This afternoon I had coffee with Alan Klein. After almost two hours of conversation, I can say that he may be one of the most genuine men I've had the pleasure of meeting. Despite the characterizations and unfair school-yard insults he has endured, Alan refused to impute anything but benevolent motives on all of his detractors. He repeatedly said "I am sure that they have nothing but good intentions" for just about every individual he disagreed with.
This differentiates Alan from my previous experiences with both sides on this issue. Many proponents of the new plan use the term "crazies" as if this was a recognized political party, and that anyone who disagrees with the plan must be a raving lunatic. On the other hand, I've seen some of the most acerbic, hurtful, and unfair comments written by those that oppose CB 58 and 59 directed at people that they have determined to be "the enemy." Alan is none of the above. He wants to talk about the issues.
As such, let's get down to it. The Coalition for Columbia's Downtown is not anti-development, anti-redevelopment, or anti-density. They have proposed an executive summary that, per Alan, was originally signed onto by Ken Ulman, Jen Terrasa, Courtney Watson, and Mary-Kay Sigaty. They want to see a revitalization of downtown, and hope that all of the promises made come true. The pivot point, and where the debate should be held on these bills/laws/subjects of great gnashing of teeth, being the enforceability of GGP commitments in the Master Plan.
Alan, and I assume CCD, believe that rather than making one-stop-shopping full-scale residential rezoning all at once, the changes to downtown zoning in accordance with GGP's requests should be effectuated by way of multiple phases, which would allow the Council multiple opportunities to ensure commitments have been met. If this development is going to be staged over 30 years anyway, why not have the plan proceed with corresponding check-points so that the Council has the opportunity to approve the next stage/village in accordance with GGP's ability to meet its commitments on the previous stage.
The concern is that 5, 10, 15 years down the line, GGP (or its successor's successor) holds its hands up and says "we can't meet our obligation for (fill in the blank) due to (fill in the blank), but we are going to push through with the remainder of the redevelopment" as said traffic/sewage capacity/infrastructure need festers and causes additional issues for the County. If Mr. Davis is correct, and the provisions of the Master Plan are legally enforceable, should such a hang-up occur, the choices will be protracted litigation with the county's largest and most powerful developer, or acquiescence. Litigation is expensive, contentious, and long. As such, my money would be on acquiescence, making the enforceability of this Plan in a court of law irrelevant.
There is another option for ensuring that GGP's commitments are enforced. Staged development has the benefit of leaving "carrots" in the hands of our elected officials. With the current plan, Alan does not believe the County has much to hold GGP to their commitments, other than the unrealistic prospect of litigation addressed above.
When staged developmetn was originally presented to GGP, they claimed that they could not get funding for such a proposal. Alan said that if this is going to be the excuse the Council hangs it's hat on, GGP's books should be opened, and proof should be provided to the public that Columbia redevelopment is truly "all-or-nothing." That would change the paradigm, and we really would have to decide whether the County is willing to take the risks presented above.
I listend to And Then There's That this morning and must say that Dennis and Paul really do put on a great podcast. They are engaging, have good on-air voices, and know their stuff. We are fortunate to have people willing to donate their time for something we all can enjoy.
All that aside, one of the things that was discussed is that the town center property at issue was previously zoned "commercial" before the present legislation the proposed, and that if GGP had wanted to, they could have put in miles of unsightly "box stores" instead of the "walkable communities" that they now will be able to provide. I brought this up to Alan, and he smiled. "Well then why didn't they?"
The title of my post is in reference to something Alan said repeatedly throughout our conversation. It stands for the principle that your world view is shaped by your position. In this case, there is no reason to fault those that may benefit financially from CB 58 & 59 simply because of their ability to profit. Profit is good (to paraphrase Gordon). The important thing is to look at where people "sit" in this debate, and understand that their position colors their "position."
To close out, here's a video for HoCo MoJo from when CCD (led by Alan) was able to meet with some of the Council to discuss their concerns.