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ThinkBIG, the group of movers-and-shakers put together by Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson to help sell the idea of building a new arena for the Kings, was out in full force yesterday doing damage control as city staffers published the findings of its study that looks into the feasibility of selling away publicly owned parking spaces and garages for the next 50 years for some quick upfront construction cash. Beside the staff comments in the first dozen or so pages of the report, it's the exact same findings that my site, ranSACkedmedia, got a hold of last week; privatizing parking will force Downtown visitors to spend more money to park their cars, taking away parking revenue will leave a $9 million dollar hole in the city's general fund every year with no plan to replace it, and the original value that was earlier thrown around for leasing away the parking rights was probably greatly exaggerated.
The greatest revelation between last week and now is the discovery that leasing away the on-street parking rights to build a new arena is not even legal according to current law. (See it for yourself around page 11 of the newly released report.) It was also announced that the city still has $52 million of bond debt to repay for the construction of some of its parking garages; debt that must be repaid before control could be handed over to any private parking company. Officials are looking at way to bend the law so that the leasing of on-street parking could be used to pay off this debt, but any such attempt could open the city up to lawsuits from taxpayer watchdog groups.
The Sacramento Bee is also reporting that the estimated cost of building the arena has increased by another $19 million over the past few weeks from $387 million to $406 million so that a VIP parking garage can be constructed on site. This figure still doesn't include the costs associated with building up the necessary infrastructure around the site needed to support an arena, such as new water mains, improved roadways, and electrical capacity upgrades.
But don’t expect to hear any of these concerns from anyone with the ThinkBIG group. Members of the committee told the press that the public “should not be afraid” of turning over control of seven parking garages and 5,500 on-street parking spaces to private firms.
A 50-year contract to replace a 23-year old arena? What’s there to be afraid of?
The City Council will discuss the parking report at its next meeting on Tuesday.