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Other voices: An open letter to CSUS
March 03, 2014, 05:00 AM By Joseph A. Brennan

Thank you for establishing an email address for comments, questions and suggestions on your Belmont project on Davis Drive. As an earlier opponent of your first proposal in 2011-12, I felt CSUS’ offer was financially inadequate short term as well as long term, the traffic and noise studies were questionable, and the P.R. programs were amateurish, somewhat deceptive and offensive to many. I agreed with the council’s rejection; CSUS shot itself in the foot, but both Belmont and CSUS lost.

Certainly many Belmont residents and a majority of the City Council have expressed an intention to accept CSUS as an asset and community benefit to our city. Three of the current councilmembers campaigned as a slate that gave every indication that the CSUS proposal was a done deal if they were elected.

Since it is obvious that the City Council plans to approve the latest CSUS proposal, I feel that we citizens of Belmont must be vigilant to protect our lifestyle and financial future. In the unlikely event that CSUS is not responsive to Belmont’s lifestyle and future financial health concerns, or the Belmont City Council appears to be rubber stamping the CSUS proposal without closely examining and evaluating the negative unintended consequences, we residents will have to band together and act. If necessary, we must organize to petition the City Council and take the necessary steps to force a referendum that would allow the voters to accept or reject the latest CSUS proposal.

I don’t think this will come to fruition, and many of us who opposed the original CSUS proposal could become advocates for accepting CSUS as an asset and community benefit under the following conditions:

1). CSUS offers a solution to the burgeoning traffic problem on Ralston Avenue that will be exacerbated if their original proposal is implemented — a solution other then CSUS’ lame offer to start classes 15 minutes earlier, which would just extend the Ralston Avenue congestion by15 minutes each morning. Also, rather than making a one-time contribution to another seemingly feckless traffic study, how about considering a community benefit, such as sharing buses and drop-off areas with Ralston Middle School.

2). CSUS removes the potentially fatal financial ticking time bomb — the 2 percent annual increase cap to their payments in lieu of taxes. If inflation rises at a higher rate than 2 percent (as most experts expect), the cost to the city could be greater in the future then the CSUS payment, and the taxpayers would eventually be stuck paying for CSUS, as well as losing tax revenue. This is potentially the most dangerous consequence of the CSUS proposal, and the cap should be the future contemporaneous rate of inflation. The proponents’ argument that 2 percent is the amount of increases allowed under Proposition 13 is not relevant because when private property is sold, the house and taxes are reassessed; CSUS will own the property and potentially be a tax-exempt financial burden, not a blessing, to the taxpayers of Belmont forever.

3). CSUS must supply a financially-secure secondary guarantor of the promised annual payment to the city of Belmont. Because CSUS is a tax-exempt private business that can declare bankruptcy or fail to pay their annual commitment, the city has no tax-lien recourse that it would have with a default by a tax-paying owner. For those who dismiss this possibility, remember the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy in 2008.

4). CSUS chooses a less severe and a better environmentally-friendly plan to cut fewer mature trees on the Water Dog Canyon rim. Saplings are not replacements for mature trees for 50 to 100 years.

5). CSUS has responded somewhat satisfactorily to the noise level from their athletic field and pool during school days, however it needs to submit a plan to enforce the noise level and time restrictions during weekends.

6). CSUS would implement a campus lighting plan that uses minimal, shielded, low-intensity fixtures to minimize washing out the nighttime valuable views from the canyon rim.

It is imperative that Belmont residents hear your response to the above six conditions, especially to the traffic problems on Ralston Avenue that were recently featured in the Daily Journal and on the NBC newscast. Do you agree?

Joseph A. Brennan, a retired chemical industry executive, has been a resident of Belmont since 1970. He is dedicated to the education of children: as a volunteer Healthy-City tutor, a Nature Education docent at Filoli and a children’s tutor in Mexico.



Tags: belmont, proposal, would, ralston, future, financial,

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