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Redevelopment Returns With Civic San Diego

Civic San Diego Takes On Redevelopment
Guests: Roger Showley, UT San DiegoMurtaza Baxamusa, Middle Class Tax Payers Association

ST. JOHN: I'm Alison St. John in for Maureen ST. JOHN. There was tremendous political upheaval when Jerry Brown proposed eliminate redevelopment agencies all over the state. Public figures lamented that dream projects like the Chargers stadium or conventional center would have to be abandoned. Now a new agency to carry on the work is being created, called civic San Diego. And my guests, on the phone, we have Roger Showley of UT San Diego. Thank you for joining us. SHOWLEY: Sorry I can't be there in person. ST. JOHN: This is good, we're glad to have you. And also Murtaza Baxamusa, of the family housing corporation. Great to have you in studio. BAXAMUSA: Thank you for having me here. ST. JOHN: So let's start with Roger. Since you've written about this a lot. Tell us about this new organization. How did it come about? SHOWLEY: The simplest explanation is that it's just a name change for the center city development corporation. That's the group the city set up as a nonprofit city owned corporation in 1975 to oversee downtown. They're changing it because the second organization they set up, the center for southeastern economic development corporation for the neighborhoods to the southeast of them downtown allowed so much money and staffing because of the end of redevelopment that it couldn't continue on its own. So it's becoming a subsidiary of CCDC, and they decided well, we can't call it either one of the names so we're going to rename it civic San Diego. ST. JOHN: So it's basically CCDC. The city's redevelopment arm. But under a new name. SHOWLEY: Exactly. ST. JOHN: Is it its budget more? SHOWLEY: It's about 40% smaller of the combined agencies' administrative budget. ST. JOHN: Now that property tax increments is off the table as a result of Governor Brown's budget cuts, where will the money come from? SHOWLEY: Well, even though that's what we think is the case, it's not actually true because there are many projects that are -- haven't been finished or are still authorized. And the same property tax source will pay for those public improvements, parks, fire station, street light, all the usual infrastructure things. And there's a long list of developments going into the next 30 years that the state has received from local agencies. And -- or the city, I mean. And that's what their money is coming from, the administrative costs from there. ST. JOHN: Right. We can talk a bit more about that later. That's the $6 billion which to some degrees is up in the air. SHOWLEY: Right. ST. JOHN: Perhaps you can be specific about some of the projects that are sort of back on the table, or still on the table. SHOWLEY: Well, there are two that come to mind downtown, anyway. Of one is the north embarcadero visionary plan, first phase, which is underway now on harbor drive. About $20 million, and most of that is funded from the same property tax and will be finished next year. The second one is an expansion of Horton plaza park. It's a shopping center. And that doesn't exactly include property taxes, but it's an agreement between CCDC, and the Westfield that owns the shopping center to take down one of the old buildings from the shopping center and add that to the park. ST. JOHN: Mel Shapiro has said it's all about just getting the Chargers stadium built. Is it? SHOWLEY: Well, everybody denies that. And you could read into it, that it possibly could turn into that. But at the moment, their own job is to wind everything down and finish the projects that have been approved. The Chargers stadium never was a CCDC formal project. All they had in their wish list as you put it is the site cleanup. Which is the old bus yard at 14th and J I think it is. MAUREEN ST. JOHN: Right, rights. So they had only put in that, which means it's difficult to argue that they're committed to a stadium. SHOWLEY: Right. ST. JOHN: I wanted to ask you, who controls this? Is this a city agency? SHOWLEY: Well, it's the same arrangement as they had before. It's a stand-alone corporation. The city owns the corporation, and everything -- the most important things they do have to be approved by the City Council, ultimately. In the old setup, there was a redevelopment agency that did that, but people don't realize that was exactly the same as the City Council. It was sort of a legal fiction that the same people made all the same decisions. The only difference now under the new arrangement is that the board of CCDC or civic San Diego will now include several members, up to four of the old southeastern economic development corporation. And one member of the nine is supposed to be a -- to represent affordable housing expertise. So the setup is similar. There are a couple changes. We should point out, you could go on with this