By Doug Porter
A showdown is in the works over community input on plans by Civic San Diego to absorb neighborhoods beyond downtown for permitting and planning development projects. For the moment we’re talking about Encanto and City Heights. I doubt it will stop there.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez has introduced legislation to clarify the ability of non-profit groups like Civic San Diego to perform permitting work for local governments, as it’s uncertain what legal authority in California law the organization has to approve building projects on behalf of the City of San Diego after redevelopment’s demise. Specifically AB504 calls for the City Council to have final say on projects.
The “uncertainty” defense is being rolled out on behalf of Civic San Diego (and the developers who love it) by former Mayor and Chamber of commerce CEO Jerry Sanders, along with Kris Michell, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership by way of a commentary published earlier today by Voice of San Diego. Used with great success in previous campaigns to pull the wool over the eyes of San Diegans, this sort of effort is supposed to instill fear the local economy will be damaged if (fill-in-the-blank) happens.
Step One: Introduce Some Truthiness
The VOSD op-ed piece, starts off by telling us about Civic San Diego “as the model of government efficiency when it comes to approving development projects.” They even cite a story about permits issued by the agency being issued “more than twice as fast as the city of San Diego’s Development Services Department.”
Wow. Sounds impressive, huh? An agency that slashes through the government bureaucracy to get stuff done. Who wouldn’t want that?
From the VOSD commentary:
…AB 504 seeks to undo those efforts by making it more difficult to have projects move forward by requiring the City Council to weigh in on every project.
Step Two: Make People Afraid
Continuing the spiel from Sanders and Michell:
AB 504 removes that certainty and replaces it with politics, flying in the face of what the downtown community has identified as priorities for its neighborhoods.
It also undercuts the work Civic San Diego is currently doing to help community planning groups in Encanto and City Heights identify their priorities so they, too, can update their community plans and benefit from a streamlined and sensible permitting process.
Step Three: We Know What’s Best
After all, we’re told by Sanders and Michell, Civic San Diego is already accountable to the “city’s Economic Development Department and Civic San Diego’s board of directors serve at the pleasure of the mayor and City Council.”
Imaginary future storyline #1: The city council asks for the resignation of CSD board members with a 5-4 vote. The Mayor vetoes it. End of story.
Imaginary future storyline #2: Economic Development Department rejects CSD planning. Mayor transfers or fires employees responsible. End of story.
There is no doubt in my mind that this whopper about accountability and the evils of ‘politics’ will be echoed through other media outlets in the coming weeks.
Deconstructing the Truthiness
In order to understand why the Gospel of Development’s argument is flawed it’s necessary to start with the premise that Civic San Diego is a marvel of efficiency.
What they omit is one itty-bitty fact: the projects approved and permitted have all been downtown.
From another article at Voice of San Diego:
Downtown is something of an anomaly among San Diego neighborhoods. Its community plan was updated after the Clinton administration (2006 to be exact) – that makes it recent by San Diego standards.
A recent-ish plan means downtown has already gone through the process of sorting out what types of developments should go in which places.
More importantly, all the different development possibilities spelled out in that plan have already been through an environmental review. If developers propose projects in line with what’s considered in the plan, they don’t need to do another environmental review of their own.
In fact there’s only one other community plan up-to-date: Otay Mesa. There are eight community plans in the pipeline (the OB plan is awaiting an expected approval by the Coastal Commission.)
The Barrio Logan community plan was crushed after downtown business interests (Sanders, et. al., plus the shipbuilders) put it up for a city-wide vote following a propaganda campaign that would have made many a small-time dictator proud.
And these community plans aren’t up to date because, why?
I’m so glad you asked. Because the city government (mostly under Jerry Sanders) gutted the planning department, cut funding for community plans and failed miserably at outsourcing the work that was done.
Our $15 million in tax dollars over the past 13 years in the 12 neighborhoods that have taken steps towards developing a plan have produced two plans approved by the city council, one of which was vetoed. (All this privatization stuff requires oversight, something the City of San Diego has yet to grasp.)
The Truth of the Matter
As assorted articles here in San Diego Free Press have pointed out, (and there are more in the pipeline) the issue at hand is community benefits, specifically who gets a say in what is done in conjunction with development.
Civic San Diego has held a series of community forums (and they have an app!) that have proven to be unsatisfactory to many stakeholders. The general sense is CSD is doing this for show and that they’re in a hurry to expand their sources of funding via permitting fees.
