Distrust of politicians should spur developers to reach out to public

The Saint ReportNIMBY, Planning and Zoning, Saint Index, saintblog0 Comments

By Owen Eagan,
Senior Vice President for Transportation, The Saint Consulting Group

Prop 13A recent Los Angeles Times/USC poll found that voters are reluctant to adopt reforms to Proposition 13 and other financial measures to right the state’s fiscal ship because they see problems in Sacramento as primarily driven by special interests (see http://bit.ly/1FtXrD). Herein lies a lesson for developers, whose projects are decided by elected officials.

Proposition 13, approved by voters in 1978, capped property tax rates in California for residential and commercial property at 1% and limited annual assessments to a maximum of 2%.  However, properties are allowed to be reassessed at their full market value upon a change in ownership.  This measure had such far reaching implications that it has become the poster child for the dangers of legislating by ballot initiative.

Nonetheless, despite needed structural reforms, California voters still see the state’s financial crisis as more rooted in distrust of public officials.  Similar views of public officials can be found in The Saint Index, our company’s annual survey on attitudes towards land use and development issues. 

According to this survey, 87% of Americans say that a candidate’s position on development and growth is important when deciding for whom to vote.  They also feel that 7 out of 10 Americans believe the relationship between developers and elected officials makes the land use approval process unfair.

So what’s the moral of this story?  It’s a lesson to developers.  This is more evidence that in politics perception is reality.  So even if you’ve got a great project and the initial support of public officials, the public has a distinctly different view from the outset.  Given this disadvantage, reaching out to the public and building support for your project is even more imperative.

Owen Eagan is senior vice president for transportation for The Saint Consulting Group, email eagan@tscg.biz, phone 781 831 2494

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