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County Supervisors Approved Funding For Infrastructure Projects In District 3

An empty building that formerly housed the Mira Mesa Epicentre, a defunct teen center operated by Harmonium Inc., March 2019.
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An empty building that formerly housed the Mira Mesa Epicentre, a defunct teen center operated by Harmonium Inc., March 2019.

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday unanimously approved a transfer of nearly $16.7 million in funding for numerous infrastructure projects, including a bridge in Del Mar and a youth center in the Mira Mesa neighborhood.

The projects, most coming from the capital outlay fund, are located in District 3, represented by Terra Lawson-Remer. They are:

• $3.6 million to redevelop the Mira Mesa Youth and Community Center;

• $715,000 to the Los Penasquitos Ranch Preserve;

• $3 million to support the redevelopment of a property in Escondido for a recuperative care/medical respite bed facility to provide recuperative care and temporary housing for people at risk of being homeless;

• $3.5 million to replace the Camino Del Mar Bridge, which runs over the San Dieguito Lagoon;

• $1.9 million to replace ballfield equipment in Escondido and;

• $3.9 million to expand the 4S Ranch Library.

Lawson-Remer said the projects are in "racially and culturally diverse neighborhoods."

Money to pay for the capital improvements was transferred from two projects the board halted during its March 16 regular meeting.

According to Lawson-Remer's office, residents said neither project aligned with demonstrated community needs. One project involved buying a property for a program modeled after The Other Side Academy, while the other would have housed Saved In America, a non-profit organization that focused on rescuing minors from sex traffickers.

Last year, the San Diego County District Attorney's Office asked the state Attorney General's Office to investigate Saved in America after questions arose over how it operated.

Supervisors Joel Anderson and Jim Desmond said while they generally supported Lawson-Remer's request to help her community, both had issues with paying for the Del Mar bridge, which is located in an affluent city.

"I believe that we have to support each other, so I'll support this today," said Anderson, who added he represents some of the county's poorest people, who don't have broadband, improved roads or adequate fire protection.

"It's hard for me, knowing that I have communities of color who are living at poverty level, and I think about them (compared with) someone who's had a tough go of it in a mansion."

Anderson said his understanding was that Del Mar leaders rejected was federal money to fully replace the Del Mar bridge.

"I want them to have their bridge," he said. "I'm just prioritizing those with the most need."

Desmond said the bridge request was a tough item for him to support, and he would vote against it.

The county itself has great infrastructure needs, Desmond said, adding he's often asked by constituents about getting their roads fixed.

Lawson-Remer said residents from other coastal communities use the Del Mar bridge. She added that Del Mar, which has suffered revenue shortfalls because of the COVID-19 pandemic, needs county money first before it can access other funding.

During a public comment period before supervisors voted, Del Mar Mayor Terry Gaasterland said the bridge dates back to 1932 and is considered structurally deficient by Caltrans.

"We'll continue doing our part for this bridge repair," Gaasterland added.

Other community leaders said the District 3 project funding was badly needed.

Mira Mesa Town Council President Bari Vaz said the youth center served young people for many decades, but closed in 2016 because the nonprofit organization that operated it had funding problems.

"It's always amazed me that a community of 80,000 people has no teen center," Vaz said. "This will bring a new place for our community to join together."

Lisa Ross, vice chairwoman of the Sierra Club's San Diego chapter, said the Los Penasquitos preserve is in dire need of repair due to overuse.

The preserve is part of a regional habitat network, and "the funds will be used well, I assure you," Ross said.

Escondido City Councilwoman Consuelo Martinez said the money will mean better park infrastructure for Escondido residents, who sometimes have to seek out parks in other cities.