Redevelopment Advisory Board Takes Heat On Its Membership

4/14/04 Redevelopment Advisory Board
Takes Heat On Its Membership
by Wendy Butler
The Eureka Reporter
Eureka resident and Humboldt Taxpayers’ League member Howard Rien said he believes Glenn Goldan’s participation on Eureka’s Redevelopment Advisory Board is a conflict of interest, because Goldan is currently developing city-owned property at the foot of C Street.

However, Redevelopment Director Cindy Trobitz-Thomas, Eureka City Councilman Jeff Leonard and Goldan maintain the board’s composition is such that there must be potential conflicts of interest, but it’s the way those conflicts are handled that matters.

On April 6, the City Council voted to authorize a 360-day exclusive-right-to-negotiate agreement extension between the Eureka Redevelopment Agency and Glenn G. Goldan & ReProp Investments Inc. for the sale for a Waterfront parcel between C and D streets on which Goldan plans to construct Seaport Village Square.

City Manager David Tyson said one of the benefits the city will see partnering with Goldan on this project involves its plans to submit an application for close to $2 million of federal Community Development Block Grant funding to construct a piazza adjacent to Seaport Village. The application requires proof of jobs that will be created and Tyson said Goldan will develop 52 jobs with the construction of and following the opening of Seaport Village.

Before the vote for this item, which was listed on the City Council’s consent calendar, Rien pulled it for further discussion.

He told the City Council that though he respects Goldan and his project, he felt Goldan’s membership on the Redevelopment Advisory Board “is not in the public’s best interest,” because he is developing a property on land owned by the city’s redevelopment agency.

Following the City Council meeting, Trobitz-Thomas said Goldan, who is board chairman, has not requested the use of any redevelopment funds for his project and he and other RAB members routinely recuse themselves from making advisory decisions about projects whose applicants have any business relationship with its members.

For example, Goldan and fellow-board member Delores Vellutini, who is also developing Waterfront property, recused themselves when RAB was discussing proposals March 31 for the city’s future Fisherman’s Work Area, she said.

“I happen to like Glenn (Goldan),” Rien said. “He was a good member of the Humboldt Taxpayers’ League. But, I do think the position of chair puts him in an extremely awkward position to access redevelopment funds.”

Leonard said he has found RAB members are very clear when it comes to conflict-of-interest issues. He said appointing new people to the board, if the mayor deems them qualified, is a good idea; however, Goldan is not monopolizing the Waterfront.

“It’s not like Glenn Goldan has 20 different projects that are all related to city redevelopment funds,” he said. “He really has just got the one.”

Leonard said when he was first elected, he attended a seminar about conflicts of interest and The Brown Act, the state’s open-meeting laws. He recalled being told “the law recognizes that you have a life. People expect that. You are going to have conflicts of interest. … You are doing things in our community and at some point … (different relationships) are going to come together.”

Rien said he is concerned the City Council does not receive enough community input about redevelopment projects.

“Some of these advisory boards are too long in the asking and too long in the being with the same people,” he said. “City Council rubber-stamps the advisory board.”

Trobitz-Thomas said she disagrees that the City Council rubber-stamps the board’s suggestions. For example, last summer, RAB made a recommendation to the City Council and the City Council went with its own decision, she said.

Developers Greg Pierson and Larry DeBeni had proposed to develop the city’s Fisherman’s Work Area at the foot of C Street and RAB agreed. The city went with Peter Brodeur of J.P. & Assoc. of Auburn.

She said when the city established RAB in 1993, it did so with the intention of having people on it who had developing, banking and legal expertise in areas impacting the redevelopment area.

“You want people on there that can help guide us,” she said. “We’re not developers. … We can’t know everything. … We really rely on the community professionals.”
Goldan said he recalls why RAB was created.

During the 1980s, the city was accused of being arbitrary and “having its favorite sons get redevelopment,” he said.

When former Mayor Nancy Flemming took her post in 1991, she appointed a Mayor’s Redevelopment Blue Ribbon Committee to review existing development plans and make recommendations on possible programs, projects and activities in Eureka’s core area, he said.

The City Council formed the Redevelopment Advisory Board on June 15, 1993.

“What you see on one hand is a room that can be potentially fraught with conflicts of interest and on the other hand you see … people that can conduct an appropriate … meeting and give (the) City Council advice,” Goldan said. “My attitude has always been, it isn’t the potential conflicts of interest that matter, it’s the way … members handle those potential conflicts of interest that counts.”

In response to Rien’s “rubber-stamp” comment, Goldan said because RAB is comprised of developers, as well as attorneys and real estate professionals, the City Council counts on their reviewing lengthy documents and lending it expertise on matters.

“I would hope they would go along with most of what we do, not because they rubber-stamp it,” he said.