Jim Waring never minced words when he was former Mayor Jerry Sanders’ top land-use guy. And he didn’t hold back Nov. 4 when he got one minute to tell the City Council not to increase the fee on developers to support affordable housing.
He said the city has been proud of the Soitec manufacturing plant that moved into Rancho Bernardo. Soitec is a French company that builds parts for solar arrays. More about their endeavor is in this U-T San Diego piece.
“I can tell you, because I saw the numbers with absolute certainty, that if this fee had been in place, Soitech would not be in San Diego,” Waring said.
That’s not exactly true. A Soitec spokeswoman says the company would have come regardless.
Waring told me that he was part of a group that worked to help Soitec get to San Diego. There were two steps: 1) They needed to persuade Soitec to come to California over Arizona. 2) They wanted the company in the city of San Diego not Oceanside, where there was a building the firm was considering.
Sanders and others in the economic development community led the effort.
“There were very good reasons to go to Oceanside. It was a teeny bit better in Oceanside. They made the decision to go to Rancho Bernardo because of all the city had done to welcome them,” Waring said.
But it was close.
“If they had been assessed another $400,000 or $500,000 extra, all things being equal, they would have gone to Oceanside,” he said.
Oceanside, like all cities in San Diego County other than San Diego, does not charge an affordable housing fee on commercial and industrial developments.
When I checked with Soitec, however, I was surprised to hear a representative say Waring was just flat wrong.
“In the context of a $200 million investment, it wasn’t an issue then. Would it have been a determining factor? Probably not because of such a strong allegiance Soitec had to San Diego,” said Karen Hutchens, a local public relations professional who represents the company.
I clarified to be sure. She was saying Waring was wrong.
“Yes, he is,” she said.
Hutchens said Soitec was motivated to come to San Diego County because of its contract with San Diego Gas & Electric. And it chose the city of San Diego because of Sanders.
Rancho Bernardo, she said, also offered the company easy access to a “talented workforce.”
And Soitec is meaningless in this discussion anyway, they are heavily on the government dole to begin with, we are paying them more than we will ever recover from them, it’s hardly indicative of a business that actually brings a level of productivity and growth to our region.
Note that this is a very very different situation than a company under competitive forces coming here. Sure companies can be Moonbeamed into our city when it all comes out of your pocket and their profit is guarenteed with your tax money. The solar mandate goes away, your tax money stops flowing to this French company, and Soitec will be gone as well.
What was the differential in cost to Soitec between Oceanside and RB that was discussed? If you can show that in the discussion Soitec indicated there was a trigger point for Oceanside, and the linkage fees would have exceeded that trigger point, then Waring could be believed. Did you ask this of any of the parties?
Was there anything in the PPA’s they signed to mitigate additional fees?
Also as an aside, Soitec said the factory would employee 450 directly, near as I can tell they have 200. Is that true?
And to the main point, Soitec isn’t indicative of linkage fees impact on business regardless of what the situation is, they are basically a government contractor with a baked in and generous profit agreement for installing those pies in the sky paid for by the citizen zombie. I don’t think anyone on either side has claimed linkage fees will hurt the ability of the state to pay a company hundreds of million of dollars to set up shop here.
Obviously there was a point where Soitec would have moved to Homicide, I mean Oceanside. What was that tipping point? $1? $10,000? $1,000,000? Was it discussed in a meeting at all? If you can’t get that number then the whole thing is meaningless.
Was Hutchens even there when the differential between Oceanside and RB was discussed? Who else was there that can verify things? Was Crawford even there? He’s a sales VP, right? If there did he have a voice in San Diego vs. Oceanside? Being in LaJolla I believe he likely assumed the plant would be closer to home no matter what, and Auberton-Hervé would have had no reason to make him think otherwise. Did Auberton-Hervé himself negotiate with Sanders directly?
I just don’t see how you can determine, based on a PR flak that has a brief consoltation with a sales VP, that Soitec would or wouldn’t have gone to RB or even out of state if linkage fees did impact them by some amount.
Also you simply can’t use Soitec as a case for linkage fees impact on buisness coming here, the goverment (funded by us) is paying this overseas company hundreds of millions of dollars to come here. No one has argued that linkage fees will stop companies that are getting filthy rich off goverment money and SDGE and CPUC contracts. Linkage fees or not we can always bring someone here at our cost.
Oh, and has Soitec employed the 450 directly employed people it said it would?
Jim Waring was one of the least trustworthy individuals in a Sanders administration full of untrustworthy political hacks. No surprise here.