Bad policies come home to roost

Conservative city councilmembers have cited the Bidwell Ranch property as the poster child for the failure to solve two predicaments facing the city. But those very problems are, irony of ironies, the result of council policies established while these same conservatives were in power.

First the councilmembers point to Bidwell Ranch, or at least those parts of the property that don’t support wetlands and endangered meadowfoam, as a logical place to build houses in a city suffering from the dwindling availability of buildable land. And they are stunned when the liberals now in control say no dice, that after a 20-year land-use battle, the property at the entrance to Bidwell Park is not for sale.

Second, the conservatives point to Bidwell Ranch as a logical source of revenue for developing the many empty lots in town slated to become parks. Sell the buildable land to a developer and use the money—$30 million, some say—to construct neighborhood parks.

The $30 million figure is a fantasy, at best. The city would have to pay millions to entitle the property for development by building roads and a bridge for access as well as paying for the required environmental-impact report while gambling that no one would sue to stop development. No developer in his or her right mind would take that risk, considering the history of the property. In other words, building on Bidwell Ranch is never going to fly.

What is disingenuous on the part of the conservative councilmembers is that the shortage of land to build on and the lack of money to pay for parks were both exacerbated by the conservative majority’s decisions in recent years.

Led by then-Mayor Rick Keene, the council consistently voted to reduce developers’ park fees too low for future park development while at the same time amending the minimum housing densities in the city’s General Plan so that fewer houses were built. That added up to a lot of lost revenue, and that is where the park fees and available land went.

Don’t ask the liberals to give up one of the few victories they’ve achieved in the past 20 years to try to fix the problems created by the conservatives’ reckless votes.