The woman at the back of a packed room in Seaside’s Oldemeyer Center said she’s lived in Seaside for more 30 years. She’s seen her high-school contemporaries from the 1990s in the news – not for their accomplishments, but for their murders. And she wants to know why nobody seems to be paying attention to the issue of money.
“With all the development happening, why aren’t these developers being forced to pay to play?” she asked. “‘Buffalo Wild Wings, would you support a Little League team?’… When my father pays his property taxes, where does it go? Why isn’t anyone watching the money?”
The woman didn’t offer her name and slipped out of the room before I could ask. Her comments came near the end of a nearly two-hour town hall meeting attended by (my rough count) 350 Seaside residents and business owners, all asking the collective question: What the hell is going on in our city? (Answer: three shootings within 48 hours of New Year’s Day, Crips battling Norteños over drug territory, and eight men and one 14-year-old boy arrested. This year alone.)
The woman’s questions came about 90 minutes after a defiant Mayor Ralph Rubio warned people off of questioning the city’s development moves. After talks of budget cuts that have led to a downsizing in the police department, Rubio said, pending development projects will raise the revenues the city needs for cops and infrastructure.
“We’ll put this city back together the way it should be,” Rubio said. “When you hear someone say, ‘The city of Seaside shouldn’t be building that,’ by keeping Seaside first, we keep our kids first.”
Good to know. Because according to a memo recently obtained by the activist group Keep Fort Ord Wild as part of a sweeping Public Records Act request (apparently, the city forgot to include it in the last PRA response), keeping Seaside and its kids first is going to require a lot of extra cops and new police cars – should the city approve the Monterey Downs horse track and housing development.
The need for extra police wasn’t mentioned in the fiscal and economic development impact analysis compiled by Downs consultants Willdan Financial Services, a report the Weekly obtained last month. The Willdan estimates of how much money Downs will generate for the city, versus what the city will spend to ramp up its police department if Downs happens, just don’t add up. The gap is insurmountably huge.
Seaside Police Chief Vicki Myers, who was asked to comment on public services for the Monterey Downs draft environmental impact report, wrote the police memo in September 2013.
After an assessment of the police department (there are 1.1 police officers in Seaside for every 1,000 residents, which, as an aside, is the lowest of any Peninsula city), Myers concludes the current level of police services aren’t enough to cover Downs. That includes 1,562 new residential housing units, according to the draft EIR, and an additional 4,139 permanent residents.
Based on that, Myers writes, the proposed project will require at least seven more patrol officers, one more investigator, one more non-sworn support staffer and five new patrol cars.
She suggests the city will need a new police station too, writing, “The existing police department facility is not adequate for existing staff… additional facilities are necessary should additional police staffing and operations be expanded.”
Here’s where the problem comes in. According to the Willdan report, building out Downs will happen in six phases. When it’s complete, Downs will generate $1.2 million per year for the city. But in four of the six phases – the first two phases, and then again in phases five and six – the city will lose money.
Even at build out, $1.2 million probably isn’t enough to pay salaries for seven new officers, an investigator and a support staffer, plus their benefits and pension obligations.
When Myers was asked why the department can’t add staff now, she reminded the audience that everyone, including the city, had to live within their means.
So, Mayor Rubio: If the added revenue from Monterey Downs won’t cover the monthly nut for all those new cops, what will?