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Work Begins On Downtown Revitalization

Originally Appeared in the Stockton Record

Posted Mar. 30, 2015 at 8:31 PM

STOCKTON — Workers were busy setting up fencing around two downtown buildings and a parking lot Monday morning, a prelude to the start of construction on an affordable-housing development touted as an early step toward revitalization of the city’s core.

The project will involve renovation of the 124-year-old Cal Weber Building and the adjoining 89-year-old McKeegan Building at California Street and Weber Avenue.

There also will be new construction in the vacant lot formerly occupied by the seedy Land Hotel, which was demolished in 2012. Existing ground-floor retail businesses in the buildings will remain open while the year-long construction project is in progress.

In a much earlier time, the McKeegan building was home to Dreamland Hall, a dance hall that later became Treanan Ballroom. In the late 1800s, the Cal Weber building was occupied by the Columbus Buggy Company and, for a time, the YMCA.

Plans call for Cal Weber 40 to have 28 apartments with two bedrooms and one bathroom, and 12 more with three bedrooms and two baths.

A second affordable-housing and retail project, dubbed Grand View Village, could break ground a year from now if all goes according to the developers’ plans. Grand View is to be located at Hunter and San Joaquin streets and Miner Avenue.

A massive 15-block housing and commercial project for east-central Stockton, announced March 22, will take significantly longer to unfold, developer Ten Space Inc. says.

Cal Weber Housing Project Clears ‘Final Hurdle’ Despite Concerns

Originally Appeared in the Stockton Record

Posted Mar. 4, 2015 at 12:01 AM

STOCKTON — A downtown affordable housing project saddled by an 11th-hour controversy cleared what a developer called the “final hurdle” Tuesday night, with construction set to begin in less than three weeks.

The Cal Weber complex, at California Street and Weber Avenue, will maintain existing ground-floor businesses and refurbish the upper stories of a long-decaying structure for new residential tenants. Developers and city officials have touted Cal Weber as a step toward the revitalization of downtown.

But several construction union representatives voiced concern early last week over the lack of a requirement for the builders to pay union wages.

The union reps largely eased off their objections after meeting with developers and city officials again late last week, but Tuesday night they said their philosophical concerns remain. And the easing of the union stance was not unanimous.

“We cannot support an affordable housing project like this that does not have at least a prevailing-wage requirement,” Dan Calamuci of Carpenters Local 152 told the council.

“Requiring prevailing wage ensures the project will fill a critical affordable-housing need but not undercut your workforce. We have to say no to projects that simply create more of a demand for affordable housing.”

Before Tuesday’s affirmative vote, developer Chris Flaherty sought to reassure council members that his group has no intention of using a crew of low-wage workers to build Cal Weber.

“I employ a lot of people in town, in the state of California and in Hawaii,” Flaherty said. “I’ve worked with all unions.”

Flaherty said the council’s initial approval of Cal Weber last June did not include a prevailing-wage requirement. Developers won state tax credits last September through a competitive process, the final step in the financing process. The application for the tax credits, Flaherty said, also did not include a prevailing-wage requirement.

Flaherty said the budget for Cal Weber all along has been based on there being no requirement to pay prevailing wage. Adding such a requirement, Flaherty said, would have blown the budget and caused builders to miss a construction deadline for later this month that is a requirement of the tax credits. Cal Weber would have died, he said.

Councilman Elbert Holman said he was disappointed the prevailing-wage issue was not presented to the council until just a few weeks before the construction deadline.

“I felt like something was being shoved down my throat at the last minute,” Holman said. “I would encourage us to be vigilant in putting policies together that would help deter this type of situation from ever occurring again.”

Mayor Anthony Silva asked the council’s legislative committee, chaired by Moses Zapien, to develop a policy requiring projects receiving state and federal funds pay prevailing wages to workers.

“We are going to put a policy in place … to make sure we’re never in this position again,” Silva said. “It doesn’t feel comfortable.”

Flaherty said it will take about one year to complete Cal Weber. Plans include solar-powered units, a computer lab and a private playground.

The council approved a second affordable project downtown in December. Grand View Village, to be situated at Miner Avenue and San Joaquin Street, calls for 100 units and a ground-floor grocery store.

