Top Upland Planner Reconciles Discouraging Cars While Subsidizing Car Dealer

A paradoxical coincidence was remarked upon by many in attendance at the Upland City Council meeting on September 14, which dragged into the early morning hours of September 15. In the wee hours of that Tuesday morning, the council approved on a 3-1 vote, with mayor Ray Musser absent, the city’s revamped general plan.
While the general plan update contained well over a dozen features aimed at reducing vehicular traffic in the city, discouraging car use and promoting alternative forms of transportation or getting about such as walking, bicycling, bus riding or use of trains, another item considered and approved by the city council earlier in the meeting, on that Monday night, ran counter to that.
Anticipating the full closing out of Ford of Upland at its longtime location on Foothill Boulevard, the city council agreed to underwrite up to $2.1 million dollars of Ford of Upland’s costs to move from its current location to a larger site adjacent to the 210 Freeway.
The city’s subsidization of the relocation, which passed on a 4-0 vote, will come in the form of $1.5 million in sales tax springbacks to the dealership and $600,000 of public improvement assistance for construction of 20th Street, east of Campus Avenue, the cost for which would have otherwise been defrayed by Ford of Upland. Under the deal, annual sales tax revenue produced by Ford of Upland up to $312,000 shall be 100 percent retained by the city, while annual sales tax in excess of $312,000 is to be split with 75 percent going to Ford of Upland and 25 percent going to the city. The deal will remain in place for 12 years.
The dealership is vacating its sales lot within the 500 block of West Foothill Boulevard for a 5.5-acre spot on the north side of the 210 Freeway, where it will establish a 40,000 square foot showroom, office and service department building.
Scott Gunderson is the current owner of the dealership. There has been some criticism of the city’s giveaway of the sales tax revenue. But city officials say the rebates to Ford of Upland are worth making because they ensure the dealership will remain in the city and guarantee sales tax revenue from the big ticket items – cars and trucks – that Gunderson sells will continue to pour into city coffers.
The deal incentivizing the sale, and therefore the use, of cars and trucks, nevertheless, contrasts with the new general plan, approved by the same council in the early morning of September 15 more than four hours after the deal with Ford of Upland was voted upon. Among other things, the general plan calls for:
* Discouraging vehicular traffic in the downtown area to encourage pedestrians to frequent the area (Page 9 of the general plan);
* Discouraging strip center development to eliminate the use of cars and encourage centers that are more pedestrian-friendly (page 22);
* Reducing parking to discourage the use of cars (page 23);
* Slowing traffic, and thereby discouraging car travel, to enhance pedestrian safety (page 23);
* Encouraging multi-family residential housing along Foothill Boulevard, to make it a “Bus Rapid Transit” corridor, aimed at reducing car use (page 28);
* Removing access roads for a more pedestrian-oriented realm (page 28);
* Promoting the design of neighborhoods in which the physical layout promotes walking, biking and public transit use, featuring very restricted parking (page 29);
* Designating certain streets as “Transit Priority Roadways” which emphasize “high efficiency” uses such as Bus Rapid Transit, calling upon Upland to “cooperate” with Omitrans and SANBAG [San Bernardino Associated Governments] in giving ascendancy to buses and trains over cars (page 58);
* Encouraging travel through non-automotive modes (page 59);
* Propounding the concept of shared parking, which translates to reducing parking (page 61);
* Reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020 (page 76);
* Coordinating air quality planning with local, regional, and state agencies, surrendering to outside entities the ability to impose emission reduction and thus car use limitation standards (page 76);
* Mandating the reduction of non-renewable energy use (page 77); and
* Striving to maintain a traffic level of service at category D, which is defined as “approaching unstable flow,” in which “freedom to maneuver within the traffic stream is much more limited and driver comfort levels decrease.” (Circulation Element 1.1).
When questioned about the seeming paradox in committing tax revenue the city would otherwise receive to increase the use of motor vehicles inside and outside Upland while attempting to discourage people from utilizing vehicles by restrictions built into the general plan, Upland Development Services Director Jeff Zwack said the supposition that the city’s action represented a contradiction was “not very well founded.”
Zwack disputed “the assumption… the general plan is anti-car. It isn’t. When you take the general plan and then you look at subsidizing Ford of Upland and the city council providing a financial incentive to an auto dealer to sell cars, it might seem contradictory but we’re talking about policies in our general plan that get to allowing options for the community to choose alternative modes of transportation, meaning walking, bicycling, taking a bus as a choice in addition to cars. The reason for that is we want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, finding ways to incentivize people, to encourage people to use alternative modes of transportation. The reason for that, as I said, is reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We want clean air. Cars produce, the ones that don’t have electric motors, carbon dioxide that is the most widely emitted greenhouse gas. So, because we have a general plan and because the general plan is concerned with greenhouse gas, we’re trying to find ways to encourage people to consider getting from point A to point B using different modes of transportation. If they choose not to, then they can stay in their car. That’s fine. I would never give up my car. None of us will. I would imagine the majority of people drove their car here tonight. But we’re not anti-car. We’re anti-dirty air. We want clean air to breathe. So giving up the anti-car analogy doesn’t really work so well with comparing it to what we were requesting: the council to approve the agreement for Ford of Upland. When you talk about it being anti-car it makes more sense. But it is not anti-car. It is for providing clean air. It is for providing safe streets for bicyclists, for pedestrians, all of which can legally use our streets. We want to make sure that if you have a car that drives by a bicycle, that they understand the person is there and it is a safe way, a safe environment for all to use, including cars.”

Leave a Reply