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PRESS RELEASE

February 25, 2004

For immediate distribution

Rotating contact person: Gary North, save.the.spur@recursor.net

PRESS RELEASE

February 25, 2004

For immediate distribution

Rotating contact person: Gary North, 650-697-5926


MILLBRAE COUNCIL VOTES TO PREPARE SEQUOIA PROPERTY FOR SALE
ALTERNATIVE REVENUE SOURCE STUDIED

On Tuesday night the Millbrae City Council unanimously authorized city staff to begin surveying of the parcel located at 890 Sequoia Avenue and perform other tasks necessary to prepare the property for sale. The Council made clear that this was not a decision to actually sell the property. The property is located adjacent to the Spur Trail and just beyond the right field fence of the Mills High baseball field.

Before voting, Council Members each expressed their regret that they needed to take this step, but stated that they believed it was necessary to keep this option open in order to help the city deal with its financial crisis. Three council members made statements indicating varying degrees of commitment to avoiding the sale of land if alternative revenue measures work out. A Millbrae Tomorrow participant reviewed video tapes of the session and extracted these quotes. Mayor Nadia Holober said, “If one of these other proposals . . . works out, . . . then we are very free to say, ‘No, we are not going to sell the property.’”. Council Member Marc Hershman said, “We are continually looking for ways to maintain services without selling land. I remain hopeful and I remain optimistic that, working together, we will be able to find other sources of revenue soon so that we can maintain essential city services without having to sell property.” Council Member Dan Quigg said, “If some of the other proposals come together, we might not have to sell it.”

During citizen input before the vote, 13 citizens spoke against preparing the land for sale; one spoke in favor. Some of the speakers were from the Millbrae Tomorrow coalition of concerned citizens (Web address: MillbraeTomorrow.org), but others showed up on their own. Many of the citizens pointed out that they have personally used this land for recreational purposes or they had witnessed others using it for walking, throwing a stick for a dog, jogging, etc. Others pointed out that the Mills High Athletic Department makes many uses of this area. Others pointed out that this grassy area with its attractive shrubs is an attractive open space area that greatly adds to the appeal of the adjacent Spur Trail and the Mills High baseball field.

An e-mail message from Mills High Cross Country Coach John McMullin was read aloud, including these statements: “That particular part of the field is where our home cross country course has been run for the past 30 years or so. It is also used on a daily basis by physical education classes and several athletic teams for general conditioning. I use it extensively to train the large number of athletes that run for me during the track and cross country seasons. It provides my athletes with a safe training area. The alternative is a track that is so overused by several of our sports teams, as well as community members during school hours, that it is nearly impossible to do specific workouts or out on the street where they have to deal with the hazards of the community. The track has also been undermaintained to the degree that it has gotten too hard for the students to run on for more than a few miles without risking injury.”

McMullin concluded his e-mail by saying, “I would hope that the City of Millbrae and its representatives would consider the contribution that this small parcel of land makes to our athletic program a valuable one and continue to allow us to use it.”

During his presentation prior to public comments, Ralph Petty, Community Development Director stated that some sort of engineering would be done to permit the cross country path to continue through this area. However a contact person for the Millbrae Tomorrow coalition of concerned citizens, Gary North says, “You have to wonder what that would look like. Based on current drawings the only land remaining for a trail would have to pass over the steep slope beyond the outfield fence. Would it be some sort of elevated ramp wedged between that outfield fence and the backyard fence of the new occupants? It seems to me that under the city staff proposal this portion of the trail would become less a trail and more of an awkward, constricted elevated passageway.”

Millbrae Tomorrow participant Julie Moss showed slides in which the boundaries of the proposed parcels were superimposed on actual photographs of the area. These slides clearly showed that recreational use of this immediate area would disappear because the parcels would eliminate virtually all of the less sloped grassy area above the outfield fence. The images on these slides can be viewed at the coalition’s Web site (www.MillbraeTomorrow.Org) half way down the Parcel Locations page.

Speakers for Millbrae Tomorrow (MT) stressed the need for the city to look seriously at Tax Increment Recapture (TIR) option that was originated by a local attorney familiar with the structure of city government. They pointed out that if the TIR works as hoped, it may provide the lion’s share of revenue needed to bridge the city’s projected budget deficit for the next fiscal year. Two participants in the Millbrae Tomorrow coalition were invited to attend a meeting on Monday with the city’s Interim Administrator, Interim Financial Officer, and the originator of the TIR plan. The MT participants were pleased to observe a constructive atmosphere in which both sides took a positive, problem solving approach to evaluating the feasibility of the TIR option.

North says, “We know that the California State Budget Analyst stated publicly last week that she is interested in taking money from local redevelopment districts. Our coalition agrees that it’s imperative that we redirect those revenues where they are sorely needed to help support the city’s fire, police, and other critical services. I’m sure that it would be a very sad situation if consideration of this option were delayed unnecessarily, then meanwhile the state came in to take those much needed revenue streams for themselves. It’s hard to overstate the urgency of this evaluation process.”

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