Buried in the middle of a Daily Journal article with a headline about free parking is perhaps the biggest news-no-one-knows-about in B'game and it has nothing to do with free parking. In fact it's more like the opposite--how to ruin the parking situation downtown. The City Council is considering an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement with Grosvenor USA Ltd. to enable the developer to assess how to build on Parking Lot E and the Post Office site.
The concept, which encompasses the post office land, includes an “urban village” with 100 residential units, 35,000 square feet of retail and/or restaurant space and 125 residential parking spaces.
Let's put aside what a bad idea this whole thing is because there is nothing "village-like" about it. Not only do we already have the choicest "village" on the whole Peninsula, but we have yet to feel the impact of the Peninsula Ave. monster complex that San Mateo has foisted right onto B'game's border.
Aside from that problem, the idea of an exclusive negotiation agreement ("ENA") is just bad business practice especially when the "good faith money" the developer would put up to get this boon is refundable. The circumstances that would trigger a refund are Grosvenor not buying the Post Office, the environmental assessment not working out, or Grosvenor deciding in 30 days that the project is "infeasible".
Topping that one-sided aspect is the idea of a "market delay" in Section 3.2.4 of the proposed agreement. That says two quarters of 3% decline in the SF-San Mateo-RWC Housing Price Index would add time to the 18 month exclusive period. Now with local real estate booming that is unlikely--but interest rates are on the rise and the Fed is getting less predictible with every Ben Bernanke speech. The 10-year Treasury yield is up 85 basis points since early May. But isn't that the kind of risk a developer should bear for exclusivity?
My next concern is the real kicker. On page 11 of the agreement, it states
At this time, it is not known which, if any, elements of the Post Office structure maybe considered historic resources under CEQA.
That smacks of gamesmanship. One need only go back to the Feb. 28th post here on the Voice to read that Criterion A and C for the National Register apply and that the Spanish Eclectic architecture and the interior are "remarkably well-preserved" --better than 90% of the other historic post offices in the country. Has this train already left the station? And if so, who's driving it?