Sunday, October 12, 2008


In July, the ultimate configuration of the Stone Valley/680 intersection was taken off the table, in no small part to community resistance. This either demonstrates the County really listening, or the County scared to do something that would drive the town immediately into Incorporation. We'd guess the latter.

The redevelopment of the Danville Hotel site is an ongoing discussion. There's a proposal for a three-story building with an underground garage. Comments in the Forum are not positive. This is also raising discussion about what height limits are appropriate for downtown Danville. In the context of Alamo, a similar debate may ensue whenever Hay and Grain goes bye-bye; in Danville it's being held in Danville. In Alamo...

The local mayors of Danville, Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and San Ramon spent some time patting themselves on the back for working together. They

credited their unified approach to dealing with regional problems for major improvements in the outlook for transportation, air and water quality and state and federal assistance for projects that can benefit the area.

Of the towns involved, neighboring Danville also seems closest to Alamo in other respects:

[Mayor Candace] Anderson said that Danville, which this year is celebrating its 150th year as a town, is nearing residential buildout.

"I don't see huge changes in Danville in the future except that we will keep updating and working to improve our downtown," she said. "We have a community that continues to attract new residents because of our excellent schools, a great downtown and yet still has that small town look and feel. I don't see Danville looking much different in future years, just becoming more charming."

Danville has more land open for development in its Master Plan than Alamo does, with planned restrictions - mainly the foothills West of SRV Blvd between Sycamore and San Ramon, and the ranch land near the Athenian; both are not particularly geologically stable, but have been eyed.

Alamo, in contrast, has less land in the county plan plausible for housing development, and is not coherently developed downtown. The most likely targets for redevelopment would be the Hay and Grain site down to Cherubini's and the stretch from Kahn Jewelers through the Car dealership. You can probably consider from Rotten Robbie through the Woman's Club in play as well. The really ambitious might say that most of Alamo Plaza except the Safeway could stand to be re-thought. Everything else in downtown seems new enough that redevelopment is probably not feasible.

Do the residents want a coherently planned, "charming" downtown? Probably not, as that would be more change than most folks would like for reasons of "character". (Or maybe they do, for personal values of "charming!")

Do they want haphazard development as it occurs opportunistically? Most probably don't want that either, but some might prefer it to aggressive planning , even if successful (see: Crescent Drive in Pleasant Hill)

What most folks probably want is no change, or only the change we like.

That is not always realistic, since change is inevitable, and the people who make change do it on their own agenda, not that of the by-standers.

The problems are how to decide what change we like really is, what we're willing to do to figure it out, and what we want to do about it. Do we do this by ourselves, or as allowed by the county supervisors? Should we feel blessed that they actually listened to us about the "ultimate configuration", or annoyed that we could only hope they would?

SRV Fire comments

We'd missed this before, and it was mentioned at the LAFCO meeting in September. With the boundaries as currently imagined, there is a slight overlap between SRV Fire and Contra Costa County Fire. As reported in Craig's semi-official SRVFire blog, it might be best if there were a realignment of service boundaries as well.

At the LAFCO meeting, it was pointed out that this need not be done at the same time as the incorporation, and many towns and cities do survive with multiple service providers. It's not fatal to the proposal, just something that would need to be worked out, said the LAFCO commisioners.

Thanks for the Plug

The mysterious "Alamo Ron" gives us a shout out at the Danville Weekly forums.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A fair point from Alamo Spotlight

Since we last visited, Alamo Spotlight now says,
On September 27, 2008, the Governor of California filed with the Secretary of State SB301, thereby eliminating the time constraint, June 30, 2009, LAFCO used to justify its decision at the September 18 hearing. This bill deletes the requirement that a city be incorporated before July 1, 2009, in order to be allocated Vehicle License Fee (VLF) revenues.

Consultant Gary Thompson and LAFCO Executive Officer Lou AnnTexeira told Commissioners that CFA data was based on the town being incorporated prior to June 30, 2009, in order for the town to receive VLF revenues. This new information, not available at the time the commissioners voted, will allow commissioners more time to address their concerns about the economic data contained in the CFA, and request updating the financial data accordingly.