more, there's a little phrase in the rules or the responsibility is that they will do whatever the City Council contracts with them to do. So I've been saying that that's where the stadium possibility comes up, because if the City Council says we want to build a new Chargers stadium, who's going to run that? They could set up a separate organization or they could turn it over to civic San Diego. And that's true with many other developments all over the city. Northpark, city heights, San Ysidro, have many unfinished improvements that can't go forward under the old redevelopment system. And potentially the city could say, well, you're doing such a good job, civic San Diego would you mind taking on Northpark's issues? So potentially it could be a very powerful organization. ST. JOHN: That's the key word, isn't it? Yes. So Murtaza, in an e-mail to the City Council who voted in favor of this this week, I believe, right? BAXAMUSA: Uh-huh ST. JOHN: You raised several big questions. Start with your concerns. It's not really -- is it a reincarnation of the CCDC? BAXAMUSA: Alison, I've been talking about the center for city redevelopment corporation for a long time. And it is a fair question today whether or not this is just about winding down redevelopment and continuing center city development corporation under a different name, and what is really concerning is that this is being done without state law mandates that former redevelopment used to run. So in other words, the mission of center city development corporation was incorporated into their corporate documents, their by laws, their articles of incorporation as redevelopment. That was struck out this week. It was -- the documents came out on Friday afternoon with little public notice. And the mission was reoriented toward three things. Economic development, land use permitting, and project management. There is no reference to redevelopment, there is no limitation in its geographical scope or project scope. ST. JOHN: There's a couple questions. One is that it's very rushed. That you changed it on Friday, voted on it on immediate. BAXAMUSA: Correct. ST. JOHN: And this is a potentially very powerful agency. BAXAMUSA: With essentially unlimited powers, at least as described in the corporate documents. Now, there was a four-year consulting agreement, two of them, slapped on that limited the land use permitting authority to downtown. But there is nothing to prevent them from having expanded authority in land use in communities that even were not formally redevelopment. ST. JOHN: Is that such a bad thing? Some communities might feel they want to have redevelopment, and -- BAXAMUSA: Correct. There might be a lot of benefits to having an agency of this nature that is essentially delegated land use authority. It is unprecedented in the state. We must understand, this is it really an experiment. There is no other agency in the state that has done in this rushed fashion what San Diego has done. But it might be a good experiment that might have good results. However, there needed to be community engagement for communities that could be potentially impacted by this change. That was not incorporated in this. ST. JOHN: Okay. I understand that the only person on the City Council who did not vote for it was council woman Marty emerald. What was her objection? BAXAMUSA: Her objection was that the civic San Diego was not in charge of winding down redevelopment in project areas -- she basically said that CCDC, 90% of the city's dessen franchised. Of and the areas that she's concerned about are City Heights, Northpark, Sannis ideo~ that are left behind. ST. JOHN: So she would like to see it spread to other parts of the city. BAXAMUSA: She would like to see some of the mandate in winding down redevelopment to be in charge with an agency, to keep going forward with it. But at this point, it's not a comprehensive proposal. It is just a gear toward downtown. SHOWLEY: Let me break in. I found that very strange that they didn't take over all -- there were 14 project area, redevelopment project areas under the old system, and civic San Diego only has responsibility for three. And I didn't understand this until they explained it at the City Council meeting, and the reason there's a problem is because the staff people who did the other 11 projects were all city employees. And under the city's labor agreements it can't just switch responsibilities from civic city employees to a corporation like civic San Diego. So it sounded to me like they were saying if we can work out an agreement with the labor unions, then we would be able to give the civic San Diego responsibility for overseeing these projects. And I think Marty made a good point, and several other council members, which is I don't know who's running these things. Who is in charge of these other projects? They all have small things going on like street lamps andy repaving and storefront improvement, and affordable housing. And