Cal Weber, Silva said, is an important mark of progress for the neglected core of Stockton.

“I truly believe this project represents hope for the city of Stockton,” Silva said.

Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/phillipsblog and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.

Downtown Stockton Project Nearly Up In The Air

Originally appeared in the Stockton Record

Posted Mar. 2, 2015 at 8:09 PM

STOCKTON — Haggling over the price tag attached to a small patch of second-story airspace in downtown Stockton might seem like a punchline in search of a joke.

But during a 77-minute discussion at last week’s City Council meeting, a complex dispute over airspace in the financing package for a new and ballyhooed affordable-housing project in downtown Stockton seemed for a time to jeopardize the deal.On one side were the developers of the 40-unit project that is planned for the woebegone southeast corner of California Street and Weber Avenue.On the other side were trade-union officials concerned about the wages to be paid to the construction workers who will be hired to build the project, dubbed Cal Weber 40.A week ago, the gap between the sides seemed to be a gulf.

Seven days later, it appears the gulf has been bridged. The City Council will hold a special meeting tonight at City Hall to discuss the matter again and to cast their votes on the air-rights issue. If the resolution passes, developers expect to break ground in 27 days.

“I’m comfortable with it,” Mayor Anthony Silva said late Monday afternoon. “Obviously, this project is good for Stockton, especially downtown Stockton, and it’s something that needs to happen. If we’re going to show that Stockton is a healthy city coming out of bankruptcy, we definitely need to start building again.”Councilman Michael Tubbs convened a 60-minute meeting Friday afternoon between developers and union officials to hammer away at the matter.

“They talked it out,” Tubbs said. “Questions were asked and posed. I was excited because at the end, I felt relationships were formed between the unions and the developers.”

The projected cost of the Cal Weber project is $12 million, paid for through various government loan programs and tax credits.Included in the project, representing 3 percent of the total cost, were the air rights above Stockton’s downtown Lot K on American Street between Main Street and Weber.

The developers, including locals Anthony Barkett and Chris Flaherty, plan to build a second-story parking deck for residents above Lot K as part of the Cal Weber project.When the council unanimously approved the project last June, plans called for the city to lease the air rights to the developers for 55 years at no cost.

Last Tuesday, however, the council was asked to approve an air-rights lease containing different terms — 65 years with a $370,000 payment from developers to the city about two decades before the start of the 22nd century.

Why the revision? Developer Danny Fred told the council that if the lease was not revised, financing for the project would be scuttled. Fred said receiving an outright gift of the air rights from the city would, by law, have triggered a requirement for developers to pay all Cal Weber construction workers at union rates. That requirement, Fred said, would significantly increase construction costs.

“A 25- to 30-percent increase on a project like this, there would be no project,” Fred said.Union representatives quickly stepped forward, voicing concern that developers might be maneuvering to build Cal Weber on the cheap with low- or minimum-wage workers.“I think it’s kind of ironic that we’re talking about affordable housing for the working poor,” Sal Rotolo, the business representative for Sheet Metal Workers’ Local Union No. 104, said at last week’s council meeting. “How about we build some projects with workers who are being paid an affordable wage?”

The council ultimately tabled the matter. Friday, Tubbs and City Manager Kurt Wilson hosted the meeting with the unions and the developers. Tonight, the council once again will consider the 65-year lease with the $370,000 payment.

On Monday, Barkett called the Friday meeting “very productive” and added that developers never intended for Cal Weber to be a “prevailing wage” project. But he also said there is no intention to bring in low-wage laborers and said local construction crews will be doing the work.

“We all came together, we worked through it, we intend to use union contractors and we currently use union contractors,” Flaherty said. “We won’t be using exclusively union contractors, but we have some non-union contractors who we have employed before and they’re going to be on the project, as well.”Said Rotolo: “More than likely we’ll probably back off and allow the project to go through. I can guarantee you we’ll be monitoring it very closely. If we find out our workers are coming from outside the area and are getting paid low wages, then the next time we’ll have to draw a line in the sand.”

— Contact reporter Roger Phillips at (209) 546-8299 or rphillips@recordnet.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/phillipsblog and on Twitter @rphillipsblog.