One of the things that did drive the LAFCO decision was the existence of a deadline caused by the unpassed state budget at the time of the decision. With passage of SB 301, the deadline isn't there, so that is no longer a concern.

What would be of concern would be the wisdom of redoing the economic analysis, which will cost more money to re-do.

The question of who is financially leaning on who, County on Alamo, or Alamo on County remains unaddressed, and we note that while Alamo Spotlight has been updated, our submitted comment is still absent.

We take all kinds here, by the way.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Alamo Inc's new material

In contrast, the Alamo Inc has recently put up some reasonable and factual material.

Their update 11 (here until they break the link, sigh) contains a bunch of discussion about the Sep 18 LAFCO meeting that corresponds to my recollection, and goes into details of the financial analysis.

There is a letter from Sharon Burke, extolling voters to explore the issues and make up your own minds, and offers some arguments I haven't seen before:
One of the primary motivators for incorporation is the desire to protect our taxpayer funds from the excessive benefits the County agreed to with its unions. These costs are killing the County; it has no choice except to use County employees and overhead to perform municipal services for Alamo. An incorporated Alamo can contract out these services to private suppliers.

I'd implied that before, but never seen it spelled out clearly. Those who think the County might slide into bankruptcy ought to consider this seriously.

Third, there's passing word the AIA has institutionally voted in favor of the Incorporation, even though it will probably bring the demise of that organization.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Comment to the Spotlight

After looking at the Alamo Spotlight, I submitted the following as a comment. We'll see if it appears, or vanishes into a hole.

[Update: not added to their speak out page yet. I'll be surprised if/when it does show up.]

It is sad if these are the best arguments that can be made in opposition.

The main page here is discussed at:

Unfortunately the comments here don't allow links. It must be dangerous to allow uncontrolled access to outside information.

To summarize:

Reasons to incorporate include (a) local control of planning decisions; (b) disconnection from county finances.

Who is writing the check for the reconsideration? Why is the identity being hidden? If the conspiracy theories are valid for the proponents, can't they be true for opponents as well? Maybe anti-incorporation sentiment is being whipped up by developers who want free hands they are less likely to have with an incorporated city.

LAFCO properly heard all of the concerns that were raised here in bullet points before the vote was taken. They are in the LAFCO record of the meeting. The sinking state of the economy was known and raised; the claims about the petition were known; the fact of donation funding of the CFA was known. This is disinformation and smoke.

Planning estimates are estimates. If we think the economy is problematic, it is going to be problematic for the county as well as a city of Alamo. Should the county go bankrupt, is Alamo better off incorporated, or part of the county?

How is Alamo's $3.4M after ten years going to bail the county out of anything? It is a trivial amount.

I have heard very few, if any, arguments against incorporation that aren't fear-mongering.

Face it, folks, when the owners of Hay and Gray and the Shoe Repair fold shop, something else is going to go there. Do we want Martinez to decide what it is going to be, or us? At the last opportunity for such a change, we got an ugly strip mall.

Bring it to a vote, bring the real arguments, and decide.


Panic and Disinformation

I've just taken another look at Alamo Spotlight, after the LAFCO decision, and I'm basically horrified by what I've found. It seems to have been transformed into a panic-stricken emotive content only zone, and lost whatever rationality it seemed to have when I first looked.

(Curiously, it's a web-site that intentionally makes it hard to copy-and-paste content. This will not deter us!)
Thank you for visiting Alamo Spotlight, online to share your comments and provide reliable information on the incorporation of Alamo into a Contract-City. Our website offers Alamo residents who oppose incorporation an opportunity to voice their opinion and demand answers to the question WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF INCORPORATION?

Main answer: To ensure local control of future planning decisions.


5 p.m. OCTOBER 20, 2008

Say those who disagree, and don't want the issue to go before the voters directly. When things came present at the LAFCO meeting, the commisioners decided they would rather the voters decided then they alone. Apparently the folks at Alamo Spotlight do not want the voters to have the opportunity. Why not?

