:53 PM
I stand corrected. The City council did do the right thing.
Buck Thomas September 14, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Annie, That's refreshing to hear. I congratulate you on admitting your mistake.
ronny September 14, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Hey Dennis, lighten up a little and don't insult me, please. "overwhelming opposition" is a statement, not a datapoint. There is overehelming opposition, but I cannot quantify it for you. I just know it exists. What is the point of that, anyway? The sad truth is that we have very little quantifiable data to make this important of a decision. No financial analysis, no real traffic analysis based on unbiased, accurate independent data, no first responder analysis, no infrastructure impact analysis, no accurate environmental impact analysis, no analysis regarding existing businesses at the site - impact, but a lot of conjecture, politically motivated stances and emotion. As an analyst, this bugs me. And the "It's a great school" "we should be honored" doesn't provide any risk mitigation or management. It's a feeling. Nothing else. I believe our council needs all the data they can get to make this big of a decision. There really is very little available. That's my problem. I saw both sides represented at Tues. night's meeting. Dennis, my numbers are always open to scrutiny. They're based on available data. If you don't like them, show me where we can find better data.
Annie September 14, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Thank you Buck, i will admit when I am incorrect. I misstated the fact. I deleted the post as it contained incorrect information. As you state above the koret field made a compromise. I do belileve that CSUS is also making compromises to make this proposition attractive to Belmont. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe noise and traffic were some of the complaints from the neighbors opposing this field. This gives me more faith that the City Council will make the right decision for the community of Belmont as a whole. CSUS has offered the city use of their field on week-ends and 3 weeks in the summer.
ronny September 14, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Annie, Totally agree with you're statement - frozen in time. But taking unnecessary risks just to be "progressive" is not the mandate of Belmont's City Council. As I stated, it's not in the City Council for Dummy's Handbook. Public safety, risk mitigation and management, solvancy are. Sorry to tell you that this is CLEARLY an election platform issue. Not recognizing this reality is to be "stuck in time". First and foremost we need a financial impact analysis produced, showing all the variables. If we do not have this basic, fundamental input, all decision making is based on conjecture.
Steve Hayes September 14, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Actually, Buck you are the individual who is trying to misinform people and I think you know it. I promised to be nicer so I will just point out what you left out. Notre Dame had a CUP regarding the use of Koret field and they graciously offered to share their field with Belmont youth soccer teams - so ND asked to have the CUP modified to allow that to happen. At that point a small group of neighbors got together with the two women Council members and they tried to completely alter the original CUP, sigificantly reducing Notre Dames ability to use their field. They were using Belmont kids as a wedge to increase control over Notre Dame. ND said no way which left the Belmont soccer programs out to dry - the college was not to blame, rather it was because two over bearing Council members tried to push the college into a corner without any regard for the community as a whole. The Council did eventually give in because there was obviously overwhelming support for the field use and it would have been politically suicidal to keep pushing the issue. Buck - your first comment is also wrong and misleading, but I do not have time to respond to all nonsense and I want to remain positive!
pwt September 14, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Steve Hayes is correct regarding the Koret field issue. Simply stating that the Council approved the CUP after some changes were made, without describing the embarrassing debacle that preceded it, is disingenuous. And contrary to the fairy tale that proponents of the project are just trying to "create" an election issue, give me a break. The issue is real, and we have every right to hold our elected officials accountable if we disagree with them.
Buck Thomas September 16, 2012 at 11:54 PM
I can think of many valid reasons why CSUS shouldn't be in The Davis Drive Business Park but I will just stick to countering some claims handed out by CSUS: 1) CSUS will have no appreciable impact on Belmont traffic. Not true! The CSUS traffic study was fatally flawed and is being redone. 2) CSUS will no impact on business at the Davis Drive Business Park. Not True! Possible lessees have not signed up because of the pending school next door. 3) CSUS can not expand after locating in the Business Park. Not True! The next council can overturn the contract at any time of CSUS's choosing. 4) The current buildings are unsuitable for business and can't be updated. Not True! Even multistory brick buildings in San Francisco have been totally renovated internally. 5) The trees, mostly brush, are a fire hazard and should be removed. Not True! At least ten of the trees are approximately 100 year-old oaks. Fire hazard = red herring. 6) San Mateo is welcoming Nueva School into Bay Meadows 2 business park. Not True! Unfortunately their zoning allowed schools in this area. Too late! 7) Some of the money from CSUS can be distributed to Public schools. Only true if CSUS gives money directly to those institutions. The City's giving of public funds is illegal. 8) The City is guaranteed a million dollars and $250K a year. Not True! None of this comes right away and a different council can reverse this. If the school cries hardship you know this will be reversed.
