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Tuesday, April 05, 2005 | In 1988, the Centre City Development Corp. was scouting proposals for the Marina Project Area when a plume of hazardous hydrocarbon gas was discovered below the surface of lots at Third Avenue and Market Street. The then-current tenants – Unocal, Shell Oil and Greyhound Bus – worked with the city Redevelopment Agency to mitigate the plume, which contaminated the tracts’ water table, before the properties were redeveloped.

Afterward, the city initiated legislation in Sacramento to require owners and other responsible parties to compensate redevelopment agencies for decontaminating environmental hazards caused by pollution rather than the city’s taxpayers. Assemblyman Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) sponsored the bill, and the Polanco Redevelopment Act was passed in 1990.

According to CCDC project manager David Allsbrook, more than $20 million in Polanco-related clean-up costs were levied on about 90 property owners, including nearly 30 residents, during the city’s acquisition for the Petco Park project. About $15 million was paid by San Diego Gas & Electric alone, he said.

“We think it’s an invaluable tool to get projects done and clean the environment up,” said Allsbrook, who said the San Diego Redevelopment Agency uses the law more often than other cities around the state.

The Polanco Act was tallied a win for cities and taxpayers, but opponents have argued that the act is just an extra kick in the pants to property owners who already forfeited their land through a forced settlement or condemnation.

“If I could change the process, I would not invoke the Polanco Act,” said Leslie Wade, executive director of the East Village Association during the city’s acquisition of property in the Ballpark District.

“If they’re taking the property for public use and handing it over, then the new developer should pay.”

Return to part two of Voice’s look at the Centre City Development Corporation

Please contact Evan McLaughlin directly at

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