By Doug Porter
Months of citizen activism and publicly voiced concerns about the role of Civic San Diego in neighborhood redevelopment outside of downtown are coming to a head.
Despite questions about Civic San Diego’s legal status, sudden and unexplained resignations on its board of directors and an unwillingness to make meaningful steps towards insuring projects are of actual benefit to the communities they impact, Mayor Kevin Faulconer is expending political capital to defend the organization.
It’s no more Mr Nice Guy for Faulconer, with an event in Encanto to blast Assembly Bill 504, a measure the advance press release says “will usurp control of Civic San Diego, an organization that has helped create jobs and affordable housing for thousands of San Diego residents.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced the legislation following a series of actions by Civic San Diego that raised serious questions about their intent and purpose.
In 2012 Murtaza Baxamusa (who ended up being appointed to the CivicSD board by then-mayor Filner) warned about potential problems in a Voice of San Diego article:
Civic San Diego is essentially a government contractor paid by permit processing fees, and whatever it can skim off administrative costs from redevelopment leftovers. It poses an inherent conflict of interest in that is financially dependent on permit fees, so regardless of whether a project serves the public interest, Civic San Diego will have a financial interest in approving it.
Baxamusa now finds himself in the unusual position of suing an organization when he’s serving on its board of directors. The lawsuit seeks judicial clarification on the legality of CivicSD’s role:
The City of San Diego has outsourced planning and permitting responsibilities connected to low-income and downtown San Diego communities to CivicSD, a private, non-profit corporation. Currently, the City of San Diego is the only city in the entire state of California to outsource its responsibilities for planning and community development to a private, non-governmental entity. In California, it is currently in dispute as to whether a City can lawfully delegate planning and permitting to a private entity. Over a billion dollars of public taxpayer funds and resources have been expended to support CivicSD, private developers and their projects.
Civic San Diego has sought to deflect (or simply refused to respond to) issues like:
- How it will deal with conflicts of interest between private developers and CivicSD boardmembers
- Development of policy insuring that when public resources are expended on private development, community benefits should result. (As opposed to the current advisory program.)
- Defined goals for affordable housing development, creation of local good-paying jobs, and investments in community infrastructure.
Following some less-than-positive publicity, a series of public forums staged by the agency were widely criticized for de-emphasizing input from the community. My read is that they were for show, period. Based on what I’ve read and heard, many community members were unsatisfied by this effort.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced AB504, seeking to clarify the role of CivicSD to perform permitting work for local governments. Specifically AB504 calls for the City Council to have final say on projects.
Then we saw 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 Voice of San Diego commentary.
@WendyNBCSD @Kevin_Faulconer the Mayor should obey the law & give all communities a voice, not just developers behind closed doors.
— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) May 6, 2015
The Mayor’s “Save Civic San Diego” crusade begins today. Here’s the relevant sales pitch from this morning’s press release:
Civic San Diego bolsters Mayor Faulconer’s One San Diego plan. The organization helps to revitalize San Diego’s urban neighborhoods, provide affordable housing, and nurture small businesses. On Wednesday, the Assembly Local Government Committee will hear testimony on AB 504, which would render Civic San Diego obsolete, add unnecessary hurdles to the City of San Diego’s planning process and tack on extra layers of bureaucracy to communities that are in dire need of revitalization and development, such as Encanto.
NBC7’s community affairs program Politically Speaking invited Assemblywoman Gonzalez to talk about these issues last week. They also sought a representative from CivicSD and the City Attorney’s office to speak out. Both declined.
If it were not for San Diego’s sad history of developers and politicians violating the public trust, if it were not for the probability that CivicSD’s programs will ignore input from the community, if it were not for the agency’s own track record of being less-than-transparent (they tried to prevent Baxamusa from talking with elected officials), then perhaps we could go along with the mayor’s “trust me” approach.
In the meantime, keep your hand on your wallet and your eyes and ears open. Something terrible may be happening.
The San Diego Free Press has published numerous articles about CivicSD. I urge you to take time to learn more.
Lawsuit Takes Aim at SDG&E’s ‘Not a Tax’ Fee
Dorian Hargrove at the Reader reports on a class action lawsuit holding SDG&E’s 3% electricity and gas taxes that end up in San Diego’s general fund are illegal.
The extra fees, according to the complaint filed on behalf of San Diego resident Jesse Mahon Jr., first appeared on San Diego Gas and Electric’s bills in 2003. A portion of the 3.88 percent electric tax is set aside for utility undergrounding projects. The remainder is deposited into the general fund. The class-action suit claims that the extra tax violates Proposition 218, which requires that taxes be approved by a majority of voters before being enacted.
The City Attorney’s office is already sweating bullets over the implications of this lawsuit, following a court ruling against a franchise fee scheme in Santa Barbara. They’ve filed a request for the State Supreme Court to review the case.
Hillary Clinton Comes Out Strong on Immigration
Clown car occupants, take notice. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton threw down the gauntlet yesterday with a stronger than expected policy speech in Nevada on immigration.
From the Guardian:
“We can’t wait any longer for a path to full and equal citizenship,” Clinton said. “Now this is where I differ from everybody on the Republican side. Make no mistake: today not a single Republican candidate announced or potential is clearly or consistently supporting a path to citizenship – not one.”
“When they talk about legal status, that is code for second-class status.”
Clinton again positioned a liberal cause as a family and economic issue, as she has on women’s rights. But she also positioned herself to the left of even Obama on immigration, whose orders have led to non-stop conservative ire and legal challenges but would still allow for the deportation of those brought illegally to the country as children – so-called “dreamers”.
She called for allowing the parents of dreamers to apply for legal status, as well as a recalibration of targeted enforcement procedures and extended deferred action.
Climate Change Bulletin
The National Hurricane Center is warning eastern seaboard residents that there is a 60% probability of a tropical storm or hurricane developing over the next 48 hours. They’re keeping an eye on thunderstorms extending over portions of Florida, the Bahamas, and adjacent waters are associated with an upper-level trough and a weak surface low located over the northwestern Bahamas.
It’s the first week of May, folks. Hurricane season isn’t supposed to even start until June.
On This Day: 1882 – Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. The act barred Chinese immigrants from the U.S. for 10 years. 1937 – The German airship Hindenburg crashed and burned in Lakehurst, NJ. Thirty-six people (of the 97 on board) were killed. 1965 – Keith Richards began writing the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” in a Florida hotel room
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