San Leandro mayoral candidate Dan Dillman does not lack for out-of-the-box ideas. His latest involves annexing neighboring unincorporated San Lorenzo. Dillman is one of four candidates in the city’s ranked choice mayoral election this November.
“One of my Ideas as Mayor, we should Annex San Lorenzo!” Dillman announced on Facebook last week. “They keep their Identity as San Lorenzo “The Designated District” and we combine the school districts under San Leandro Unified.”
San Lorenzo was incorporated as part of a mad, mid-century rush by municipalities to gobble up land in the growing East Bay. San Lorenzo’s downtown was once a vibrant commercial area before freeway expansion undermined its prosperity.
The area with roughly a population of 24,000 over the past three decades is now mostly a quiet, bedroom community between San Leandro and Hayward.
It’s not clear whether San Lorenzo residents would be amendable to being absorbed into San Leandro. Pride in San Lorenzo is often strong. In addition, residents are fiercely independent, especially when the comparison is made with their rival neighbors in the much larger unincorporated Castro Valley.
However, San Leandro and San Lorenzo’s school districts are already closely-aligned, often meeting for joint public hearings.
But, the mere act of annexation is not entirely incumbent on the San Leandro City Council, but the regional Land Agency Formation Commission of Alameda County, known as LAFCo, which oversees the county’s boundaries and jurisdictions.
In fact, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors might have more power over allowing San Lorenzo to be annexed than San Leandro city government since its has authority over the district. In addition, the LAFCo board is made up of nine appointees, three of which are county supervisors. Supervisor Wilma Chan represents San Lorenzo, but no longer sits on LAFCo.
While San Lorenzo residents might receive greater city services as part of San Leandro, they may also pay more in taxes over those in Alameda County. The sales tax in San Leandro, for instance, is 9.75 percent, whereas the county sales tax is 9.25 percent.
But San Lorenzo residents might also feel closer to their local government if included with San Leandro instead of travailing the often byzantine bureaucracy at the county-level. Alameda County would likely protest on the account of losing property taxes from San Lorenzo.
In 2008, San Leandro made a play for the unincorporated hillside area east of the MacArthur Freeway, known as Hillcrest Knolls. The nascent annexation plan, though, was unsuccessful.
However, it’s also not clear how San Leandro residents might react to annexation. The city, like many others in the East Bay, is already girding its finances in anticipation of a potential downturn in the economy. The lack of road improvements and unfunded public employee liabilities are already concerns among San Leandrans.
But Dillman also has a solution to the city’s unfunded liabilities when he proposed last month a future $400 million bond measure that would entirely wipe out its outstanding bill for public employee retirement costs, with a little left over for other city improvements.