A developer comes to town with the bold idea of transforming this property from community eyesore to an economically viable medical facility for the aged. The company that would do so has had a lot of experience and success in this sort of thing, and is more than financially capable of reaching its goals.
After checking the project over, the community seemed to largely accept the idea, appearing more than willing to allow it to go forward. The one thing that could have been a point of contention, a voter approved municipal ordinance requiring large downtown projects of this sort to go to a public vote, became less of an issue when the developer claimed to have little problem with this, and called for a ballot measure on the question as quickly as possible.
When you take all of this into account, there really doesn't seem to be much of a problem, right? There are design points and a few other considerations that have to be banged out with the Planning Commission, but this is all fairly standard stuff. In the end those things would be worked out. There is a community consensus that the project needs to go forward, and a developer who seems more than willing to do what it takes to make it happen.
Plainly the process should be an easy one. Community support, obvious need, along with a cooperative developer with extremely deep pockets who is willing to do what it takes to meet the needs of all involved, both monetarily and politically, all the ingredients are present for a successful approval process.
And yet there is one party in the mix that doesn't seem to want to go along with this otherwise happy picture. That being City Hall. Through the law firm that supplies its City Attorneys, along with a Development Services department through which much of the planning must go, a seemingly endless series of obfuscatory and at times bizarre diversions are being steadily fed into the conversation. Time consuming and mostly besides-the-point, these apparent attempts to take the conversation into unnecessary tangents have slowed what should have been a rather simple process to where the project itself could be in some jeopardy.
So the question that must be asked now is why this is. On the surface of things the process should have been an easy one. Economic need, the solution to a community blight problem, and political consensus, all are clearly in place. Plus the creation of a business that would supply considerable tax money to a City that is strapped for cash, all of these considerations would make this project appear to be a slam dunk. And yet it isn't. With nearly all of the obstructions coming from agencies controlled by or aligned with City Hall.
I have come to believe that the problem here is a political one. When you strip away all of the other possibilities, what else could it be? And there are two reasons why this could be so. The first is the support of the developer for a Measure V vote. Now known as the Voter's Empowerment Ordinance, this voter approved law has long been vehemently opposed by a small but economically influential constituency here, one whose political influence in town far exceeds its numerical size. By siding with the supporters of this oftentimes embattled ordinance, the developer lost their support. The Kensington in their minds becoming more of a threat than a solution.
The second has to do with city politics. Should the Kensington project be lost, an elaborate blame game would be put into place, with the spin being that it was the fault of that portion of town supporting community control over downtown development. Despite the fact that many of those to be blamed actually support the Kensington project, the story line will be something quite different. With those advocating for slow growth and community control being cast as the party responsible for the loss of the project.
This would serve a couple of purposes. The first being to cast Measure V in a clearly unfavorable light, and would serve as the basis of an attempt to get rid of it. The second would be the creation of an issue that the embattled and widely disrespected current Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem could run for re-election on in 2014. Had their hands not been tied by Measure V and those who support it, the Kensington would not have been lost. Or so the story will go. The hypocrisy in this being that those actually responsible would claim to be among the victims.
This is not a strategy without some risk to this town, however. The company hoping to build the Kensington did not become as successful as it is by being blind. And if there was an underlying theme to the message delivered by the developer's attorney at the Planning Commission meeting Thursday night, it is that the City's bad faith obstructions to the Kensington project have been noted. Which theoretically could lead to a lawsuit against the responsible party, which would be City Hall.
The developer having little doubt about who the real guilty party might be.