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Politics

Lawsuit Challenges Civic San Diego's Role In City Government

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A lawsuit was filed Friday to clarify the relationship between the city of San Diego and Civic San Diego, the quasi-independent agency that handles development issues for the city.

The legal action was filed in San Diego Superior Court on behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and Murtaza Baxamusa, an advocate for the working poor and Civic San Diego board member.

"Presently, CivicSD operates without accountability to the City Council, and thus without accountability to the taxpayers whose dollars it spends," Baxamusa said. "Additionally, questions have been raised about potential conflicts of interest between private developers, CivicSD board members and the stewardship of public resources in the best interest of San Diego communities."

The City Attorney's Office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Those suing aren't seeking financial compensation but rather a legal declaration of the duties and responsibilities of the city and the agency in economic and community development, lawyer Steve Coopersmith said.

He said they're also hoping to get a judge to declare that when public funds are spent on private development, community benefits should result.

If the city delegates permitting and planning to Civic San Diego, then it needs to properly define and oversee the agency's activities, Coopersmith said.

Civic San Diego was created under former Mayor Jerry Sanders around the time that redevelopment agencies were being abolished by the state a few years ago. The agency assumed many of the responsibilities and projects of the former Centre City Development Corp. and Southeastern Development Corp.

Civic San Diego recently completed a survey of San Diego residents on community benefits they were hoping to see in their neighborhoods from future development projects.