Prior to last week’s council decision to invest in San Pedro Square, the Mercury News Editorial Board posed an important question that deserves the consideration of every citizen in San Jose. The paper asked, “Should decisions to invest redevelopment money be based purely on a direct dollar payback to the city…or should they take into account less tangible goals, such as creating public spaces, encouraging private investment and keeping the charm and atmosphere of those rare, older parts of downtown?”
Of course, the paper took the broader view and voiced support for the proposed investment. They also reported that the San Pedro fiscal report showed a negligible direct return on the city’s investment to be as low as $40,000 a year. (Not including the “charm” premium.)
I continue to be amazed that so few people seem concerned about the borrowing and spending habits of the San Jose Redevelopment Agency. How is it that, by law, the RDA can issue bonds to subsidize a development without the direct approval of San Jose voters? The law allows for a $300 million expansion of the convention center, but we’re not allowed to borrow money to balance the budget, or help the schools.
Does anyone else find it to be ironic that the City of San Jose Council/RDA Board endorsed a $6 million investment in an already healthy area of the downtown, the same week that the East San Jose School Board voted to eliminate all after school sports programs?