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When I walked into the Centre City Development Corp.’s offices this morning, one of the first questions I asked the downtown redevelopment agency’s spokesman, Derek Danziger, is why it wasn’t following California public records law.
The information we’ve requested through that law is central to proving the legitimacy of late-night legislation that effectively lengthened CCDC’s lifespan by two decades. The legislation also allowed CCDC to collect a big share of an estimated $6 billion in future property taxes that otherwise could have gone to schools, the county and the city’s day-to-day operating budget.
Danziger told me that the agency had followed the requirements of state law.
“We understand what you’re seeking,” Danziger said.
CCDC might understand, but the law requires the agency to do more.
In its simplest terms, the state’s public records law requires CCDC to make documents “promptly available.” That hasn’t happened.
The law requires CCDC to determine if the records we want are releasable under the law in 10 days. In extreme circumstances, they can have two more weeks. It’s been seven weeks and CCDC says it’s still deciding.
The law requires CCDC to give me an estimated date and time when the records will be ready. It’s been seven weeks and the only answers I’ve gotten are variations on the word “soon.”
The earliest written notification I’ve been able to find from CCDC about the information I’m seeking is an email Danziger sent to me on Jan. 6, at least a month after I made my request. Danziger said CCDC was working on it. My colleague Will Carless and I have received similar emails and assurances since.
None of them meet the legal requirements I’ve laid out. The law does not allow for vague promises.
At this point, we’re still not sure whether CCDC even has the records in question, whether they’re in the hands of primary CCDC consultant Keyser Marston Associates or another consultant.
A key piece of the information we’re seeking is a survey of downtown buildings and plots of land done by 3D Visions, a consultant working for Keyser Marston. The survey is a critical part of proving blight, which is central to the legitimacy of the late-night legislation. According to CCDC Vice President Jeff Graham, 3D Visions completed the survey in September and the consultant was reviewing it for accuracy when CCDC ended the blight study. 3D Visions has been paid $43,840 for its work.
As of two weeks ago, Graham blamed Keyser Marston for not turning over any of its records to the agency, including the survey.
So despite our asking for a $43,840 survey seven weeks ago, it’s still unclear if CCDC has even seen it.
This morning, Danziger said I made a “fair point” about the agency’s lack of a formal response to my request for records and said he would contact CCDC’s attorney. I promised him I would outline my argument in an email to him and I’ve done that.