Calexico rejects bond resolution

March 26, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE

Staff Writer

CALEXICO — Weighing the need for affordable housing versus more schools, the City Council here voted 3-1 to reject a resolution that would have allowed the city's Redevelopment Agency to sell more than $5 million in housing bonds.

The money from the bond sale would have been used by an Indio-based developer who had planned to build apartments where the Calexico Unified School District has said it wants to build a new high school.

For four years, Sam Jack of Indio has sought all manner of financial assistance from the city, state and federal governments to build low-rent apartments on 6 acres near William Moreno Junior High.


Last year the RDA board allocated $700,000 to Jack so he could secure federal tax credits from the state for the project.

At Monday's meeting, Jack had hoped the RDA board would issue $5.2 million in housing bonds that Jack could use to finance the apartment project.

It didn't.

Jack left the council chambers after the board's vote. He declined to comment on the board's action.

Councilman Gilbert Grijalva commented, though. He said the council might have brought down the axe on Jack's project.

If that's the case, the city will not allocate the $700,000 to Jack for the tax credit application, according to interim city Redevelopment Director Ralph Morales.

Grijalva was the lone dissenting vote in favor of approving the issuance of the bonds. Mayor Victor Carrillo and Councilman Frank Montoya and Javier Alatorre voted against issuing the bonds.

Jack had asked for the council to issue $5.2 million in housing bonds that would be sold to a lender and paid off by the money from rental fees from the apartments he wanted to build. The city would have had no financial obligation to pay off the bonds, according to Jack, and no liability, according to City Attorney Michael Rood. Morales recommended issuing the bonds.

Before the vote, the council heard from Calexico Unified School District Superintendent Roberto Moreno. He told the council that the district has been eyeing Jack's land near Moreno Junior High since October.

Moreno said the district wants to buy around 22 acres surrounding the junior high to convert it into the city's second high school.

"It's not often that I come before you like this but I find myself speaking out against a development," Moreno said.

He asked for the board to hold off issuing the bonds until after the district and Jack negotiate the price of the land.

Moreno said if the board didn't hold off it could find itself tied up in litigation if the district decided to declare eminent domain.

"I think it's premature (to move forward with issuing the bonds) at a time when one of two things could happen; we could be moving into the court system and tying up that property," Moreno said.

By declaring eminent domain, the district would exercise its powers as a public agency to condemn Jack's land, and the land surrounding the junior high, then buy it for a community's benefit.

After the board and city staffers had a thorough discussion of the RDA's options, Grijalva said, "Tomorrow is the deadline to submit the application."

Jack had said he needed to submit a tax credit application to Sacramento by today.

Grijalva continued, "We can't worry about potential litigation. We have to make our decision based on what we feel is the biggest need of the community."

He called the vote to issue the bonds, "The safest vote this council would have."

After City Treasurer Rudolfo Moreno told the council to hold off, Jack took to the podium.

"I have been working at this for more than four years and I don't feel this is the venue for the council to make a decision that affects business dealings between the school district and myself," he said.

Jack would have more leverage in negotiations with the school district if the RDA board approved the bond issuance.

Speaking of the "negotiations" leading up to Monday night, Jack said the district had not made a formal offer for his land.

"So as far as I'm concerned, the issue is no," he said.

Moreno took the podium in response and said the issue boils down to the will of the people as to the best use of the property surrounding the school.

"If you ask the residents there is overwhelming support for the high school," he said.

Before calling for the question, Carrillo said, "There is no need for us to go into a situation where there could be litigation, where money would be wasted or ill will would be created."

After Carrillo's comment, Grijalva spoke about Calexico's housing situation. He put a good chunk of the blame for a lack of low-rent apartments on the city's Mello-Roos taxes. The taxes are collected by the school district for construction of new facilities.

Grijalva wanted to know if the money is being spent. He called for an audit of the books.

Talking about the board's choices regarding Jack, Grijalva said, "Are we going to interfere with the business transaction of a private party? I hope not."

Supporters of the board's action said the need for schools outweighs plans of a developer whose apartments would house hundreds of school-age kids who would be sent to an already overburdened school district.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or

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