it's a mystery to me who's overseeing them. When I asked the mayor's office, he basically said there's two people. ST. JOHN: I read most of the staff who were overseeing this had been reallocated to other city departments. SHOWLEY: Right. And one thing that hasn't been explained is the money. Will civic San Diego does not have money to do anything beyond what it's doing for downtown and southeast. Their money comes from these project administrative costs. So they can't just independently go off and start thinking about Chargers stadium or improvements in City Heights or anything else. ST. JOHN: Unless they're directed by the City Council. SHOWLEY: And given money by the City Council to do that. And that money now goes to the planning department, development services and so forth. And $2.4 million from the old redevelopment source to pay for the administrative costs and these other 11 projects. So maybe it's just a temporary thing. And Todd Gloria, another council member, said to me earlier that as an example of a project sort of in limbo, there's an old site on university avenue in Northpark that's closed and they were trying to get a development agreement, and it didn't happen of so it's just sitting there. And who is going to oversee those many projects? ST. JOHN: A lot of unanswered questions. A lot question is money for affordable housing. Is there any mandate Murtaza in the new by laws of this agency? BAXAMUSA: No, there's no mandate. The problem once again, it may not be about money, Roger, but the data and the corporate documents reflect the mission of the agency, and that affordable housing besides the mention of a board member, having that expertise is not reflected in the mission, in the bylaws, in the purpose of the agency itself. And that is -- that was there in the past with redevelopment. 20% of any money had to be spent on redevelopment. 30% of any redevelopment project had to be affordable housing. That's missing. ST. JOHN: Part of the public interest mandate for CCDC was affordable housing, and also job creation; correct not just building buildings but creating jobs. SHOWLEY: Well, that really wasn't their job. Their job was real estate development. It wasn't economic development, and to the extent they did it -- ST. JOHN: Do you agree with that? BAXAMUSA: I don't agree. The money they got was redevelopment money. SHOWLEY: But the economic development portion, which is how do you get jobs, well, they didn't really take much of a role in that. That was to your comment, development corporation, and other businesses. ST. JOHN: Was that part of -- BAXAMUSA: That's a limitation. Their performance audit independently done you have CCDC said that one of the most cited concerns is that CCDC has not promoted economic development and social service delivery to the extent its other peers have, and it's primarily oriented to facility development. SHOWLEY: Right. BAXAMUSA: That is a problem and a limitation of CCDC. So when we are extending it, we need to consider that. ST. JOHN: So it does sound like some of the more public interest elements of the old CCDC are not even in the bylaws. SHOWLEY: While theoretically they had economic responsibility, they're didn't do much with that power. It was a small function. ST. JOHN: They never did it anyway. SHOWLEY: It basically said our developments will lead to economic development. If you build an office building, that brings about jobs or anything else, Petco Park, having a plaza. Of ST. JOHN: Okay. SHOWLEY: So it was a spinoff, but they weren't going out aggressively looking for companies to move into office buildings. ST. JOHN: Yet that was one of the things that its critics said it should be doing. But it sounds like the new agency doesn't even have that as part of its -- SHOWLEY: If the City Council tells it to do it, they will. Of ST. JOHN: That's true, that's true. I'd like to thank Roger Showley of UT San Diego, and Murtaza Baxamusa of the housing corporation. BAXAMUSA: Thank you. SHOWLEY: Thank you.

On February 1, the State of California ended redevelopment agencies statewide to help plug a big hole in the state's budget. San Diego had 14 areas that received funds from property taxes for redevelopment projects.

This week the City Council voted seven-to-one to create Civic San Diego, a non-profit corporation merging the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC) and the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation (SEDC) to continue the revitalization of downtown and nearby areas.

Marti Emerald cast the lone vote against creating the agency, saying redevelopment should be citywide, not concentrated downtown. Council Member David Alvarez expressed the same concern.


Civic San Diego will operate as a contract agency. Its nine-member board will be appointed by the mayor and council; its 32 employees will not be city employees. Its budget will be $5.9 million, compared to $9.9 million for CCDC and SEDC in FY 2012.