The City acquired the 5.6-acre Adams Street (Daly) property in 2000 for the full market price of $3 million. The outstanding balance is currently $208,807. The city’s final payment is due Nov. 9, 2020.
In 2009, the city sought the community’s vision for the property, and the resulting vision statement includes the site for a community and civic center, with an amphitheater, an expanded library, a home for the St. Helena Historical Society and a city hall/law enforcement facility. Workforce housing and commercial development were also contemplated.
The city’s 2009 vision statement is the most recent expression of the community’s expectations regarding the Adams Street property’s development. However, 10 years later the promise of the 2009 vision statement still has not been honored. None of the contemplated uses — whether community or commercial -- have materialized because the vision statement did not come with a financing plan.
The city does not have financial resources to build a new or upgraded library, recreation facility or city hall, even though we are currently undergoing a study to do just that. By necessity, we therefore have to be open to creative, realistic financial solutions, including public/private partnerships. Hopes and dreams can only take us so far.
Ultimately, the City Council has a fiduciary responsibility to explore and pursue all reasonable and realistic financial mechanisms that will facilitate the building of critically needed civic buildings and create revenue to address the city's daunting and expensive capital improvement and infrastructure needs: city hall, public works corporation yard, police station, library upgrades or replacement, recreation center, sidewalks, employee housing, enhanced streetscape, storm drains, rising personnel and healthcare costs and unfunded pension liabilities.
With regard to Adams Street’s future, it does not have to be a binary choice between development vs no development or public vs private use. The question is not whether the Adams Street property should be preserved in perpetuity for civic/public use only or sold for private development. Framing the question in such a binary way eliminates the many possibilities that could come through balanced, environmentally superior development. It also ignores the fact that proceeds generated from a sale could be used to build the very community and civic amenities we desire.
Until recently many of our citizens have not seen the connection between balanced, environmentally superior development on Adams Street and the desperately needed public improvements that will be paid for through such an endeavor. They have not seen the link between our substantial building and infrastructure needs and the use of the Adams Street property as a vehicle to bring our hopes and dreams to reality.
In my view it is not responsible to continue to perpetuate this disconnect by focusing only on potential drawbacks of development while completely ignoring its economic and community benefits. Thoughtful discourse means looking at all sides of an issue and not just wanting to be right and wanting everyone else to agree. It is about using empathy and critical thinking. It is about trying to understand things from the perspectives of others and not being so quick to demonize dissenters.
As we move forward together, I hope that we can rise above self-interest and instead focus on our community values. For me, one important community value is the respect we demonstrate for the basic dignity of our employees. I see public buildings -- our city hall, police facilities, public works buildings -- that are in deplorable condition. We should be embarrassed and ashamed as a community to allow our hardworking, loyal and dedicated employees to work in such deteriorating, depressing buildings year after year. It is disgraceful, and yet I hear no one talking about it.
Another important community value is how we provide for our citizens, especially the least among us. In that regard, I see the need for a community event or cultural center, a recreation facility and community gathering spaces. A city of our caliber and quality should provide better conditions for its dedicated employees and more amenities for its deserving citizens.
At this point, I look forward to seeing a specific capital improvement/infrastructure plan together with a concrete and realistic financing plan. It is not enough for us to simply “take heart.” In fact, it would be a breach of our duty as elected officials to promise our citizens all the great amenities we are currently studying without a realistic financial plan to pay for them.
Vice Mayor, St. Helena