City Beat

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December 13, 2011
Sacramento council on verge of approving key arena vote

It appears the Sacramento City Council will approve tonight issuing a request for qualifications from companies interested in leasing the city's downtown parking operations, the key peg in the financing of a new arena.

Tony Bizjak tweets from the City Council meeting

Mayor Kevin Johnson and four council members have told The Bee in recent days they support issuing an RFQ. In addition to the mayor, Council members Steve Cohn, Rob Fong, Jay Schenirer and Kevin McCarty have all said they are open to the RFQ. Five votes are enough to pass the proposal.

The RFQ is a key step in the arena financing model, but it isn't the biggest step. That will come early next year, when the City Council - armed with a complete financing package that also includes contributions from the NBA, Sacramento Kings and arena operator AEG - will decide whether to issue a request for proposals seeking formal bids for the parking assets.

City officials said they could bring in as much as $245 million in upfront cash for the arena project by leasing parking spaces, garages and enforcement to a private company. Roughly $50 million of that would have to go toward paying off debt on garages built by the city, placing the maximum windfall at around $200 million.

The mayor told reporters this morning he expects "a unanimous or near unanimous vote" tonight from the council.

While McCarty told me he is open to the RFQ "to help us further explore the value of our parking assets," his support comes with a caveat - meaning his backing of future arena financing votes may be shaky.

"This should not mean that we endorse dedicating such parking revenues for the arena," he said. "The upside is that these parking valuation estimates could come in handy for many other City capitol needs and ideas down the road."

Cohn told my Bee colleague Tony Bizjak that he thinks "there is enough there that we will continue" and that "if we stop now, the game is over."

Both Cohn and Schenirer said they were interested to see if the parking revenue could be used for other projects, in case the arena deal falls through.

"Even if we decide at some point not do the arena if it doesn't pencil out, this parking piece will give us information that will be useful," Schenirer said.

Fong told Bizjak "the numbers are certainly solid enough to move forward" with the RFQ. He added he expects "most questions (from the council) will center around how much control the city would have over parking."

"Getting it right is the paramount thing," he said. "Our job is to get it right. Obviously we want to get it right in the time frame, but we want to get it right."

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About City Beat

Ryan Lillis has covered the city of Sacramento, its 108 neighborhoods and its politicians since 2008. Prior to that, he covered crime at The Bee. A native of upstate New York, Lillis has a journalism degree from the University of California, Berkeley.

Contact reporter Ryan Lillis at


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