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Futrell says negotiation could take one to two years

Tuesday, April 9, 2002 by

Members of the city’s Redevelopment Services Office and Deputy City Manager Toby Futrell visited with Council Members and their assistants Monday to explain why they should designate Catellus Development Corporation to lead the redevelopment of the Mueller site. San Francisco-based Catellus scored 90 points on the city’s 125-point matrix, with the locally based Mueller Redevelopment Team Ltd. coming in at a paltry 59 points.

With that point spread, Catellus—once the holding company of the Old Santa Fe/Southern Pacific Railroad Co.’ s excess properties—easily earned the nod from the city’s 21-member evaluation team. Catellus and MRT were ranked almost identically on issues such as affordable housing strategy and public interaction, but Catellus pulled ahead on its proposed management structure and financial commitment.

“Without exception, interviews with city planners, redevelopment office project managers, community leaders and others who have had the opportunity to work with Catellus, gave consistently high marks for Catellus’ professionalism, cooperation, expertise, financial commitment, responsiveness to community and neighborhood issues and concerns, flexibility and overall creativity,” city staff members wrote in the item that will be presented to the Council on Thursday.

The recommendation goes on to say, “Catellus also received high marks for their public/private partnership commitments, their strong commitment to affordable housing, their efforts in going beyond what was required in achieving M/WBE goals, and their efforts to hire top quality consultants. They were described as professionals who deal honestly, take direction well, and are eager to please the various stakeholders involved.”

Last week, in a letter to Futrell, Terry Mitchell of MRT proposed slowing down the selection process because of objections raised by neighbors who did not see the developers as staying true to the ROMA plan. The letter was no surprise to Futrell, who had been hearing MRT concerns for a number of weeks. Futrell called the MRT, “a good group of people” and “the best of our local development community.” She added that she would not be surprised to see team members play some role in the redevelopment of Mueller, even if the Council decides to vote in favor of Catellus as master developer.

The item is on the agenda for consideration on Thursday, and Futrell would not be surprised if the Council were ready to vote on the master developer issue. The city and the neighborhood have already committed an enormous amount of time to the project, she said.

“I believe the staff and the neighborhood would say it’s ready for a decision,” Futrell said.

Futrell estimates that negotiations on the contract with Mueller could take between one and two years, especially with a land deal that is likely to combine both leasing and ownership. She pointed out that the city’s negotiations with CSC on the new downtown City Hall complex took a year to complete. Questions still remain as to what kind of financial commitment the city will make to the project. Futrell said the project clearly would need a city subsidy for completion. The form that subsidy will take is still up for discussion.

About Mission Bay

In his presentation before the Mueller Implementation Commission, Catellus CEO Nelson Rising presented Mission Bay as the model for Catellus’ philosophy. The 303 acres on the China Basin was once a warehouse district. Located on San Francisco Bay, the only current residents are those living in house boats on a small inlet. Most of the area is dilapidated or abandoned warehouses.

Only 85 acres of that property is considered developable by Catellus. Far denser than Mueller and still years from completion, the Mission Bay project has gone through three major plan revisions since the 1980s. Two tax-increment financing districts are underwriting much of the infrastructure on the project. Construction approvals must go through a citizens advisory committee and one of 11 city agencies charged with overseeing different aspects of the project.

Mission Bay sits on what is considered to be the last major piece of undeveloped land in San Francisco and probably one of the most ambitious urban in-fill projects in the country. Mission Bay will be home to 6 million square feet of office space, 6,000 units of affordable housing and a 500-room hotel. About a quarter of the housing is classified as affordable, with 250 of those units being built by Catellus and the balance by local non-profit agencies. Four of those projects, most along the avenue that leads to Pacific Bell Park, are currently under construction.

The new 43-acre University of California-San Francisco biotech campus anchors the project. The main building of the campus is close to completion. Biotechnology will dominate most of the office space on the property, although the first commercial project set for completion is a new 280,000-square-foot headquarters building for the GAP.

During his presentation to the Mueller Implementation Commission, Rising suggested a five-phase development plan for the 700-acre Mueller Airport property. While Catellus has supported the general concepts of the ROMA plan for Mueller, Rising said development makes sense only at a lower density. Commercial space at Mueller—like Mission Bay—would focus on R&D and biotechnology uses.

Futrell said most would understand that the ROMA plan is a guideline and not hard-and-fast rules.

“The master plan is the foundation of everything we’ve worked for,” Futrell said. “I think that everybody understands that as we go through time there may be a need for it to be tweaked, but it is the framework, the guiding document.”

Catellus has suggested using retail early on as a way to development a sales tax stream. The company’s proposal suggests use of a tax increment reinvestment zone. Bonds would be issued to back infrastructure.

The Mueller Implementation Commission fought for a seat at the table during the selection process. Futrell said she does expect the involvement to continue, in some form, throughout negotiations.

“We’ve kept them involved all the way through the process,” Futrell said. “I’m sure I couldn’t tell you exactly what format it’s going to take, but they will stay intricately involved as we move through it.”

Council expected to accept or reject map this week

It was a beautiful spring night as the first Monday after daylight savings brought us longer evenings. Perhaps they were enjoying the additional sunshine, but no one from the surrounding neighborhood dropped by the Montopolis Recreation Center to ask questions or give their views on the city’s proposed single-member district map. However, seven people showed up to review and comment on the concept and the district map at a Crockett High School meeting. Ryan Robinson, the City Demographer, said it’s been the “most attended meeting” so far.

