Yesterday, San Diego city councilmembers approved issuing $17.4 million in bonds to pay for a four-story http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2012/oct/01/city-council-looks-for-ways-to-fund-balboa-park-pa/">parking garage behind the Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park.
Councilmembers issued the bonds through a joint use agreement between the City of San Diego and the San Diego Redevelopment Agency. There's one problem with that, writes attorney Cory Briggs in a letter to the city council; redevelopment agencies no longer exist.
"The convoluted process of having the Financing Authority issue the Parking Garage bonds is a poorly disguised artifice designed to circumvent legal limitations on the City that prevent it from issuing the bonds itself. It is, simply put, a total scam," reads the October 2 letter from Briggs on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government and the Save Our Heritage Organisation.
The attorney argues that although the city council serves as Redevelopment's Sucessor Agency, it prohibits the agency from incurring new debts.
Briggs claims that doing so violates Assembly Bill X1 26 (2011). But that's not all. The joint agreement violates not only state law but several local laws as well.
Section 4 of the Joint Powers Agreement actually prohibits the successor agency to issue bonds, only purchase them. Yet, despite the language, the City still referred to the need to issue bonds for the project.
Here are two examples from a staff report:
"...the City recognized that the undertaking of the reclamation and restoration of the Plaza de Panama is of such significant cost that it will not be feasible solely through funds raised by the Committee. Accordingly, to ensure funding for the parking garage portion of the Project, the City Council also approved a plan of finance on July 9, 2012 contemplating the issuance of tax exempt bonds in an amount self-supported from parking fee revenues generated by the operation of the Parking Garage."
"The Public Facilities Financing Authority of the City of San Diego (the “Authority”) will be the issuer of the 2012C Bonds."
In addition, Section 99 of the City Charter prohibits the City from borrowing money on projects that will not generate the money to pay back the entire debt in one year's time.
From Section 99:
"The City shall not incur any indebtedness or liability in any manner or for any purpose exceeding in any year the income and revenue provided for such year unless the qualified electors of the City, voting at an election to be held for that purpose, have indicated their assent as then required by the Constitution of the State of California..."
I am waiting to hear back from the City Attorney's Office explaining the City's position