By Bob Dorn
San Diego is becoming a glamorous plantation.
Its people fight for a degree of control over their lives and are left to fight among themselves over whether they get sidewalk repair or a new stadium. A water shortage is not because we grow avocados in a desert, it is because we take too many showers for too many minutes.
Homelessness is a problem because lazy people don’t want to work. If they got themselves jobs they could buy a condo in Mission Valley starting at the low 400s.
We don’t talk about who sets up these conditions, who in fact controls us. We know who they are, but we don’t talk about them. We can’t know them, we just know who they are. I can pronounce Douglas Manchester’s name, but beyond that it starts getting difficult.
The voters don’t control their city because the City Council doesn’t control the city. Not even the mayor controls the city.
If Kevin Faulconer stood up tomorrow and said the city’s residents no longer can afford a new stadium for the Chargers nothing would change. There would still be front page stories about innovative financing plans using tax credits and naming-rights and one-time-only bond subventions and rotating alternating drone rentals and of fund-raising consultants hired by a non-profit private organization comprised of… who?
The city’s business is largely done by these so-called private non-profits. The commission appointed by the mayor to negotiate a stadium plan with the Chargers met in private, by invitation only.
Civic San Diego is responsible for planning new development now. Try picking out the names of its chairman and vice-chairman and just one of its 9 directors from the list below. Warning, three of those that follow are absolute phonies:
Gladdins, Jenkins, Flannery, Jones, Gates, Shaw, Geisler, Vasquez, Manning.
Six of those nine names above have control over many millions of development funds and can decide who gets permitted to build or repair infrastructure in sensitive San Diego neighborhood. When do they meet, and where?
They’re appointed by…? Oh yes, the mayor and the city council. We’ve come full circle.
The mayor and the city council? Lower case those positions. Lower case mayor and city council because they form a class lower than The Boss. Some could argue that they are lower class and are of lower character. Some might even say they lack class.
When I think back on the personalities of those who sit and have sat on the council I can think of only three or four I’d have sat down with to eat a meal; the rest I wouldn’t have trusted enough. Would a slave gladly eat a meal with Massa?
There are so many instances of chicanery in this town they come to mind and are promptly forgotten. We’ve grown so accustomed to them we can forget them and move beyond them until the next one comes along, which we greedily read about so that we can feel that our disgust with local politics is justified. They, like the fears we feel during a sleepless night, are sort of unreal. We want to forget them.
The difference is, the effects of our owners are with us. We have a paranoid sort of politics here. Like Scartlett, whose forebears established Tara, the plantation in Georgia, our loss of control is something we’ll “think about tomorrow.” Smile, the lack of water will be gone with the wind. Tomorrow.
Nothing explains the damage around us as clearly as does Mission Valley.
It was once a riverine environment. The river (quick, what was its name?) was a bedraggled, tired stream much of the year during the dry season and a raging flood of snow melt during the rainy season. At different times it was pretty, then ugly, just like the world, just like people, just like us.
Now it’s a canal with weak points that sometimes makes shopping at Fashion Valley inconvenient. Itself, it is beautiful but it now serves the needs of out of town, out of state finance. It is an amenity for midrise Soviet-style blockhouses with balconies built by out of town investors and sold mostly to out of town buyers.
Left to ourselves we would have gone down to the valley and bought land out of the way of all but the highest level the seasonal floods reached so we could build our own houses, but the land had already been gobbled by up by sand and gravel barons who made the buildings possible.
Smaller scale development certainly has taken place. Ironically, it is memorialized by neighborhoods like Mission Hills, La Jolla, Point Loma, places belonging to a smaller developmental scale ranging from high end Rancho Santa Fe on down to North Park and South Park, which are the most desirable and beautiful living situations in this city. Now, they’re the most expensive.
Which is more like the San Diego that Jerry Sanders and the Goodyear Blimp brag about, Mission Valley’s Civita or Bankers Hill?
Sure, this plea for fewer units and more consideration of lower scale projects can easily be made to seem Nimby, a product of I’ve Got Mine exclusivity, but how many of us locals are buying skybound units in East Village? Remember Coronado Towers? Know anybody who lives in one of those towers?
A year or so ago I was walking in my neighborhood and came upon an older resident of one of Park Boulevard’s really cool, low-key apartment buildings who was selling some household goods at a card table. He was moving out. A Chinese company had bought the building.
A big majority of us could not afford to buy units in the newer developments. We are the ones who’ve lost our perches, not the foreign and wealthy who can afford $750,000 to $1 million dollar condominiums with sea and harbor views.
Would the average San Diegan — rightfully glad to be here and happy to see the Goodyear Blimp’s view of things broadcast to an admiring nation — permit the building of Civita and East Pillage if he or she knew that their own relatives couldn’t afford to buy one of those units? Could average San Diegans even persuade their own community planning group to build affordable housing? We certainly can’t persuade this City Council and Mayor.
The build-out of Mission Valley, after Civita’s completion and approvals of Manchester’s Plan at the old Copley property and approvals for River Run’s housing units, will result in an estimated addition of 50,000 people, maybe more.
No public school is being mentioned. Will Friar’s Road be widened to make room for how many additional auto trips per day? Can it be? Who will pay for the new fire station? Is one even being planned?
Will the Fire Department have available water to put out the fires?
The point is, our city has become a national playground. It is under the influence of a national, even a worldwide, collection of big money players, financiers, banks, conglomerates, insurance companies and a few billionaires who are making a profit insulting a place of almost magical physical grace.
No matter how many times we must listen to public and private officials sell San Diego’s mom-and-pop nature, we’re in the middle of an inflation of greed as huge as the one that eight years ago brought Wall Street to a collapse that mom and pop bailed out.
And while the decisions about our city’s final contribution to civilization are being made up the coast somewhere, across the ocean somewhere — on the other side of the planet somewhere — the vast majority of us are fighting over potholes and the Chargers.
When a drink of water costs real money you don’t mind sleeping on the ground.
Now back to the real estate listings.