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.