Lame Ducks Approve Del Monte Development
Marie Gilmore, Lena Tam and Stewart Chen stepped off the political stage on Tuesday, Dec. 16, but not before the former mayor and former councilmembers cast their votes from the City Hall dais, giving their stamps of approval to Tim Lewis Communities’ (TLC) Del Monte Warehouse project.
The vote came at a specially scheduled meeting before Mayor Trish Spencer, Vice-Mayor Frank Matarrese and City Councilman Jim Oddie took their seats.
The lame-duck City Council ended its term by approving two ordinances — the first, the development agreement with TLC to build housing on the site of the former Del Monte warehouse and the second, the developer’s density-bonus allowance. The latter will allow TLC to build extra units in exchange for providing low-income housing.
Gilmore set the stage for the City Council’s approval when she pointed out that the Council spent five hours discussing the issues surrounding these ordinances at the Dec. 2 City Council meeting. She reminded the audience that the Council listened to 41 speakers on Dec. 2 and that 26 of those speakers supported the Council approving the ordinances.
Spencer and Matarrese were the first to speak and both recommended that the Council delay voting on the ordinances so that new City Council could weigh in on the matters.
Spencer pointed out that the city did not give the required special notice about the 5 p.m. start time for the meeting. She said that the Council should not approve the density bonus without seeing how affordable housing would fit into TLC’s plans for the property.
Matarrese told the Council that the city needs more review on how the Del Monte project fits into the Northern Waterfront as a whole. He also pointed to city’s use of a six-year-old study of the site for comparison.
Helen Sause gave an emotional appeal to the Council to go forward with approval. She said that she was speaking on behalf of herself and her recently deceased husband, Sam. She said that going forward would preserve the warehouse building, provide homes and give Jean Sweeney Park a jump start. "This project would lead to a waterfront revival," she said.
Neighbors spoke from both points of view, one asking that the Council "mercifully delay" the project, while another said that approving the project would give her employees a chance to find an affordable place to live in the city
where they work. A third said that he was pleased to see a plan for an "underutilized" space come together. He said that the affordable housing at the site might offer his children a chance to live in the city where they grew up.
A fourth neighbor said that he had problems with some aspects of TLC’s plans for the site. He hoped that the Council would not "tarnish the plan by ramming it through at a poorly planned meeting."
Former Vice-Mayor Doug de Haan told the Council that the plans for the site were "not ready for prime time" and that these plans were "not properly fleshed out."
Jane Sullwold, who made an unsuccessful bid for the City Council four years ago, said that she would vote for the project "but not tonight." She echoed Gilmore’s statement that the Council had spent five hours discussing these ordinances on Dec. 2. She reminded the Council, however, that these discussions did not start until 10:30 p.m. and that they did not take their final shape until 1 a.m., Dec. 3. "Shame on you for going forward," she said.
Gretchen Lipow told the Council that "devil was in the details" and that housing the low-income residents in separate building was contrary to a "integrate, don’t segregate," philosophy so prevalent today.
TLC’s Mike O’Hara got the last word by reminding the Council and the audience that the ordinances that would allow the project to go forward have already been aired in 12 public hearings. He said he was insulted by those saying that the project was being rushed through.
After a brief round of comments from the dais the Council approved both ordinances by a vote of 4-1 with Councilman Tony Dasog casting the sole "no" votes.
Gilmore ended the meeting —and her tenure as mayor — by asking for a moment of silence to honor Sam Sause.