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A La Finestra At Moraga’s Hacienda De Las Flores? What Could Go Wrong?

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It would seem like a dream setup on its surface: Consider a resolution giving former La Finestra restaurant owner Jeff Assadi – who lost that business to a devastating fire last year – a portion of the town-owned Hacienda de las Flores property at 2100 Donald Drive in a mutually beneficial public-private partnership.

What possible downside could be drawn from a resolution giving an established former business owner a spot in an architecturally attractive site in a town screaming for more dining choices?

Well, this being Moraga, some quarters who preferred to stay off the record roundly criticized the move – questioning why the resolution appeared for all intents and purposes as a foregone conclusion, without the RFP process usually adopted so potentially interested business owners could also compete for the space.

Some harsh words have been spoken, but with no one willing to claim them we’ll merely say several people in town questioned the last minute nature of the draft resolution as well as its legality.

One exuberant decrier of the town’s action was quick to point out their compassion for Mr. Assadi, who would obviously like to get back up and running, calling it “irregular” for a municipality to consider executing long term leases on a publicly owned site.

Others questioned the town’s planned expenditure of monies for facility improvements at Moraga’s newest restaurant, money town officials have said they don’t have.

Questions were also raised about the appearance of a favorable public-private lease agreement with one business owner while others have been unable to find such a spot in town – and have to pay property taxes, as well.

Town leaders, on the other hand, have said they have been working on finding a suitable tenant for the venerable Hacienda, which has been home to taco truck nights and periodic celebrations over the years – and residents have expressed their desire for a “white table cloth” restaurant after the closure of several local eateries.

Closed negotiations between civic leaders and Assadi have been ongoing since February 20, 2018, with officials saying they have had to move quickly because Assadi is also considering another location and must make a decision in order to transfer his liquor license prior to a July deadline.

The council meets Tuesday night. From the sound of it there may be some locals in the audience eager to discuss the finer points of this deal.

9 COMMENTS

  1. Glad to hear Moraga is back to First World problems after nearly having to file for bankruptcy.

  2. Why would a restaurant want to be buried in that location? Lovers of Thomas Keller would have a hard time finding it.

    Our RE brokers/Town Council are 2 for 2 on picking a winning private business at the expense of public funds (see article above “One way to put Butts in Seats”. Right as they are asking for more road money because the town is broke. I am not one of those loud anti gov’t criers mentioned above. Just a 7yr new resident that is astonished at how the TC works behind closed doors. I am not a fan.

    I would have sold the Hacienda to a developer for single family homes. The lot could handle 4 nicely done homes without creating much more traffic.

  3. Good article. This is the 7th or 8th time in less than 6 months the town council has conducted behind-the-scenes activity and then show up in a public meeting with foregone conclusions.

    Irrespective of whether this is a good idea (and the rationalizations in the staff report seem little more than personal opinions and conjecture) the reality is the council subcommittee responsible for this particular item directly contravened specific direction from the council itself for five months.

    In addition, the most recent, real survey of residents regarding restaurants in town had “family friendly” outnumbering “white tablecloth” 2-to-1 and 90% of respondents preferring Mexican fare.

    It’s part of a bad, bad habit of increasing frequency at town hall whereby council subcommittees operate totally unchecked by the council-at-large, negotiate deals based on unknown processes and criteria, and then appear in a public meeting for a rubber stamp. Here are a couple of links (if it’s OK to post them) in that respect:

    http://bit.ly/2HKhJak
    http://bit.ly/2HHFYpk

  4. I find this all very confusing. Our town council has not inspired confidence(fiscally) in their decision making over the years and my skepticism is high on this one. At the same time there are a handful of people on ND and other websites writing long posts that can make one hysterical if you can actually read through their long winded missives. I wish I had the spare time these folks have to delve into the issues and don’t mean to sound critical but at some point it just sounds like the sky is falling histrionics from them. So where you do you go for reliable information? I guess our little town reflects our culture as a country right now, lots of information(which is good) and social media warriors inflaming the information on both sides(which is bad).

    • @Kip – Well-written, civil, and to-the-point commentary always welcome here. Let’s hear what The People have to say.

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