By realizing the value of their public land and right of way resources, local government entities may chose to enter into transportation system developments which directly serve and benefit their respective local communities, economies and constituencies. Free of the financial, administrative and political entanglements and limitations imposed by regional transportation authorities and federal transportation agencies, city and county governments can set their own priorities with regard to planning and funding of transportation facilities that serve their respective transportation needs and conditions. Local governments may join public and private financial institutions in forming transportation infrastructure-centered funding and lending entities which establish foundations of assets and reserves based on the newly realized values of public land and rights of way as monorail guide way corridors. Once developed with monorail guide way structures, local government financial institutions’ right of way-based reserves could be dramatically reevaluated, based on the multi-million dollar improvements on the public property.
Ongoing oversight and joint development participation by local government may take the form of long term leases granted to private monorail system owners and operators similar to lease-development agreements the County of Los Angeles enters into with private developers of property in the county-owned and -managed Marina del Rey. Built as the world’s largest man-made small craft marina in the late 1960’s, Marina del Rey is owned by the County of Los Angeles, and managed by the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. The Department builds and maintains marina facilities and the infrastructure necessary to support development of marina property, as well as, managing the complex leasing of some of the most valuable property in Southern California. LA County government successfully maintains and manages Marina del Rey as a well-balanced development and recreational asset to Southern California, while receiving approximately $55,000,000 in annual revenues from leasing and assessment of the publicly owned land and docking areas of the marina.
In a classic example of short sighted squandering of valuable government-owned property, California’s proposed $2.3 billion sale of its flagship government and court buildings to cast cash into its ever-expanding budget deficit would cost California taxpayers substantially more than their one-time sales price over the next several decades, as the state would lease back the sold office and courthouse facilities from their new owners. California’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office estimates that over the 35-year term of the proposed lease agreements, selling the state buildings would cost state taxpayers $1.4 billion more than keeping them in state ownership. As the $2.3 billion disappears with the stroke of a budgetary pen, California will have converted its multi-billion dollar strategic real estate assets into unproductive long-term debt.
Extending the gross mismanagement of state property, California officials are progressively limiting access, and in many cases, shutting down state parks, highway rest areas, beaches, trails and a variety of public lands and facilities to access by the very taxpayers who have bought and paid for them; blaming their shut down on insufficient funds to complete $1.2 billion in deferred maintenance on sewer, water, bathroom, access, trail and parking facilities, as well as, general housekeeping on the public properties. The only solutions put forth by California legislators to restore public access to the properties are repeated calls for voter approval of tax increases, while the California State Lands Commission continues its decades-long practice of failing to collect tens of millions of dollars from over 4,000 leases of state-owned land from the chemical companies, boat marinas, pipeline companies, resort operators and a variety of other users of public lands under the Land Commission’s jurisdiction.
Revenues derived through properly administered leases, assessments and property taxes on the use and development of local government-owned real property are one of the most stable sources of local government revenue, and are least subject to raiding or withholding by state government. Furthermore, such locally controlled sources of revenue are less subject to leveraging, collateralizing or political parceling out by regional transportation authorities and bureaucracies; or co-opted by special interest-supported tax increases that remain beyond the control of local governments and communities. This is not to say that local government can not join federal airport authorities, state highway departments, Amtrak, commuter rail authorities, regional planning organizations and other transportation planning entities in coordinated, joint efforts to implement the most efficient and appropriate transportation systems for their respective communities and regions. However, strategic discipline should be exercised by local government in the assessment and use of right of way agreements and revenues derived from them. Fiscal planners and decision makers should not seek to supplement or balance general fund budgets by shifting of right of way revenues from monorail system applications.
The April 2011 groundbreaking ceremony held in Shanghai, China, beginning construction of a $3.7 billion theme park, hotel and commercial joint-venture development of the Shanghai Disneyland Resort, represents one of the world’s largest and most diverse joint ventures. With Walt Disney Company holding a 43% equity stake and the Chinese city-run Shanghai Shendi Group joint-venture entity owning 57%, Disney will project its theme park, movie making, television programming, English-language schools and retail branding further into the Asian marketplace, while the city-organized joint development group will design, fund and implement plans to integrate the theme park into the city’s suburban growth and extended infrastructure, as well as, its local and regional economies. This is an example of joint development, urban design, municipal planning and economic coordination that defines a new level of international cooperation. Most significantly, the Shanghai governmental developmental authority is based at the municipal level, albeit in a virtual City State the likes of Singapore, Dubai or fourteenth century Venice. This formal legal structure assures that the city and municipal government, supported by both the national government and locally-based construction and development companies, can set municipal standards and guide the planning and implementation of the 983-acre theme park on a 1,700-acre site, as well as, integrate the park into the greater Shanghai community and its transportation systems, infrastructure, urban environment and local economy.
The Disney-Shanghai international joint venture brings together the resources, talent and organizational structures of widely diverse, yet mutually supportive interests in a complex, long-term economic development. As host city and majority partner in the joint development project, Shanghai must provide all land, infrastructure, transportation, workforce and local economic conditions required for the successful development and operation of the new theme park; while Disney will have to adapt its signature entertainment and marketing brand to the dynamic world-leading City of Shanghai. In contributing to the remarkably similar development of farmland east of Shanghai, the Disney Company can provide the benefit of its experience in transforming the orange groves of then rural 1950’s Orange County, California into one of America’s most modern and prosperous urban areas.
Further extending the joint development, Disney may develop plans for its proven, and very successful Florida and California theme park monorails to serve not only the new Shanghai Disneyland Resort, but extend elegantly into the heart of the city to connect the urban core and greater Shanghai with a state of the art monorail system; in another multi-layered joint venture including Bombardier Transportation, builder of Disney’s US theme park monorails, and manufacturer of urban monorail systems capable of transporting 3,000 to 50,000 passengers per hour, per direction, at up to 80 miles per hour.