Two people who said they have worked elections expressed concern about the lack of attention this issue has received in the media. Ralph Meire, who has worked elections for at least twelve years, said there has not been enough information put out by the City Council. He said the Council should publish the maps in the newspaper, not simply post them on the Internet, because not everyone has Internet access. He added, “There is not enough information and there are only five days before early voting.” He said if voters don’t understand an issue, they’ll vote against it. Elsie and Bill Althenn, who have also worked elections, agreed there was not enough information in the newspaper or on television. They added that they had only recently heard about the meetings.

Other concerns brought up in the meeting included splitting South Austin and putting neighborhoods that don’t share common interests together in the same district. Elsie Althenn, who lives on the west side of proposed District 3, said she might not be interested in issues that people on the eastern part of the district would be concerned about. Glen Shield said he would prefer that the east side of District 3 be a part of an east-side district because they have more issues in common. On the other hand, Bill Althenn said he wants City Council members to work for all of Austin, not just a single area.

Robinson said speakers have fallen into two categories: those who are for or against the idea and those who say neighborhoods in the same district don’t share the same concerns. But he added, “Like it or not, they are aware and sensitive of what it’ll do: change the political landscape of Austin, diminish it from the central and move it out to the city.”

Council Member Daryl Slusher has expressed concerns about the way South Austin is split, with District 5 reaching from Ben White all the way to 45th Street. Slusher has suggested that the district reach further south, taking the northwestern portion of District 3, and further west, bringing in Walsh Tarlton, but not extend north of the river. He has suggested that the sections north of the river be divided on a more north-south alignment.

Assistant City Attorney John Steiner, who has helped demographers through the process, which will require approval from the US Department of Justice, explained why Slusher’s plan would be difficult to execute. “There are not enough people in South Austin to make three districts. One has to cross the river or you seriously dilute the ethnic share of Hispanics,” he said. If you change one part of the map, he noted, the whole map has to change as a consequence.

Slusher is not the only member of the Council who has reservations about the map. He said the Council may choose to adopt the map as it is currently configured, ( See index page for link) or another configuration. However, if they cannot agree on a map, the concept of an 8-2-1 plan will go to voters without a map. Early voting starts April 17.

If the Council adopts a map that is rejected by the Department of Justice, however, that body could instruct the city to draw another map. On the other hand, if the department believes that the 8-2-1 system does not offer African-Americans a fair chance to elect their own Council Member, the whole system could be rejected. That might happen because the “African-American district” is 44 percent Hispanic and 35 percent African-American. Steiner said 40 percent of the voting age population is Hispanic, with no drop in the percentage of African-American voters as compared to the whole population. The reason for this, he noted, is that two-thirds of Austin’s African-American population no longer lives in East Austin. Because of continued integration, he said, it is conceivable that within a generation or two, the African-American enclave in East Austin will only be a historical footnote, as it is in Clarksville today.

Vote today . . . Democrats have a chance to choose between US Senate candidates Victor Morales and Ron Kirk. In local races, Lulu Flores and Eddie Rodriguez are vying to replace outgoing State Rep. Glenn Maxey in District 51. Republicans in District 50, northwestern portions of Travis County, can choose between two attorneys, Bob Richardson and Jack Stick. Votes will be counted at the Millennium Youth Center, 1156 Hargrave St. The city is also holding another single-member district hearing at the center from 6:30 to 8pm this evening. Lanier High School at 1201 Peyton Gin Road will host a similar meeting from 7:30 to 9pm . . . Thun re-elected . . . The Board of Adjustment chose officers Monday evening. Herman Thun will continue on as Chair, while Barbara Aybar was chosen Vice Chair, a position previously held by Betty Edgemond, who continues her service on the board . . . To ban, or not to ban . . . The final item on this week’s City Council agenda is a public hearing on amending an ordinance that would result in prohibiting parking in the front or side yard of a residential property. This subject has already received a flurry of attention. (See In Fact Daily, March 18th, 2002, April 1, 2002.) This week’s hearing is just the first of three that are planned on the contentious matter. Council Member Danny Thomas, the sponsor of the ordinance, told In Fact Daily he was hopeful the ordinance would be approved after all the public input. He said he understands that there is currently opposition to the ordinance, but thought that after citizens understand that their neighborhoods can opt in or out, opposition would diminish. At this point, he said, his assistant believes there are three votes in favor of the plan . . . If you’re going to that meeting . . . This week’s City Council meeting is at the Conley-Guererro Senior Activity Center, 808 Nile Street. Parking is scarce . . . Wynn speaks up for music museum . . . The State, Federal and International Relations Committee of the Texas House of Representatives is considering creating a State of Texas Music Museum. Council Member Will Wynn declared in his appearance before the committee that Austin would be the perfect place for such a museum. Where else? Lubbock? . . . The difference between signatures and money . . . Place 3 City Council Candidate Linda Curtis has proven her dedication to gathering signatures, whether for the re-election effort of Council Member Beverly Griffith or for her own citizen initiatives. But she's apparently put in considerably less effort collecting donations for her City Council campaign. Curtis collected about $300—and two of her four donors were from out-of-state. She did get $100 from SOS Board Member Mark Tschurr, but spent more than that on making copies of Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman's petitions. Tschurr ran unsuccessfully against Goodman in 1993. Curtis listed expenditures as of March 31 at $971, mostly to the City Clerk's office. In contrast, Place 3 non-candidate Robin Stallings spent $950, including his $500 filing fee—before bowing out to support Goodman . . . SH 130 recommendation announced . . . Staff of the Texas Department of Transportation has recommended a group of construction companies going by the moniker of Lone Star Infrastructure LLC for the state contract to build SH 130. The consortium includes Fluor Daniel and Balfour Beatty Construction, along with a host of sub-contractors and consultants. The staff recommendation is expected to receive final approval by the Texas Transportation Commission (TTC) at its meeting later this month.

© 2002 In Fact News, Inc. All rights reserved.

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