It's possible that an East Bay transit station will be funded using an unusual variation on a common value capture mechanism. A Contra Costa Times article suggests that local officials are considering the implementation of a property-based funding district to help pay for the new rail station in Pittsburg, CA.
Commercial property owners near the site of a proposed eBART station will be asked to vote on establishing a district that would allow the city to collect a one-time tax to help build it. If the community facilities district is established, an estimated $3.3 million collected from the tax would go toward the cost of building the Civic Center station at Railroad Avenue and Highway 4 as part of the 10-mile-long eBART extension.
The difference between this community facilities district and most Mello Roos districts used in California is that this won't be an annual assessment that appears on landowners' property tax bills. Under this proposal, fees would only be collected when major improvements are made to properties within the district.
The tax revenues, which would be collected only when property owners file a building permit for new construction, would reimburse city funds advanced to BART to help pay for the Pittsburg station, estimated to cost between $13 million and $14 million.
This sounds like a very politically palatable mechanism because it appears to fall on non-resident developers. However, these fees will be capitalized (negatively) into the price of the land if landowners choose to sell to a developer. Also, a landowner's profit would be reduced if they chose to develop their property themselves.
This may also seem like a very politically viable mechanism if few of the property owners in the district anticipate that their properties will be developed (they'd be voting to form the district and incur a fee on others). If the district's boundaries generally encompass developable parcels, then the city is essentially holding a referendum on the value of a transit station in this location. If more than half of the landowners in the area consider the benefits of a station worth the cost of the district, they will vote 'Yes.' Sounds like a fair proposal if the district boundaries are drawn to include only developable parcels.
That said, this isn't an unusually large value capture opportunity. At most, this district would fund 3% of the anticipated cost of the transit project.
Ian Carlton is a transportation and land use expert specializing in transit-oriented development (TOD). He helps clients - including transit agencies, planning departments, and landowners - optimize real estate development around transit.
Special thanks to Burt Gregory at Mithun for permission to use the Portland Streetcar image above.