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City Council priority setting - capital project priorities

From: domainremoved <Adina>
Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2019 23:42:51 -0800

Honorable Council Members,

This note is in regard to the Council priority-setting session now
scheduled for February.

I would like to urge City Council to create a process to prioritize the
city's important and higher-cost infrastructure capital projects.

In the last year, one of the challenging topics in the public dialog was
the question about whether to accept a gift to rebuild the main library.
The donor backed out of the offer, partly because the city was not wholly
enthusiastic about taking on the project at the time.

One of the problems was that there were major strings attached to the gift
- it would have obligated the city to come up with $20-$30 Million
additional dollars to complete the construction of the library. At the
time, the city council had no clear process to discuss whether and where
this library project would fit into the city's priority list of major
capital projects - and what the consequences would have been to other
priorities if the city had taken on the library building project.

At the same time, there are a variety of other substantial capital projects
in the queue:

* the city has already decided to build a bike/pedestrian crossing at
Middle Ave across the Caltrain tracks. Stanford has agreed to pay $5M
toward the cost of the project, and the city will likely need to come up
with a substantial amount of additional funds to complete the project.

* the city is considering options for Caltrain grade separation. While
typically cities contribute "local match" funding that is relatively small
compared to the overall project, whose largest sources of funding come from
County, Regional, State, and sometimes Federal sources, a 10% local match
for a grade separation would also been in the $20 to $30M range.

* the city is considering a potential downtown parking garage, which could
also have costs to the city in the low tens of millions of dollars.

The city does have the ability to raise local funds for these sorts of
important capital projects. But probably not all at exactly the same time.

It would be valuable for the city council to prioritize major capital
projects, assess the financial capacity to take on such projects at any
point in time, and develop a process to revisit the priority list when an
opportunity arises to add new items to the queue such as a new library
building.

The city does have a Capital Improvement Plan process, but this includes
many items, larger and smaller. It would be valuable to have a special
process for the smaller set of more expensive projects that will require
the city to take on additional taxes and financing to deliver.

With such a process, the Council could make deliberate tradeoffs about the
benefits and consequences of taking on a new project, rather than being
reactive to new items that pop up.

Thank you for your consideration,

- Adina
Adina Levin
Menlo Park Resident
Received on Tue Jan 15 2019 - 23:39:46 PST

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