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Assembly Passes Bill That Would Increase Oversight Of Civic San Diego

A bill designed to strengthen oversight of organizations that make land use decisions for cities, like Civic San Diego, was passed Thursday by the Assembly.

AB 504, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and opposed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and area business leaders passed on a 53-27 vote.

The legislator said her bill would create more oversight by local governments that rely on the planning, zoning or permitting expertise of nonprofit organizations or private individuals.

"The people of San Diego — just like any other city — elect council members to make decisions about their community's future, but that's not what's happening in our city," Gonzalez said. "AB 504 will ensure that local government remains directly accountable to the public."

Civic San Diego was created three years ago to handle design and permitting for major projects in downtown, City Heights and Southeast San Diego after the state abolished redevelopment.

Faulconer and other Civic San Diego supporters said the bill, if passed, would thwart the ability of the agency to revitalize urban neighborhoods.

According to the mayor's office, Civic San Diego attracted billions of dollars in investment, created tens of thousands of jobs and helped build more than 6,000 units of affordable housing for San Diego. The mayor's office contends Gonzalez's bill would would add unnecessary hurdles to the planning process and add layers of bureaucracy to communities in dire need of revitalization and development.

The organization is accountable to the city through nomination and appointments of board members by the mayor and city council, and its operating contract is managed by the city's Economic Development Department, according to the mayor's office.

Gonzalez said she recently obtained an opinion from the Legislature's legal counsel that said the city was unconstitutionally giving away its police powers by allowing outside agencies to make land use decisions.

Faulconer's office pointed out, however, that the opinion said a city could delegate such powers as long as there is appropriate oversight.

The bill next heads to the state Senate.

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