Soapbox

Streetcar line is a strong investment

A streetcar travels last week on the first line in Washington, D.C., in 50 years. A proposal would put a line between Sacramento and West Sacramento.
A streetcar travels last week on the first line in Washington, D.C., in 50 years. A proposal would put a line between Sacramento and West Sacramento. The Associated Press

Sacramento is generating incredible economic momentum. As advocates for property owners and businesses in Old Sacramento, downtown and midtown, our job is to build on that success, which is why each of our organizations endorsed the Sacramento streetcar proposal and why we ask property owners to vote in support.

Over the past five years, the cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento, transportation planners and business representatives have developed a new streetcar plan for Sacramento. Business leaders have participated in regular planning sessions on the project to ensure it adds value to our community. We have reviewed the details, and the streetcar is a worthy investment.

Our members have studied Portland, Ore., and several other cities where streetcar lines have spurred redevelopment of blighted buildings, new development on vacant lots, and growth in property values, retail sales and hospitality revenues – all of which increase the tax base. An analysis by Strategic Economics of Sacramento’s proposed streetcar anticipates similar results.

Over the next 20 years, existing properties within the streetcar district in Sacramento are expected to see value increases of more than $120 million. The aggregate benefits for the private sector – in terms of new development, increased commercial rents, and retail and hospitality sales – is conservatively estimated at $1.9 billion.

This represents a tremendous return on the investment of $30 million that owners are being asked to contribute to the $150 million project.

The property owners’ investment will be made by issuing bonds, which will be repaid from an annual assessment on properties within the streetcar district.

But before that district can be formed, property owners must vote in support by returning ballots the city recently mailed. The deadline for receipt in the City Clerk’s office is Tuesday.

Because of the large contribution being sought from the private sector, our organizations have worked diligently with the Sacramento Area Council of Governments and the city of Sacramento for months to provide assurances and procedural protections for our members.

Those assurances include guarantees that owners’ assessments can never go up; that the district funds will not be used to finance operations and maintenance; that the city seeks the best financing both now and in the future; that owners can pay less as new properties are developed in the district; that light rail is relocated off of K Street; and that a nonprofit board, made up of private and public sector leaders, governs streetcar operations.

We have also worked to make sure the contribution for each owner was distributed fairly according to anticipated benefit and ability to pay. Accordingly, properties on the first block of the streetcar line pay more than those on the second or third. In addition, 501(c)(3) nonprofits will pay a reduced rate, and affordable housing properties will be exempt.

The streetcar provides us with the chance to connect our visitors, employees and residents alike to our signature destinations: midtown, the convention center, the state Capitol, K Street, the planned new arena, Sacramento Valley Station, Old Sacramento, Raley Field and West Sacramento.

The time is now to invest in keeping Sacramento rolling forward.

Michael Ault is executive director of the Downtown Sacramento Partnership. Emily Baime Michaels is executive director of the Midtown Business Association. Peter Tateishi is president and CEO of Sacramento Metro Chamber.

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