Following the failure of a tax floated to finance reconstruction of the Millbrae Recreation Center, officials are examining a variety of other fundraising opportunities to construct a new facility.
The Millbrae City Council will weigh during a meeting Tuesday, Feb. 12, separate proposals both to sell city land and apply for grant funding as part of a singular effort to generate revenue for rebuilding the center.
The recommendations, part of the city’s piecemeal strategy for rebuilding the center which was lost in an arson fire nearly three years ago, would raise about $4 million combined — well short of the $30 million estimated to construct a new facility.
Recognizing the challenges facing officials looking to come up with the money to rebuild the center, Mayor Wayne Lee said he supports moving ahead with the proposals coming before officials.
“We’ll have to attack it in many ways,” Lee said of the plan for rebuilding the center. “But we definitely want to do it in the next couple years, because the costs keep going up and it is a fundamental part of our community.”
As part of the immediate effort to raise money for rebuilding the center, officials at the upcoming meeting can approve a concept plan applying for a portion of the state’s Cultural, Community and Natural Resource grant.
Under the recommendation from city officials, Millbrae could seek $2.9 million of the $37 million available to offset costs associated with the rebuild, which is proposed at the site of the former center.
For his part, Lee expressed confidence in the opportunity to obtain a portion of the money available under state voters approving Proposition 68, a bond floated on last year’s June ballot to benefit parks, open spaces and other community assets. A decision on grant winners is expected to be announced by December.
“I think we have a good chance,” said Lee. “We have a talented staff and a huge need. And that’s not the only avenue we are looking at.”
Regarding other opportunities for fundraising, officials at the upcoming meeting will also examine a proposal to declare two pieces of city property as surplus, which could ultimately make them eligible to sell.
The properties, one on Sequoia Avenue and another on Santa Margarita Avenue, if sold could generate in the neighborhood of $1 million to be paid toward the rebuild effort, according to a city report.
Lee said he is typically reticent to sell city property, but since the land identified does not currently offer great community benefit, he would favor consider making it available for purchase.
The properties were identified to potentially sell in advance of floating the $12 million bond proposed to finance the new recreation center in the fall election, which ultimately fell just a few percentage points short of the supermajority required to pass.
Officials are also considering selling Schultz Park, near Taylor Middle School, to raise money for the center. But Lee said the controversial proposal would likely need voter approval before the land was made available.
He said the source of the debate over whether to sell the park is that it could accommodate a large residential development, which neighbors of the property oppose. Lee said ultimately he will defer to the majority opinion among the City Council and staff on ways to best proceed.
Even if the park was sold though, officials would likely still be short of the revenue needed to build the center, which invites the question over whether officials will resurrect another tax proposal.
Lee said he is not ambitious to embrace another tax, but said he might support the initiative if there was no other way to raise the money.
“If it is the only course of action we have, I’d say do it,” said Lee, of the tax pursuit.
In brainstorming other potential fundraising mechanisms, Lee said a low-interest loan and selling naming rights to the potential center could be alternatives to the tax.
Vice Mayor Reuben Holober too said he was optimistic that officials could raise the rebuild money without having to go back to the ballot.
“I’m hopeful the city can put together a package that doesn’t involve another tax,” he said. “That would be ideal.”
Holober also noted the opportunity to generate revenue from sale of other city property near the BART station could be a key piece of the financing puzzle as well as requesting a provider of the child care services planned at the facility to pay toward a portion of the capital cost.
Though unsure when a formal financing strategy may be proposed, Holober said he would like the initiative to move forward rapidly.
“I want to get going on this, and the longer it takes, the more expensive it’s going to be,” he said.
While uncertainty lingers over the preferred fundraising method, Lee said support remains unanimous for rebuilding the center which so many consider an essential piece of Millbrae.
“The community really needs it. It’s an opportunity for the community to bond, for people to socialize or learn new skills,” he said. “It’s a morale issue.”
The Millbrae City Council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 12, at City Hall, 621 Magnolia Ave.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 105