Budget problems notwithstanding, the City Council supported moving forward with many of its infrastructure plans during a study session Tuesday, including a $9 million athletic field, a $10 million fire station and several climate change initiatives.
The council has labeled about 40 percent of the capital improvement projects "non discretionary." These include basic items such as regular road and sewer maintenance, but some particular projects got a boost as well.
For example, the Shoreline tax district is seeing a drop in property tax revenue -- $25.2 million next year, down from $27.6 million in 2007-08 -- so city staff have proposed a bond to pay for several large projects in the area, including a $9 million athletic field on a former landfill along Garcia Avenue, a $10 million fire station on Shoreline Boulevard, and $4 million to build a crossing for the Permanente Creek Trail over Highway 101. Because the bond will not raise taxes it does not have to be approved by voters.
The proposed hotel next to Google could also receive a substantial investment through the Shoreline bond -- as much as $30 million -- but the exact figure has yet to be determined. The city is expecting a substantial return on its investment in the hotel, at least $1.5 million a year in tax and lease revenue for the city's general fund.
Council member Mike Kasperzak was surprised by the $9 million price tag for the ball fields, which city staff explained was necessary to pay for artificial turf, lighting and to address landfill and wildlife issues.
Among the new projects are six sustainability projects totaling $870,000: $100,000 to help homeowners with energy efficiency improvements under AB811, $140,000 to "green" the library, $50,000 for "bike boulevard" improvements, $150,000 to explore renewable energy options for the city (half paid for by the Shoreline tax district), $230,000 towards the study of a "zero waste" plan for the city's garbage (paid for by the solid waste fund), and $50,000 towards creating a green building code. Most of the projects get funding from the construction and conveyance tax fund.
The council also did not object to two large new "discretionary" projects that were part of the proposed Capital Improvement Program: $5 million to extend Stevens Creek Trail from Sleeper Avenue over Highway 85, and a proposed $1.8 million seismic upgrade to the water reservoir on Whisman Road to be paid for with water funds. But council member Laura Macias was skeptical about the necessity of using $887,000 in Shoreline tax funds to fix storm drainage along Shoreline Boulevard within Shoreline Park.
Among several ongoing projects, the package includes $1.1 million in park funds for design and construction of a mini park on Del Medio Avenue. The previously approved project is moving forward after an apartment building and a house on the site are demolished. The last tenant, an elderly woman, is moving to Tracy in July.
The council chipped away at the city's $6 million general fund deficit as well by supporting the transfer of a $1 million annual Civic Center debt payment out of the general fund and into the city's construction and conveyance tax fund, which has revenue of $2 million to $6 million a year, cutting the general fund deficit to $5 million. The move is part of $4 million in cuts the city manager will support May 5. The trade-off is that fewer infrastructure projects can be funded with the tax fund.
Three projects were deferred -- including improvements for McKelvey and Crittenden parks -- but only one drew concern. Council member Ronit Bryant was dismayed at the deferral of the $205,000 design of support space for the Center for the Performing Arts' SecondStage, which would allow both stages in the center to be used simultaneously, increasing its use and marketability. But the $1 million needed for construction is unavailable because of new constraints on the construction and conveyance tax fund.
The proposed Capital Improvement Program will return to the council on May 29 for adoption.