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Review the deal 

San Luis Obispo

 The Copeland Chinatown project, which reporter Kylie Mendonca says “has raised eyebrows because of its size and location,” should be a brow raiser because of the incredible financial giveaway by SLO city, which owns two thirds of the site.

A few years ago, the Copelands negotiated a closed-door deal to purchase this prime taxpayer-owned property for $3 million. Squeals of horror at such a low price prompted the city to renegotiate last year to get a better price. The outcome? Lowering the price to $1.1 million! Since the city’s own suspiciously low appraisal was for more than $8 million,  this was hardly a justifiable price, yet it flew through on a 3-2 City Council vote, justified with transparent rationalizations and heaps of poppycock.

 A way to estimate this public property’s actual value to the Copelands is to look at what they paid for adjacent private properties constituting about one-third of the Chinatown site—about $13 million. At that rate, fair value for the city land might be around $25 million, not $1.1 million.

 Value can also be established by looking at what the market offers people who want to acquire commercial property. A block down Chorro Street, a tiny parcel (now being gutted, between Higuera and Marsh) was offered recently for about $3 million. On a size-to-size basis, this suggests even $25 million might be low for Chinatown. Or you can comparison shop, given the Copelands’ $1.1 million deal, which would  take you far from downtown to a derelict tiny triangular parcel at Higuera and Archer. Look for the “for sale” sign. If the owners of that parcel offered to trade it to the city for Chinatown, what do you think the response would be?

 The utter lack of fairness to taxpayers Copelands is a blot on the city’s manage-ment. This is Bushnomics brought home: the unfettered, below-value transfer of public assets to favored wealthy private interests.

Terminating the giveaway sales of public property at Chinatown and Garden Street should be among the first tasks of our new City Council.

-- Richard Schmidt - San Luis Obispo

-- Richard Schmidt - San Luis Obispo

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