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:24 AM
The comments "Buck Thomas " makes are eerily and wearily familiar. I hope "Buck" is not saying anything that might expose the city to legal action.
Buck Thomas September 17, 2012 at 05:35 AM
I guess Marit and Charles don't follow City Council meeting and look at the supporting docs on the web or talk to people that actually know something. Instead they are content to generate rumors among themselves and advertise them on the web. I have a high regard for people in political office who try to balance the various community interests and try to get the best outcome for the City. I'm sure it's a thankless job. I'm not in a position to help Obama who in the most thankless job on the planet but I can sure as hell do something on the local level to broadcast a bit of reason.
bystander1 September 17, 2012 at 01:26 PM
uhh Buck Thomas? sounds like well...you know who... 1) wrong-and your use of the word "fatally" is silly 2)wrong-the owner of most buildings on Davis (Phil Raiser) supports CSUS, also Cengage the current owner of 6-8-10 is the biggest space user on Davis at 20 Davis and the 2nd largest employer in Belmont-should they leave? 3) well what can anyone say to that? total noise 4) Will the city pay to update them? if not, then these are tear downs... 5) A new Green Leed certified builiding with less commercil area and more new greenspace and trees is a good change-perhaps they can save the trees anyway? 6) unfortunately? Oh i guess schools never enhance the community or add to it?? The current owner can put a less than desireable use there instead.. but it is ok (???) per the "zoning" 7) Well well...art least there will be funds...tell that to the people of san jose or the other myriad of California cities struggling 8) wow! that is a reach!!! a new low has been set for the arguments against... My hope is that Belmont rises up and does what is right and let their elected officials know and understand very clearly that the CSUS project is so right and so positive to the community...
Belmont September 17, 2012 at 02:41 PM
The CSUS proposal is a fantastic opportunity for Belmont. It comes down to a simple choice do we approve the CSUS proposal or gamble that a better offer will come along sometime in the near future. BTW, if CSUS comes to Belmont it will increase property values. Belmont will then truly be "The Education City"...with both excellent public and nationally ranked private schools. This should be fantastic news for all homeowners....
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
Buck - "Reason," huh? "1) CSUS will have no appreciable impact on Belmont traffic. Not true! The CSUS traffic study was fatally flawed and is being redone." - So the traffic study is being re-done, yet, before its new result, you're SURE that the new study will show that a) there WILL be an appreciable impact on traffic and b) the original study will be proven to be fatally flawed. I'd love to have your crytsal ball to spot stock market fluctuations. I do not know what the new study will show but I have a suspicion that it will continue to show that CSUS traffic will not hit Ralston at Ralston Middle School Traffic times (but that business traffic would.)
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
"2) CSUS will no impact on business at the Davis Drive Business Park. Not True! Possible lessees have not signed up because of the pending school next door." - 1 real estate broker who was "asked" to speak at the last council meeting by an owner one of the buildings on Davis Drive made a vague claim that one potential tenant (Comcast I think it was?) declined to use the space b/c of the potential CSUS development (interestingly, he did not state whether it was because of construction or if it was a school specific reason.) However, I have read since that Comcast was actually discouraged by the City from leasing the space (I don't know if that's true either....) Can you cite to specific tenants that passed up on space b/c of the proposed development? I'll be happy to call them and verify. In contrast, Mr. Reiser, who owns 4 or 5 of the buildings on Davis Dr sent a letter that said he wholeheartedly supports the project. Additionally, nationally known and well-respected AECOM (aecom.com) was retained to look at the viability of the current property and the viability of surrounding properties if CSUS is built. Their study showed that the current property is very unattractive in the current leasing market (reference was made to its age, out of date-ness, and presence of asbestos.) It would require large amounts of TIs to make it attractive. It also showed that CSUS would likely have no effect on the leasing market on Davis Drive.
