The city General Plan -- essentially the "constitution" of local government -- states that new development must "pay its own way" and fund the necessary infrastructure improvements to mitigate its impacts. This policy has worked very well for decades -- until Costco came to town.
Our "representatives" in government agreed to gift millions in subsidies to this multibillion dollar corporation two years ago as part of the new Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone, but didn't want you to know about it.
They kept this hush-hush during the Measure MM campaign (the anti-big box initiative in 2016) because they knew if the public was fully informed about the subsidies the vote might not go their way. But after MM went down in defeat, the non-existent subsidy agreement was suddenly reached.
The city characterized the subsidies as a "tax sharing plan" limited to a $6.8 million public contribution. Their pitch was that it would be paid back over time from sales tax revenue and from development fee contributions from the future hotels and other businesses in the project.
In reality, the public subsidies are closer to $20 million with the inappropriate diversion of transportation fee reserves earmarked for other projects. But of course, the city didn't want you to know that this diversion was a violation of city policy so they portrayed it as "normal."
The City Council shrugged off this dishonesty and the blatant violation of city policies, dismissed the arguments of project opponents, ignored independent economic studies that revealed it was a bad investment and endorsed a flawed environmental impact report (EIR) that ignored air quality health impacts.
Instead, they enthusiastically approved the project and subsidies last November and then congratulated themselves on their progressive economic achievement. Unfortunately, a slight hiccup in their grand scheme is that the city now finds itself in court over the EIR.
With this approval, we thought we were done giving developers our money. But last month, the city announced that it was reconsidering the plan to collect fees from the future hotel and retail developers. Instead, they will lavish even more public money on these businesses using "fee credits."
Shouldn't this plan have been made public before the project was approved last year?
The city has not repealed the General Plan policy that development must pay its way or these other polices; they are just conveniently ignoring them. Based on the long history of this developer-friendly City Council, this is not surprising.
But what is surprising is the lack of public outrage over the selling out of our democracy and the misuse of public money that should be reserved for the common good. Our acquiescence to this corrupt process sends a clear message and opens the door to yet more government corruption in the future. Is this really acceptable to the people of Pleasanton, just to have a Costco?