The Sausalito City Council is planning to offer the U.S. General Services Administration $10,000 to sell it the historic Marinship Machine Shop building.
Wisely, the city’s bid would include a nine-month due-diligence contingency, giving the city time to figure out exactly what it is buying at a seemingly bargain price.
Given the building’s recent history and poor condition, it could be a money pit. Or more precisely, a taxpayers’ money pit.
The city’s estimated cost for its due diligence is $225,000, including identifying and coming up with estimates for historical preservation work that would be needed, as well as recruiting proposals for architectural and remediation work.
City Hall and taxpayers deserve to know exactly what they are buying before the feds cash their check.
They also should know the city’s exact plan for the property before City Hall writes a check. Does the city have the cash to turn that plan into a reality?
Both seem to be more than reasonable expectations.
The warning sign is that even the federal government bailed on the property, one of the remnants of the Marinship shipyards. In 2006, it was acquired by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs to be converted into a medical clinic. But that plan was scrapped due to the cost of needed structural improvements and clean-up of the mothballed property.
There’s been a lot of handwringing lately concerning Sausalito’s budget and taking on this “white elephant” may be taking on a big fiscal risk.
Of course, there is the question of the federal government’s responsibility for the condition the building is in. The government has a responsibility to the public that the property is safe and hazard-free.
That’s what the government would expect from private property owners. It is what citizens should expect from their government.
Estimates of the cost of potential clean-up costs are $900,000 to $1.9 million.
We hope that Rep. Jared Huffman is keeping an eye on the transaction.
The GSA might be ready to accept the city’s offer in order to get the property off the federal government’s ledger.
Council members, so far, have been very cautious, asking city staff to double check its estimate of the city’s cost.
Councilmember Ian Sobieski calls the building’s current state a “disaster.”
He’s understandably wary, saying, “There’s a lot of unknowns here.”
Sausalito taxpayers also should be advised of others interested in the building.
At Hamilton in Novato, the federal government’s sale and transfer of the retired military airfield followed a protocol where the local municipalities got first shot at acquiring the property.
Are their private developers chomping at the bit for the Machine Shop, as there were when Hamilton was surplus?
Sobieski is right. There are many “unknowns” – most of which pack the risk of very large dollar amounts. Even getting answers is going to be costly.
Sausalito taxpayers need to know a lot more about the potential and risks of making this acquisition before it moves forward to become the new owner of Marinship’s Machine Shop building.