What LAFCO did not KNOW then, and should reconsider NOW
  • The current financial crisis is the greatest financial meltdown since The Great Depression of 1930. LAFCO should have the courage to reconsider its September 18 decision based on seriously flawed financial studies.

This was openly aired at the meeting where the vote was held and considered. The flaw in the financial model have been charged, but not clearly substantiated. The commentsby Alamo Spotlight that they are "seriously flawed" are assertions only, not here backed up by substance.
  • The Commissioners' doubts, regarding the financial data in the old 2006-07 model to approve the 2009 Alamo Incorporation, were denied consideration.

Demonstrably untrue. They were openly aired, were considered, and there was a vote which favored putting the measure before the voters.

  • LAFCO could not have known the Petition signed by Alamo voters for a LAFCO study, submitted with Application No. LAFCO 07-27, was secured with verbally misleading information prior to obtaining the signatures.

Also untrue; these charges were made before the meeting. They are now being repeated by the Alamo Spotlight as if they were (a) new claims, and (b) amounted to anything. The fact is that the signatures were obtained legally, and LAFCO has considered all input and had its vote. If Alamo Spotlight believed the signatures were illegally obtained, it could have filed suit to invalidate the filing. It did not, and has not done so -- we think because it is a non-starter.

As far as we can tell, the "sales pitch" given during the petition drive was accurate and not misleading.

  • LAFCO could not have known that $200,000 would be raised by Alamo Community Foundation, which solicited tax-exempt funds, to meet the requirement of "private money" to pay for LAFCO's incorporation studies.

This makes no sense at all, because there is nothing to complain about! The study funding had to be raised privately. LAFCO knew this. It did not know the name of the Alamo Community Foundation, nor did it need to; that ACF may or may not be organized as a tax-exempt 501c3 is irrelevant to anything. This complaint is like saying "LAFCO could not have known Troop 347 of the Girl Scouts was going to sell cookies without collecting sales tax!"

A Bailout for Contra Costa County on the backs of Alamo Taxpayers

When Tip O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives from 1977 to 1987, wrote the book entitled All Politics Are Local, he was not kidding. We all know fiscally irresponsible governments can always feed at the taxpayers' trough. Who did the LAFCO commissioners think they were fooling holding the charade of a hearing at Creekside Church on September 18? Certainly not speakers who had the courage to challenge its flawed "studies" and certainly not the enthusiastic audience who supported the speakers' sentiments with loud applause.

Let's try to deconstruct this. First is a claim that incorporation is a "bailout" for the County. This assertion is left completely unsupported, and makes zero sense. The plan is for a one-time payment of about $3.4 million after ten years. This isn't going to be a thimble-full in the bailing bucket the county may need over the next decade.

Who were the commisioners "fooling" at the hearing? I was there, and it looked well attended by people of all persuasions. There were people who claimed the studies were flawed, and those who thought they were good enough estimates. There was enthusiasm for those opposed, and there was enthusiasm for those in favor. There were passionate speakers on both sides.

Alamo Spotlight is filing a Request for Reconsideration with the required check of $2500. A check written from a personal account. A check, which will not appear as a charitable deduction on any IRS tax form. The only goods and services the opposition forces need is a NO vote in March to save Alamo taxpayers from bailing out Contra Costa County from bankruptcy.

Fine, someone has a right to do so. Yet for all the complaints Alamo Spotlight and others have made about "who funded the original studies?", shouldn't there be more transparency than this about who is forking out the money to try to get the matter off the ballot?

Then, at the end, there is a non-sensical claim that somehow Alamo is going to bail out Contra Costa county from bankruptcy. Which is it folks -- Alamo is not financially viable, and should rely on the county for funding of things, or Alamo is financially viable, to the extent the County needs Alamo's money to stave off bankruptcy?

If the county is going to go bankrupt without Alamo's piddling $3.4 million, are the residents better off being in their own city, or still completely tied to a now bankrupt county?

Frankly, we'd hoped for better formed arguments against incorporation than this.

Putting it before the voters to decide is a reasonable decision for LAFCO to have made.

This reconsideration is a waste of time, and we'd be better served with substantive discussion of the real issues before the election in March.