Sacramento Streetcar Project Hits Major Speed Bump … Properties Owners, Resident Sue To Invalidate Streetcar Tax Election


For Immediate Release

Date/Time: August 24, 2017, 7:00 a.m.
Contact: Steven Bourasa, Chair
Transportation Committee,
Eye on Sacramento
Phone: (916) 889-6657

Erick J. Benink, Esq.
Krause, Kalfayan, Benink & Slavens, LLP
Attorneys for Petitioners
Phone: (619) 232-0331


Sacramento Streetcar Project Hits Major Speed Bump

Properties Owners, Resident Sue To Invalidate Streetcar Tax Election


Last week, two Central City property owners and a registered Sacramento voter filed a lawsuit against the City of Sacramento that seeks to invalidate the results of a recently held city-sponsored Mello-Roos tax election. The suit seeks to halt the levy of a special tax on Central City property owners that is designed to raise $2 million annually to cover a portion of the operating costs of a proposed Sacramento/West Sacramento streetcar project. The petitioners claim that the special tax was not approved by a two-thirds majority of the registered voters of Sacramento, as required by the Mello-Roos Community Facilities Act of 1982 and the California Constitution, and should be invalidated by the court.1

City Ignores Vote of City Residents

Just two years ago, registered voters in Downtown and Midtown rejected a similar Mello-Roos streetcar tax (Measure B) by a wide margin. Instead of respecting the clear and democratically expressed will of the voters, Sacramento city officials have spent the past two years concocting a second illegitimate and illegal streetcar tax election plan (Measure S) intended to disenfranchise city voters and ignore the will of the people. In the second streetcar tax election, which concluded in June, city officials denied the vote to all registered voters and allowed only carefully selected property owners to vote, in violation of the law.

The city further manipulated the Measure S election by weighting the vote based on parcel size and including the massive Downtown Railyards in the proposed tax district. The Downtown Railyards alone represented over one-third of the collective voting power in the election. By cheery picking voters and egregiously gerrymandering the district, city officials assured themselves that they would secure the two-thirds majority vote required to pass the tax.

City of Sacramento Ignored Legal Warning in April

On April 20, 2017, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sent a letter to Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and the Sacramento City Council warning that a “special tax approved in an election where only owners and lessees of land were allowed to vote was invalid” and unconstitutional under California law. 2 City officials ignored Howard Jarvis’ warning and mailed out streetcar tax election ballots to only landowners on May 30, 2017.3

City officials have estimated that the streetcar project will cost $5.1 million each year to operate. However, Eye on Sacramento’s nationally recognized transit expert, Professor Emeritus Gregory Thompson of Florida State University, estimates that the streetcar’s actual annual operating costs will most likely be between $6 million and $8 million. The Measure S special streetcar tax was expected to raise $2 million annually, but is now under a very major legal cloud.

Who will pay the enormous looming operating deficits of the streetcar project, which may be as much as $5 million annually? The answer is: no one knows. Are the participating cities of Sacramento and West Sacramento prepared to tap their already hard-pressed general funds to cover the uncertain operating deficits? Without an identified, adequate and committed funding source, the streetcar project is likely to be stalled indefinitely. Or, worse, the project may get built, but will have only enough funding to operate sporadically, killing any chance of it developing a level of ridership that could justify the $200 million taxpayer cost of building the project.

As Professor Thompson puts it, “The Sacramento streetcar project is little more than an amusement ride for tourists and will do virtually nothing to improve mobility or reduce automobile use.”



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  10. Steve Lerman says:

    Hi Eye on Sacramento,
    I am one of the residents who voted against Measure B, in 2015, the Sacramento Streetcar CFD, Special Election.
    I would like the votes on Measure B to be taken seriously by Sacramento City government.
    Please let me know the status of the Streetcar Tax Election.

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