That’s why people from the City of San Diego’s Community Planners Committee, environmental groups and unions joined Assemblywoman Gonzalez at the press conference announcing the introduction of AB504.
“If you’re going to have one entity in charge of making sure the complex needs of complex communities all over San Diego are met, it should be an organization accountable first to the public, not to maintaining its funding streams,” said Joe LaCava, Chair of the Community Planners Committee. “Permitting authority needs to be with our government, the City of San Diego.”
Last week the Community Budget Alliance (CBA), a coalition of around 25 advocacy groups, sent a letter to the City Council calling for all publicly funded land deals brokered by Civic San Diego to include enforceable minimum standards, including requirements for construction wages, local hiring, affordable housing and public input.
I get the sense this concept of accountability is exactly what Civic San Diego’s hoping to avoid.
From City Beat’s coverage by Joshua Emerson Smith, which should be required reading on the subject:
Without such oversight, delegating decision-making authority to the nonprofit could violate state law, Gonzalez said. “It’s not just illegal; it’s bad policy. It lacks transparency and accountability.”
Subject to council approval would be Civic San Diego’s authority to permit and plan development projects Downtown, a unique situation statewide that’s relished by the local business community.
There will be a hearing before the council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee at 2 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at City Hall where officials from Civic San Diego are expected to testify about their activities.
One Other Potential Problem
Civic San Diego’s scheme may not be legal.
— Cory Briggs (@corybriggs) March 16, 2015
Community Opposition to DA’s Overreach
Hundreds of people gathered outside Superior Court on Sunday in support of Duncan Brandon, Aaron Harvey, and other young men facing life terms resulting from the county District Attorney’s prosecutorial zeal.
At stake is the assertion that these individuals benefited from criminal acts merely by evidence of their association with members of gangs. A hearing in Superior Court today will review those charges.
From UT-San Diego:
Even considering all that evidence — if Duncan and Harvey could be proven to be active gang members and to be well aware of the criminal enterprises of the gang — the question still remains: Does any of it constitute an actual crime? Did their Facebook posts or rap lyrics willingly support or show they benefited from any of the nine shootings?
Prosecutors and police argue yes, that the defendants benefited from the violence with an increase in stature in the community.
“In spite of media reports to the contrary, this case is not about being punished for rapping, freedom of speech or the First Amendment,” the District Attorney’s Office said in a statement. “It’s about using the law to prosecute a small number of the most active gang members who are responsible for the onslaught of killings and shootings that terrorized San Diego neighborhoods for months.”
A Sunday Climate Mobilization Rally
San Diegans also rallied at City Hall and walked to the Federal Building yesterday, calling for the “U.S. Government to immediately commence the WWII-style mobilization that’s necessary to rapidly transform the United States into a 100% clean energy economy.”
The first of four events scheduled for this year, the rally was largely organized by the Ocean Beach People’s Organic Food Market and endorsed by a the San Diego County Democratic Party, the Sierra Club, organized labor, and other local groups.
From the OBRag:
After a few speakers, the group pushed out of the Plaza, down 3rd Avenue and Broadway, taking the short walk in the streets to the Federal Building. A few police cars escorted the peaceful march the few blocks that then gathered for a second rally.
Once in the shade of the massive Federal Building, another band welcomed the crowd. A dozen people got up and danced to the music of Captain Viejo before a few more speakers thanked and exhorted those present to continue the struggle.
Dave Engle of 350.org spoke as did Richard Berrera – head of the San Diego Labor Council – both offering solidarity with the protesters.
The demands of the protest centered on calling on the US Federal government to enact a World War II type of crisis response to deal with the worsening climate changes.
Near the end of the event, Nancy Cassidy – CEO of People’s Food – and her co-organizer and husband, Derek, with a short announcement at the mike, marched over to the front of the Federal Building and taped the demands of the coalition to the glass door of the red-bricked edifice.
Protest organizers plan on future mobilizations, the next on June 14th, one in September and the fourth in November. The crowd was asked to attend the next one but for each person to bring one more.
Appropriately, San Diego is in the grips of a record-setting heat wave. The event featured a concert by the Swamp Critters, as well as a bike raffle.
On This Day: 1960 – The United Federation of Teachers (UFT) was formed to represent New York City public school teachers and, later, other education workers in the city. 1963 – “Puff The Magic Dragon” was released by Peter, Paul and Mary. 1988 – Indictments were issued for Lt. Colonel Oliver North, Vice Admiral John Poindexter of the National Security Council, and two others for their involvement in the Iran-Contra affair.
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