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Rigby launches fusillade of questions regarding forced property sales

Vista City Council – meets on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month at 5:30 PM in the City Council Chambers at City Hall.
Carla Miles

With a three-story American flag still being displayed from the weekend Memorial Day ceremony in the Vista Civic Center, remembering those who gave everything to safeguard family, friends and fellow citizens, the Vista City Council met to discuss and cast their votes on an assortment of issues yesterday, including the sale of six properties.

The six properties --including three Successor Agency properties and three City of Vista properties-- are to be sold, according to John Meyer, the former Redevelopment Director, as part of a State of California Plan from last year. The properties are:

  • From the Successor Agency:

1315 N. Santa Fe Avenue; 306 S. Santa Fe Avenue; 114 Natal Way

  • From the City of Vista:

1335 N. Santa Fe Avenue; 603-611 N. Santa Fe Avenue; and S. Melrose Drive

California Department of Finance forcing property sales

This is happening per the State Department of Finance Management Plan of December 24, 2013, mentioned in Meyer's presentation to elected officials, which brought on a fusillade of questions from Councilmember Amanda Rigby.

The back-and-forth dialog included this:

Councilmember Rigby: "We purchased ... properties for a total sales price of $1,110,000 is that correct?"

Director Meyer: "Uh, that sounds correct."

Rigby: 'that's a huge loss'

Using just her iphone calculator, Rigby figured that when the properties were sold it would only total $291,523 "... for a loss of $818,477 does that sound right?"

Meyer replied in the affirmative; Rigby continued then:

"And I also understand, reading the staff report, that the proceeds from the Successor Agency properties ... will be forwarded to the San Diego county auditor/controller, where it will be distributed among the taxing entities which are the hospital district, the school district, et cetera. There are a few. Um, ... and the city of Vista will receive out of that money $53,713. To me, that's a huge loss, and I want to ask for clarification of the monies .... Where did that money initially come from in 2008?"

Meyer: "That was the redevelopment agency's tax increment."

Rigby inquired further. "And that was paid by Vistans?"

Meyer explained that it had been collected through the redevelopment process: "... it was a redistribution of existing property tax."

Leaving that, Councilmember Rigby then wondered why the other offers and details were not mentioned in the report, and why those offers weren't accepted. Rigby also observed words that "staff recommends" the "acceptance of the higher offer" but wondered how the council could even see what this might be when that specific information failed to make it into the report.

The councilmember then wanted to discuss what was paid by the city for the city-owned properties.

Rigby: "Do you know what we paid?"

Meyer: "No, I do not."

Rigby spoke about spending ".... 1.1 million dollars and coming back with $53,000."

She added this: "I think that's a huge loss to the city of Vista, unless I'm completely mistaken about where the monies came from. I know where they're going." She asked Meyer if she was perhaps "missing something" on this deal.

Meyer: "... well a couple of comments. Unfortunately, most of these properties were purchased at the height of the market. And we know that the land values ... were reduced significantly over the last five years. Uh, in terms of doing the math ... the $53,000 is a percentage of the value of the property that comes back to the city as a taxing entity."

Rigby: "Right, so we're selling those for a total of $291,523 which leaves $237,810 as going to those other taxing entities."

Meyer: "Right"

Feels like 'we're getting the short end of that stick'

Rigby: "I don't know. I'm just feeling kind of like we're getting the short end of that stick...."

Meyer: "Well the situation with the Successor Agency properties, unfortunately with the dissolution of redevelopment part of the legislation, requires us to sell the properties."

Which led Rigby to a final question on the matter:

"Is there a time limit on when we have to sell these by state statute or can we hold on to these until the market comes back a little bit?"

Meyer: "The legislation doesn't include a hard, fast deadline. It is expected [by the State Dept. of Finance] that we move forward with the uh, disposing of the properties."

Councilman Dave Cowles also mentioned being "forced to dissolve the redevelopment properties" by the State. His understanding seemed to be that these were properties that the City of Vista intended to hold for redevelopment in the future, but now the city is in the position of having to get the properties "off the books."

He wondered if there would be any benefit to a delay of sales, since California officials set no deadline, but Meyer stated it was staff consensus that "time is not going to change" the value of the properties.

Rigby was the lone vote against, but this motion passed with all others voting for the sale of properties.

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