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California Governor Vetoes Bill On Land Use Oversight

A bill designed to strengthen oversight of organizations that make land use decisions for cities, like Civic San Diego, was vetoed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assembly Bill 504, authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would have given city councils more power when local governments rely on the planning, zoning or permitting expertise of nonprofit organizations or private individuals.

The bill was opposed by San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and area business leaders.

"This legislation imposes statewide rules on local land use planning that are intended to address a dispute in one jurisdiction," Brown wrote in his veto message. "These are issues that should be determined at the local level."

In a statement, the lawmaker called the veto a minor setback and said she would resubmit the bill next year, with some "minor" changes.

"It appears the governor would prefer to wait for this dispute to play out in a courtroom, but that's not good enough for me," Gonzalez said. "I respectfully disagree with the governor's position that this is only a local issue — I've been fighting for almost a decade to ensure the citizens of San Diego are afforded the same voice in their future as every other city in California."

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 legislation would have thwarted 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 contended Gonzalez's bill would have added unnecessary hurdles to the planning process and added layers of bureaucracy to communities in dire need of revitalization and development.

"I thank the governor for reaffirming the ability of cities to control how their neighborhoods grow," Faulconer said. "This means Civic San Diego will continue the important work of implementing City Council-approved plans to build affordable housing, attract new businesses and deliver the parks and services we need."

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.

Kris Michell, president and CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, and Jerry Sanders, president and CEO of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce, issued a joint statement saying they "look forward to supporting Civic as they carry on creating jobs, providing affordable housing and attracting billions of dollars in private investment to the region."

In other legislative news today, the governor signed two bills authored by Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins. One of the bills will allow seafood markets to operate in public areas in the same manner as farmers markets, clearing the way for people to purchase locally caught fish. The other makes the San Diego River Conservancy a permanent entity. It had been scheduled to be dissolved in January 2020.

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