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
"3) CSUS can not expand after locating in the Business Park. Not True! The next council can overturn the contract at any time of CSUS's choosing." -This makes little sense to me. CSUS has agreed to be bound not to expand in the development agreement, correct? And the City would be bound by the development agreement as well, correct? 1) Can a future council vote to change the development agreement thereby altering a contact without mutual assent (seriously, I don't know...but it doesn't seem to make sense that they could. 2) In what set of future circumstances would it make sense for a Council to do such a thing even if it could? 3) Isn't this an argument against entering into ANY development agreement ever? And yet, so many development agreements are entered into all over the state...hmmm. "4) The current buildings are unsuitable for business and can't be updated. Not True! Even multistory brick buildings in San Francisco have been totally renovated internally." - Hello there, Mr. Strawman! How are ya? I've not heard ANYONE say the buildings can't be updated. What the experts (and others with commercial real estate expertise at the meeting) stated was that the building, as it exists, is not commercially attractive and that creating marketable space in them would take a lot of owner remodeling or TI work that makes it even less likely to be leased.
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:46 PM
"5) The trees, mostly brush, are a fire hazard and should be removed. Not True! At least ten of the trees are approximately 100 year-old oaks. Fire hazard = red herring." -Mr. Strawman is getting around a lot! I've not heard anyone say the existing trees are a fire hazard (certainly not anyone presenting to the Council at the hearing. I can't keep up with the Patch comments like I'd like so maybe I missed it on here.) However, it was stated at the hearing that the proposal incorporated fire resistant landscaping. It is my understanding that the current landscaping is NOT fire resistant. Please correct me if I'm wrong. "6) San Mateo is welcoming Nueva School into Bay Meadows 2 business park. Not True! Unfortunately their zoning allowed schools in this area. Too late!" - Huh? The San Mateo Council HAS welcomed Nueva to Bay Meadows. http://www.smdailyjournal.com/article_preview.php?id=1754780 Interestingly, that school is going to be right next to Office/retail space. Guess San Mateo doesn't think that schools are anathema to marketable office space. But yes...you are correct that re-zoning was not required for the Nueva project.
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:47 PM
"7) Some of the money from CSUS can be distributed to Public schools. Only true if CSUS gives money directly to those institutions. The City's giving of public funds is illegal." -Is it your position that it is impossible for the Council to act so that Belmont is a responsible neighbor taxing agency to the other taxing agencies and work out an arrangement where all taxing agencies are made whole (and then some) from the CSUS payments? Can the agreement require the payment of the fees to the county treasurer who then redistributes them on the same percentage basis as the property taxes are now distributed? Can CSUS make the payments directly to the various taxing agencies *you seem to say yes?) These seem like the important questions to answer. Perhaps you can answer them. If, as you say, CSUS can make the payments directly to the taxing agencies, that seems like a wonderful and fair way of ensuring that all taxing agencies come out of this ahead.
Charles Stone September 17, 2012 at 04:50 PM
"8) The City is guaranteed a million dollars and $250K a year. Not True! None of this comes right away and a different council can reverse this. If the school cries hardship you know this will be reversed." - 1) Actual it IS true that the City would be guaranteed those payments under the development agreement, right? 2) Isn't your concern about financial hardship a risk in any development agreement that involves in lieu of payments (or any business or financial transaction that requires one entity to make future payments?) Isn't the proper inquiry into the risk that CSUS will ACTUALLY HAVE financial hardship? I'm pretty sure the last time I financed a car (and my house) the bank didn't say "Well, you COULD have financial hardship in the future so we're just not going to do business with you." Of course not. They looked at the risk that I'd not be able to make payments...just like the City should do in situations like this. Do you have any information on the likelihood of CSUS "crying hardship?" Any information that shows that they are not a good risk? Isn't education a booming business in the US? Hasn't CSUS managed to stay in business for 60 years while charging high tuition? Doesn't that tell you something about their feasibility?
Buck Thomas September 17, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Charles, How can anything I say expose the City to legal action? And bystander1, who do I sound like? Your insinuations just shows your hostility. And, bystander1, in 1500 characters its difficult to flesh out each or the 8 points. The main point is, each of these was misrepresented by CSUS. Mary Beth, Education City? Are you saying that CSUS will make up for NDNU that I doubt is on anybody's list of Colleges to go to. We have a great public school system in Belmont that is starving for money. However, at the last City Council meeting some members of the School Force Board threw their weight behind CSUS. If that makes any sense to you then I refer you to my Mama who said, "They have a room temperature IQ; they know how to pick flowers but they still stick them in their ears."
