Why Would Calimesa Support Gateway?

Beaumont's City council has indicated they will pass a resolution in their next council meeting to oppose the Gateway Project land zoning change. We are hoping the Calimesa City Council will follow suit. Both councils claim to have no direct authority over the project since the land is located in an unincorporated part of Riverside County but the developer, The Shopoff Group, claims 16 acres are in the City of Calimesa.

The plan is for the City of Calimesa to annex the completed project into their city. There is a significant financial motive for Calimesa to follow the plan and therefore I suspect it may be harder for Calimesa's Council to join Beaumont in opposition. The financial issues concerning Calimesa’s growth plans for the part of their city served by the Cherry Valley Blvd interchange are, at least in part, a result of the history between Beaumont, Calimesa and surrounding neighbors.

Beaumont has been receiving tens of millions of dollars annually in CFD/Mello-Roos taxes for a number of years from the developments that are primarily served by the Cherry Valley and Oak Valley interchanges. These developments include Fairway Canyon, Tournament Hills, Stetson, Three Rings Ranch, Oak Valley and Solera. The CFD funds are supposed to provide the upgraded infrastructure to meet the needs of the new residents. Improving the major interchanges for these communities should be high on the list of projects funded by CFD revenue.

CFDs are only one funding source for infrastructure improvements. TUMF revenue (Transportation Uniform Mitigation Fees) is another important piece of the puzzle.

“TUMF is a development impact assessment which provides funding for transportation improvements required to support new development. The assessment is based on the number of vehicle trips new development or site improvements will generate.” TUMF Annual and Five Year Report Fiscal Year 2012-2013

Governments receive TUMF funding for infrastructure and they work cooperatively in regional councils of government such as WRCOG Western Riverside Council of Governments to fund joint projects.

There is ongoing legal action by Beaumont against WRCOG, RCTC (Riverside County Transportation Commission) and the RTA (Riverside Transit Authority) as well as a counter suit regarding $50-$60 million in TUMF revenue. There are claims on both sides about who followed the rules, who didn’t and who owes who how much. It is a complex issue. I’ll leave the details and the analysis to others who have been closely following this since the first suit was filed in 2012. I heard at a recent council meeting a judge had been selected and a decision may be at least on the horizon.

There is an excellent post on the Patch some time ago. I recommend you read if you are interested in all the details.

It has been reported the City of Beaumont, instead of working with WRCOG and its members (including Calimesa) on joint regional transportation projects such as a Cherry Valley interchange upgrade, funded their own projects with CFD revenue and then requested reimbursement in TUMF revenue. It is also clear Beaumont has been using CFD revenue to lend, at 12% interest, to the former Redevelopment Agency for RDA projects. Beaumont is now asking the State to require the County to reimburse the RDA Successor Agency, managed by the City of Beaumont, more than $20 million.

I see no proof what the City of Beaumont is doing is illegal and I am sure other California cities are using CFD funds in similar ways. Mello-Roos is a state wide problem and hopefully one day will go the way of the other scam that plagued our state, RDA. I believe knowing and understanding the history between Beaumont, the City of Calimesa and the County of Riverside will help us to understand how Calimesa and the County will approach the Gateway warehouse. This is crucial in our determining a strategy that will stop the project.

The SummerWind Ranch development may begin construction soon. It will bring 3,600 new homes hundreds of yards from the I-10, near the Cherry Valley Blvd exit. This development is in the city limits of Calimesa and will generate millions in CFD and property tax annually for Calimesa.

The Cherry Valley exit has three property owners, The City of Beaumont, The City of Calimesa and The County of Riverside. Beaumont's TUMF fees and membership in WRCOG won't be settled until the law suit runs its course. The City of Beaumont has indicated they are planning to use the majority of their current and future CFD revenue to build the $80 million Portrero interchange. Any plans to improve the Cherry Valley and Oak Valley interchanges seem to be on hold for now. This leaves Calimesa and the county moving forward on their own.

The City of Calimesa has a difficult decision that they must make, if they haven’t already. Do they sacrifice the quality of life of their existing citizens near the new warehouse in order to get the capital to build the infrastructure the 3,600 new homes will need? The Gateway warehouse will be out of sight to many in Calimesa and probably directly impact only a portion of existing Calimesa residents. However, there will be a significant impact on the residents of Cherry Valley and Beaumont. Beaumont has already made it clear Cherry Valley Blvd interchange isn’t a priority and Calimesa and the County will probably have to fund the infrastructure upgrade without Beaumont contributing. Considering their history, I can’t imagine Calimesa’s council is too concerned about upsetting the Beaumont council.

Adding the traffic from 3,600 new homes and a major warehouse center to an already inferior interchange without a plan to significantly upgrade the infrastructure, is wrong in so many ways. This will lead to many residents, and probably many Gateway truck drivers avoiding the Cherry Valley exit in favor of Oak Valley. Have you seen the Oak Valley interchange at 5pm on a weekday?

If we want support from the Calimesa City council,  the Calimesa business community; and the Calimesa residents, most who will not be directly affected by the negative impact on their health and safety by the Gateway warehouse; we need to understand the relationship between our two cities. We need to convince the people of Calimesa they don’t need the Gateway warehouse. We need to convince Calimesa Beaumont’s residents and our businesses will work with our city council and city staff to find a way to contribute to the infrastructure upgrade. The recent decision by our City Council to listen to its residents and join our effort to oppose the project is a promising first step.

Those of us who use the Cherry Valley and Oak Valley interchanges daily expected our CFD fees would be used to upgrade these interchanges. The new residents of SummerWind will be Calimesa residents but they will also be our neighbors. We need to convince our City Council to prioritize upgrading existing interchanges serving the majority of it’s citizens before building the Portrero interchange. This will benefit thousands more than the Portrero interchange. Most of those whose annual fees make any of these projects possible. If this issue was put before the voters, it is pretty clear which interchanges would be addressed first. This is just another argument against Beaumont’s strategy to use Mello-Roos to fund the growth of our city. But I will leave that discussion for other posts.

If we can convince our neighbors in Calimesa that the people of Beaumont will work with them on a solution, it may be easier for them to say No Way Gateway. Without Calimesa’s support, it will be much harder for Riverside County approve the zoning change.

The next Calimesa Council meeting is next week. According to the City’s website, it is scheduled for Tuesday, March 18 beginning at 6pm. This is the same time as Beaumont’s next Council meeting. We need to show up in numbers at both meetings. We need to show support to our council for their No Way Gateway resolution. And, we need to show the Calimesa City Council, and the people of Calimesa, that the people of Beaumont want to work with them for an alternative solution to their growth strategy than Gateway.