At the last Council meeting I cited well-validated rumors Legacy Partners was vetting a new and different plan for the San Carlos Transit Village with some City Council and Planning Commission members. I brought this up out of concern that if the project was ultimately approved it could appear the outcome was preordained.
To be clear, there is nothing unlawful about Legacy pitching whatever it wants to whomever it wants. Nor does a Council member taking a meeting mean a vote for approval has been secured. For example, Legacy spoke to me just prior to the Council action on the project’s environmental impact report, and I ended up voting against approval.
But it’s not the approach I would take, particularly if the outreach targeted Council members who voted for the EIR. Being as open and as transparent as possible strikes me as a much better strategy. After all, the plan, whatever it is, has to be made public in the near future anyway. Sharing it broadly would help build trust between the project sponsors and the eastside residents most directly affected by the endeavor. While working behind the scenes will likely have the exact opposite effect.
After I made my comments I got a call from Legacy’s lobbyist offering to have them present the proposal to me. I thought about this, but declined, reiterating that Legacy would be better served by more openness. I was told the plans will be presented more broadly fairly soon, at a meeting for community leaders (I’m not sure exactly what that means, but it didn’t sound like it’ll be open to the public).
That’s a step in the right direction. But I worry it won’t be enough. Because, for a major project, even the appearance of behind the scenes lobbying — particularly targeted lobbying — undermines the integrity of the public review process, and the Council.