Sperry Mills Site - South Vallejo Waterfront
Don't Be Fooled!
In a disappointing development, one of our Mayoral candidates has telegraphed a dishonest political hit on a competitor that we should watch for between now and election day. Like all good deceptions it contains a kernel of truth that lends the fabrication an air of authenticity. In this case the misdirection hinges on a unanimous vote by the sitting Council in 2012 to amend the ground lease for the old General Mills site. In the alternate politically spun universe we’re asked to hold Councilmembers Sampayan and McConnell responsible for opening the door to a waterfront cement plant by not exercising due diligence and asking questions. Reality is very different.
The factual foundation for this deception lies in the Council vote on July 24, 2012 to accept the City Staff recommendation to amend the old General Mills ground lease for tidal lands. According to Staff, this would allow the Vallejo Marine Terminal (VMT) to purchase the private portion of the property out of bank foreclosure and lease the portion from the City needed to rebuild the old General Mills pier facility. To put this in perspective, they were talking about a derelict property that had required soil remediation from leaking fuel tanks. The development company that had planned a great looking mixed use development for the site lost the property in foreclosure, and Vallejo itself was just coming out of bankruptcy. The Staff report characterized the amended 33 year term with a 33 year option as typical for leasing State tidal lands and “reasonable” assurance for prospective purchasers looking to invest more than thirty million dollars to rebuild a port pier facility.
The politically fueled narrative would have us believe that Sampayan and McConnell failed to question the lease and somehow let Orcem slip their polluting cement plant past them. Anyone inclined to believe this twisted account can easily see what actually happened for themselves by watching the Staff presentation, Council discussion, and vote on the lease amendment. The City web site has a City Agendas and Videos page. Find the July 24, 2012 Council meeting, load the video, and scroll to the 2:23 mark. You will hear what the Staff is telling the Council followed by their reaction.
In fact the only two people asking any questions at all are Councilmembers Sampayan and McConnell. Not a single member of the public showed up to question or comment on the proposed purchase and lease for a port facility. The Staff characterized the proposal as a marine port terminal that would sub-lease to manufacturing facilities that could also use the pier and rail service. Nobody has heard anything yet about a slag cement plant. Staff makes some veiled references to secret negotiations underway between VMT and an unknown “manufacturing facility that could generate significant revenue for the City,” but that’s all the information anyone had to go on.
Open Storage Slag Piles
Councilmember McConnell wanted to know what will be transported on the trains and what might be manufactured at the plant. Staff assures the Council that the buyer is talking about moving innocuous things like lumber, possibly some steel and some grain, but as to the manufacturing facility those early negotiations are highly confidential. McConnell presses that the question is whether there would be any toxic chemicals transporting through neighborhoods or on the site and what kinds of impacts like noise would be involved. He posits that it would need to go to the Planning Commission, but is informed by Staff that the port terminal would fit existing zoning and wouldn’t require any discretionary action. They were very wrong about that as we now know.
However, any manufacturing facility beyond the port terminal use would need to go through the Planning Commission and the proper environmental review, according to Staff. Councilmember Sampayan wanted to make sure that the City would not be on the hook for the dredging costs involved in maintaining a port facility. He is assured that cost would be borne by the operators. In what has been described as ‘looking bad for progressives,’ Mr. Sampayan comments that it sounds like an exciting project. Not really much of an indictment when you’re responsible for a city coming out of bankruptcy and Staff tells you a manufacturer is interested in locating here that could generate significant revenue for the City.
The document that reveals the true absurdity of the charge is the membership roster for the secret Mare Island Straits Economic Development Committee. Restricted by invitation only, this exclusive clandestine group began meeting with the marine terminal and cement plant applicants in the spring of 2014, long before the draft environmental impact report was made public. The list boasts all three Jump Start Councilmembers, including current Council candidate Rozzanna Verder-Aliga, and representatives of Napa Solano labor interests and regional politicians. Guess who wasn’t invited or even informed of the existence of this secret ad hoc committee? Sampayan and McConnell.
We need to elect the people who don’t get invited to the secret meetings - the ones with long records of integrity and the courage to resist the temptation to play along to get along. The Mayoral candidate who has been anointed as most likely to play along in this election cycle should be ashamed of this dishonest attempt at misdirection. Don’t be fooled. The independent-minded candidates we need to elect to our City Council are Bob Sampayan, Liat Meitzenheimer, Mina Diaz, and Robert McConnell.
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