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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Downtown City Center Financial Details Are Missing

San Ramon Downtown Center Financial DetailsWhere Are the Financial Details of the Proposed City Center Deal between the City of San Ramon and Alex Mehran of Sunset Development Co. that are Not Being Disclosed to the Public?

The Mayor’s unveiling of the proposed City Center Downtown Project was way back in February or March 2007 in the Fountain Room at Central Park and, a few San Ramon citizens stood before the Mayor and Council members asking for the details of this financial plan between the City and a private developer, Alex Mehran of Sunset Development Co. The Mayor refused to present any financial details to the public claiming they were not yet available. The room was filled with many special interest groups including the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club Members, Library Commissioners, Economic Development Commissioners, and City employees with very few regular unaffiliated citizens of San Ramon. I wondered to myself where are all the regular citizens?

It’s been well over a year now since the announcement of a San Ramon Downtown Center, and even the writers for the Contra Costa Times have been unsuccessful in obtaining the financial details of the biggest deal in the history of San Ramon between the City and the developer, Alex Mehran, of Sunset Development Company after many attempts. San Ramon citizens have continued to stand before the City Council and Planning Commissioners during public hearings, requesting the financial details only to be shot down by Mayor Abram Wilson, in which he has claimed on repeated occasions that these financial details are still not available to the public. He claims, “We are still in the negotiating process.” How can you build a new home without knowing what it will cost? Come on Mr. Mayor, you were once an Investment Banker, and you expect us to believe that you have no idea what is exchanging hands here. Why do you intentionally continue to conceal the financial details of this 44-acre Commercial/Retail center from the public? What do you have to lose by being honest and forthcoming with the citizens of San Ramon that you have taken an oath to serve! How is this intentional withholding of critical financial information serving the citizens who placed you in your position?

Mayor Abram Wilson and Council members Dave Hudson, Jim Livingston, Scott Perkins, and Carol Rowley have refused to provide any of the financial details and land transfer agreements in a public setting regarding this proposed 44 acre City Center Downtown Retail/Commercial Project that is being promoted by a public/private partnership with Alex Mehran of Sunset Development Company. These details have been intentionally withheld from the citizens of San Ramon and this is a sham!

In addition, full governing authority and decision making power will be given to Alex Mehran over this 44 acre City Center Downtown, excluding the tiny 3.5 acre parcel with the single civic-center building housing the Police, Library, City Offices, and transit center all in one. Our City will then be named appropriately “Mehranville” instead of “Pottersville” oh, I mean San Ramon!

Finally, how can we as San Ramon Citizens be assured “no more back door deals” like in the past with the former mayors and council who allowed Alex Mehran an undercover deal with the City of San Ramon, to be void of ever paying taxes to the City for Bishop Ranch Office Park, part of the Sunset Development properties! What a deal for Mr. Mehran! Now, not to mention the special back door property deals that were made between Alex Mehran and the City of San Ramon for the two Downtown City Center properties. Mr. Mehran sells the two properties to the City, but retains full control of what's built there, plus gets the option to buy both properties back for little more than he paid for them. This really is the deal of the decade for Mr. Mehran! The City of San Ramon ends up holding the property for Mr. Mehran, while at the same time Sunset Development is not having to pay property taxes on it.

In 1987 the City signed an annexation and development agreement with the developers of Bishop Ranch (Sunset Development Companies). This agreement contains a clause not to impose “a business license tax for revenue purposes.” The agreement specifies “a business license tax only for the purpose of registration, and the amount of such business license tax shall not exceed the actual and reasonable cost incurred by the city to perform such registration.” I wonder how many millions of dollars our old-timers (the San Ramon City officials in office at that time), gave away to Mr. Alex Mehran of Sunset Development Company over the years? What a deal for Mr. Mehran! For example, in 2003 the City of Pleasanton collected approximately 3 million dollars in business license tax revenues whereas, the City of San Ramon collected only a measly $150,000. I wonder if this new City Center Project being promoted by Alex Mehran and our Mayor, Abram Wilson, will also be exempt from these business taxes? A colored glossy flyer mailed earlier this year to San Ramon residents claimed, “NO NEW TAXES.” Maybe, that’s exactly what they are trying to tell us; no taxes or fees to be paid by Alex Mehran and very little tax revenue for San Ramon. What do you think?

Article submitted by a San Ramon resident for over 20 years.

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