By Roz Rogoff
CCI, Mudd's, and the Oversight BoardUploaded: Mar 29, 2012
Michael LeBlanc, the restaurateur planning to replace the Mudd's building with his own design, requested a 90 day extension of the agreement with the Redevelopment Agency to come up with the financing for his new building. The Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) between the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) and Mr. LeBlanc gave him until 2/28/2012 to provide proof of financing. LeBlanc requested an extension on 2/24. When he missed the 2/28 deadline, the DDA was voided.
The City Council held a meeting of the RDA Successor Agency on March 27th to consider Mr. LeBlanc's request. I attended this meeting and expected to see Mr. LeBlanc there. In fact I wrote a memo to him asking him to change his plans and keep the existing building, but Mr. LeBlanc was a no-show.
Jim Gibbon also attended the Successor Agency meeting and presented a plan to restore the Crow Canyon Institute (CCI) to take over maintenance of the Gardens and Mudd's building. CCI was formed when Virginia Mudd sold the 7 acre organic gardens to the City in the early 90's. The City didn't have the personnel to maintain an organic garden, so the non-profit Crow Canyon Institute was formed for that purpose.
The city paid CCI to maintain the gardens. Joe Queirolo was the head gardener who took care of the gardens for CCI. CCI was the sole contractor for maintaining the gardens until 2002. Then the City decided to put the maintenance contract up for bids. Joe Queirolo bid $75,000 and CCI bid about twice that. CCI claimed they needed the extra money to continue the programs and special events.
Jeff Eiorio selected Joe Queirolo for the contract, but several members of the 2002 City Council had friends on CCI's Board of Directors and they voted to approve a contract with CCI. CCI fired Joe for bidding against them.
The issue got very messy and political and the City Parks Department took over maintaining the gardens after new Councilmembers were elected in 2003.
While the gardens are still maintained by the City many of the programs and festivals CCI held during the year were dropped. This is too bad because these programs were a source of revenue for CCI and could have been for the City the same way similar programs are conducted at Forest Home Farms. It's almost as if FHF is the favored child and Crow Canyon Gardens has been left to languish.
I supported the City taking over maintaining the gardens in 2003, but I expected the programs to be supported too. The programs at FHF are conducted by volunteers, and I'm sure volunteers with an interest in Crow Canyon Gardens could be found to conduct programs there too.
According to Joe Queirolo, "About 60% of its (CCI's) money came from the contract with the City. The rest was revenues from the garden tours, community garden dues, sales of produce, the annual garden festival, and memberships." So resurrecting Crow Canyon Institute to restart programs at Crow Canyon Gardens could raise a significant amount of revenue to support the gardens again.
The issue right now isn't the gardens, which are still being maintained by the City, but what will happen to the Mudd's building. The Crow Canyon Gardens Master Plan from 1996 included a 1200' building for meetings, offices, and educational events, which the Mudd's building would be used for according to purchase agreement in 2008. The Oversight Board should take this into consideration on any decision about the Mudd's property.
Former City Attorney Bob Sachs, who is now filling in as Interim City Attorney since Sheryl Schaffner left for another position, said that even though LeBlanc missed the deadline to submit his financial plans, he submitted his request for an extension before the February 28th deadline and the DDA was still in effect. Therefore LeBlanc's request must be considered. The Successor Agency voted to send LeBlanc's request for an extension to the Oversight Board.
All of the members of the Oversight Board have been appointed. Here's the final makeup of San Ramon's Oversight Board:
(1) One member appointed by the county board of supervisors. William Scott Perkins, Councilmember
(2) One member appointed by the Mayor for the city that formed the redevelopment agency. Pat Boom, Past Mayor
(3) One member appointed by the largest special district, by property tax share, with territory in the territorial jurisdiction of the former redevelopment agency. Fire Chief Richard Price
(4) One member appointed to represent schools. Gary Black, Asst. Superintendent for Business
(5) One member appointed to represent community college districts in the county. Kevin Horan, Executive Dean, DVC Dougherty Valley campus
(6) One member of the public appointed by the county board of supervisors. Mary Lou Oliver, past Mayor
(7) One member representing the employees of the former redevelopment agency appointed by the mayor. Marc Fontes, Director of Economic Development
Scott Perkins asked Bob Sachs at the Successor Agency Meeting about legal advice for the Oversight Board. Bob Sachs told Perkins he cannot represent the City and the Oversight Board, because it would be a conflict of interest. Sachs said the County would have to provide an Attorney to work with the Oversight Board.
Marc Fontes said the new State Law requires the Oversight Board to meet by April 15th, which is a Sunday. Fontes thought the Board might hold its first meeting as early as next week, which wouldn't be enough time for the County to assign an Attorney.
Perkins said "It could get ugly," but I doubt the first meeting would cover more than the Enforceable Obligations, which are the taxes that will be distributed to the districts represented on the board.
There are certainly legal questions that will come up regarding the disposition of Mudd's and whether or not to give Mr. LeBlanc his requested extension. LeBlanc's funding sources are dubious at best. Jim Livingstone pointed out that the letter Mr. LeBlanc included with his request implied 100% funding, which isn't very secure. I did some searching on the prospective investors in LeBlanc's letter.
USA Power Concrete Building Technologies builds housing out of indestructible concrete and offers 100% financing to users of their building process. Maybe I'm wrong but that sounds terrible.
Another name in the letter is Mr. Samuel Banks. I found Samuel Banks on LinkedIn as Director of Business Development at Concessions Financial, another 100% funding source.
I hope the Oversight Board will not agree to this 90 day extension. However, Scott is correct about needing an attorney on the Board. There are ambiguities in the code that require legal interpretation.