Belmont September 17, 2012 at 05:23 PM
Buck, I respect your opinion if you are against the CSUS proposal and I realize I will never change your way of looking at education. Personally, I think it would be fantastic to have another middle school option for Belmont families. You are correct we have excellent public and private schools. However, for those families who attend Serendipity and Belmont Oaks, which end in 5th grade this could be a great fit. As well as, for those families in the public schools. It is obvious you are completely anti-business and anti-development. Maybe that is why Belmont has a hard time attracting businesses to the city....and our stores and parking lots are empty. Maybe that is why we are the laughing stock of the peninsula and no one wants to do business with us.....
Annie September 17, 2012 at 05:42 PM
"Buck", Belmont has changed since you purchased your home. You can probally sell it for 7x the amount you paid for it, if you have lived here as long as you say you have. Like it or not, we are not the same community. We are living in Silicon Valley, we live in a very fast paced area. We are #24 on the list of wealthiest counties in the United States. People that are interested in investing in homes for their families expect to have the finest education available for their children, both public and private. CUSU is bending over backwards to do what is right for this community. Maybe you need to look around and open your eyes to the county that you live in. Belmont needs alot of upgrading. It is intersting how you claim that everyone who doesn't agree with you shows hostility. Every comment towards another person is negative, even when you are proven wrong, you will still argue that you are correct. When I made and incorrect statement and you jumped all over me. I admitted that I was wrong. Charles and Bystander1, made clear accurate statments that you still say the points were misrepresented by CSUS. If a point doesn't fall into your mindset, it sounds like you believe that the proven facts are misrepresented. Were you homeschooled?
Belmont September 17, 2012 at 06:19 PM
Annie, well said...Belmont is in the the top 5% of California for real estate prices and you are correct citizens of Belmont expect high quality public and private schools.
bystander1 September 17, 2012 at 06:37 PM
wouldn't a top tier private school just by having a great site in Belmont help to raise property values? Wouldn't residents be proud to say "CSUS has chosen Belmont to locate in"? Is not all this a seperate postive i.e. helping maintain and possibly increase property values that nobody seems to mention? Isn't that a good thing for all, and for those property values any resident particularly with a family would want a great culture of education first? Don't families gravitate to locations where the schools, both public and private a high quality?
bystander1 September 17, 2012 at 06:37 PM
questions
Belmont September 17, 2012 at 06:47 PM
bystander1, without a doubt if CSUS comes to Belmont it will drive up property values!!! I could not agree with you more. And I might add, according to several realtors in the past 2 years many people are choosing Belmont over San Carlos, since all of Belmont goes to Carlmont...please everyone write into the City Council....if this does not go through...we may live to regret it....
Buck Thomas September 17, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Annie, When private schools come before the City Council they come with a cadre of parents of students and can put an inordinate amount of pressure on the Council to get exactly what they want. I've seen this in San Mateo as well as Belmont in the past. It's very difficult to turn down anything a private school asks for. It's like picking on religion. As far as property values are concerned I think traffic is a bigger concern than having a private school. Are you planning on selling your house soon? I don't believe I ever stated one way or another on whether I own a home. I hope you are not one of those who believes that apartment dwellers are not worthy of entering into political discourse. I've gone over Charles Stones points: If it is the case that the City, for whatever reason, discouraged Comcast from renting then I yield to Charles on that point. I had no knowledge of this but will find out. On the changing of contracts I'm really surprised at Charles since he's a lawyer and contracts are renegotiated and revised all the time. To make it unmodifiable it would have to be an initiative voted on by the citizens of Belmont. The rest of the points still stand.
Annie September 17, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Buck, it doesn't matter if you live in an apartment, the point that I was trying to make is that Belmont has changed. The value of property in this area continues to rise, even if other regions are tanking. We live in a desireable location, and partents care about a quality education and a choice. Again, traffic will be on Ralston Ave. with or without the school. "If" some businesses were to relocate on to Davis Drive, you would have even more traffic. Once in the morning, the same time as other commuters and schools, and once again the afternoon, when commuters are on their way home. I see to much being put on the morning commute, the evening commute will be affected as well, "IF" you can sell the buildings on Davis Drive. Yes, people are wiling to trade off for a great location.

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