Here’s a copy of a letter to The Fullerton Observer by our State Assemblyman, Chris Norby, who puts the lie to the notion that Tony Bushala got some oct of subsidy in his lease deal with the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency. It’s funny how those who have routinely handed out millions in corporate welfare to their pals and cronies have chosen to attack Tony for actually paying to renovate the City-owned building!
Well, such are politics. The anti-recall crew are incapable of defending the Three Dessicated Dinosaurs so they have to attack the messenger of the Recall. Anyway, here’s Norby’s letter:
Santa Fe Depot Redevelopment Deal the Best We Could Get
I hesitate to get in the middle of your lively give-and-take with Tony Bushala (Mid-Sept Observer page 9 “Redevelopment Foe Also a Recipient,” and the Early October page 2 Rebuttal ).
However, since I was one of five Fullerton City Councilmembers (including Don Bankhead, Molly McClanahan, Buck Catlin, and Richard Ackerman) voting to approve the old Santa Fe Depot lease, allow me to defend our action.
That lease was the only way to save the historic structure from demolition and make an outdated building commercially viable.
In 1987, the Santa Fe Railroad sold the depot to a private developer who then sought a demolition permit. To avert its razing, the Fullerton Redevelopment Agency acquired the depot and sought bids for those who could preserve, restore and operate it. Agency staff recommended that the Bushala Brothers, Inc. (BBI) be awarded the project.
BBI was the only firm not requesting public subsidies. It offered a $41,000 up front payment to the agency plus $340,000 to restore the building to its original condition. As BBI had just completed an award-winning restoration of the old Ice House (just across the tracks from the depot) it was well qualified. When the depot restoration actually cost $540,000, the overruns were covered by BBI.
BBI also applied for and received the depot’s recognition on the National Registration of Historic Buildings and Places.
The monthly lease payment to the agency is $1,326, which is adjusted annually for inflation. While the Observer contends this is below market rate, it was the best offer we had at the time to restore this historic building. In addition, BBI pays $12,000 annually in building maintenance and for all property taxes and insurance.
The agency retained all rental income from Amtrak for the waiting room and ticketing areas. The rest of the depot was largely baggage storage rooms and an abandoned loading dock – areas difficult to lease out.
I have been critical of redevelopment agencies’ abuse of eminent domain, handouts to developers and diversion of property taxes from public schools. However, I have voted for agency-funded public projects (roads, parks, libraries) and for the preservation of historic buildings, such as the Santa Fe Depot.
One could argue that an old depot was not worth the public investment. However, given the council’s commitment to save the structure, I believe this was the best deal we had.
Chris Norby Fullerton Current California Assemblymember and former Fullerton City Council & Redevelopment Agency Member, 1984-2002