A number of letters have appeared in The Triplicate regarding the harbor’s lease negotiations with Rika Blue or Talking Crow Studio. The writers are passionate in their support of Ms. Blue.
The Harbor Commission wants to support Ms. Blue too. But we are also the stewards of taxpayer property and the managers of a struggling Harbor District.
The harbor must be run in a financially responsible, businesslike manner if it is to survive and prosper. We simply cannot give away taxpayer assets to every local business, no matter how deserving it might be.
The commission must base its decisions on facts, not wishes. The letters on behalf of Talking Crow have invariably been short on facts. Here are some facts the public should know about the ongoing lease negotiations between the harbor district and Talking Crow:
The harbor district spent three times as much as Talking Crow on renovating the building. As it agreed to do, the district is repaying all the money Ms. Blue spent renovating the building.
This repayment takes the form of rent credits. Talking Crow opened in October 2008 and has operated without paying any cash rent since then. In a few months, all of that rent credit will have be used.
Ms. Blue was informed in writing in July 2007, before any renovation of 170 Marine Way began, that the harbor’s policy is to achieve market rent for its properties. She knew from the inception of the project that the rent would not remain low forever.
The harbor adopted a real estate leasing policy and applies that policy to all tenants fairly. However, many properties are under long-term lease and the rent cannot be adjusted until the existing lease expires. Ms. Blue is not the first, or only, tenant to have her rent adjusted to a market level and she is not being singled out for unusual treatment.
In order to be fair to Ms. Blue and encourage the success of her business, the harbor district estimated market rent at 50 cents per square foot. When that value was questioned, the district obtained a non-biased, out-of-the-area professional appraisal of fair market rent. That appraisal came in at 60 cents per square foot. However, the Harbor Commission kept its original verbal commitment to Ms. Blue and is only asking 50 cents per square foot as fair market rent.
Contrary to rumors, the harbor district has no plans to move its offices into 170 Marine Way and has never had such plans. Talking Crow has had a lease available for her to sign since the fall of 2008. She has declined to sign that one or to offer another lease.
Because of the harbor district’s desire to encourage the success of the business, it was allowed to open and operate without a lease. (And no, we won’t do that again.)
We are committed to working toward a financially responsible, prosperous harbor that benefits the entire community, not just one segment of the community, much less one individual. We are patiently continuing our lease negotiations with Talking Crow and its representatives, but the rent must be fair to both parties. The taxpayers of Del Norte County expect, and deserve, no less from us as stewards of their harbor.
Scott Feller is president of the Crescent City Harbor Commission.