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City to consider lower price for Chinatown land 

SLO City Council members will vote July 1 on a sale price for 1.3 acres of city land slated for the Chinatown Project that is lower than an earlier price and half its value on the open market.

Under the new agreement, which was reached during closed session negotiations, the city would accept $1.1 million for the land—including 142 public parking spaces—and an additional $2.6 million for parking, for a grand total of $3.7 million.

Assistant City Administrative Officer Shelly Stanwyck said the deal couldn’t be regarded as a straight business transaction, because it takes into account all of the building limitations and environmental mitigation that will be imposed. She said the expected revenue from the project is worth the city’s investment.

Chinatown is envisioned as a mixed-use development that will include housing, hotels, and retail, and will take up about three quarters of a block adjacent to the SLO Mission.

It is considered the third and final phase in a series of downtown developments by Copeland, which include the Downtown Center and the Court Street project. Under the original agreement, which dates back to 2003, the Copelands were to pay about $3 million for the property, and an Environmental Impact Report said they would have to pay to make up for the lost surface parking. That figure was expected to be in the millions.

That option expired in May, however, and the city went into renegotiation with the Copeland family, with council members saying they wanted a better price.

As part of that negotiation process, the land value was reassessed at $8.8 million. The staff report argues that the Copelands should get the lower price because the sale requirements would not allow the buyer to make full potential use of the land. City aides also explained, in the staff report, that the project’s long-term benefits, estimated at $1 million a year in tax revenues, would offset any immediate losses.

But not everybody is happy. Councilmember Andrew Carter said in a detailed letter explaining his position that he supports the project, but not the price.

“I believe … we could have negotiated a better price for the city-owned land and still have achieved these same long-term benefits,” Carter wrote, elsewhere adding: “ … it troubles me that in all our prior negotiations with Copeland Enterprises, the city always seems to give the Copelands too good a deal.”

City Councilmember Christine Mulholland, who has been an outspoken opponent of the project since the beginning, said the city should not be held responsible for the cost of environmental mitigation associated with the private development, and further questioned whether the money would cover the true cost of replacing the parking spots.

Mayor Dave Romero said he hadn’t examined the staff report, but believed the city would be getting an improved deal overall under the latest arrangement.

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