Monday, October 10, 2005 | On deck, again. It appears that the City Council will again push back its decision on whether to approve Ballpark Village, the $1.4 billion office, retail and housing complex that Padres owner John Moores is planning to build adjacent to the downtown stadium where his baseball club plays.

The ACCORD deal, as proposed, would move the affordable housing offsite, increasing the affordability and amount of the designated units (about 150 for-rent units priced for households making $38,000 per year or less). By moving the affordable housing offsite, possibly to parcels owned by Father Joe Carroll of St. Vincent de Paul homeless services, the developers would save enough money to not only increase the number of affordable units, but also to mandate that workers at the project’s planned grocery store and parking facilities be paid a “living wage,” which equates to $10 an hour with health benefits or $12 per hour without.

In addition, ACCORD and the developers boast that the revised deal would require the project to be built using green-friendly energy efficiency standards and would set aside funds to operate a job training center. Job preferences would also be given to residents of nearby neighborhoods such as Sherman Heights and Barrio Logan.

The council will probably choose between the CCDC and ACCORD plans on Oct. 18, the same day the ACCORD deal gets killed if it’s not approved.

JMI executive vice president Charles Black said he is hoping the council considers the merits of his company’s plan over the recent public outcry of how the ACCORD deal went down behind closed doors and at the very last minute. He said he believed the CCDC board, its citizen advisory panel and other critics were focusing on “process” while overlooking the revised plan’s benefits.

Many people were upset at the ACCORD pact’s secrecy, but also scorned moving the affordable housing offsite, alleging NIMBYism and the further class stratification of downtown as defined by neighborhood. Affordable housing, they say, needs to be more evenly dispersed throughout the downtown redevelopment area and not just in East Village, where Father Joe’s lots are.

Black said that the Father Joe parcels, which were proposed but aren’t necessarily where the offsite units would go, are within a few blocks of the Ballpark Village anyway. The developers are awaiting environmental studies before announcing where the affordable units would be located, he said.

One day we’ll catch a break. The city’s budget officers on Monday will tell the City Council that bad news from Sacramento and the rising costs of consultants helping the municipal government resolve its financial problems will cause more fiscal headaches throughout the current year.

The $15 million the city saved from cost-cutting measures last year is for the most part null, because the city was not reimbursed about $5 million from the state for the costs of housing prisoners and the Board of Equalization subtracted about $8 million from the city’s expected share of state sales tax.

The news comes at a time when the city could use a financial break, as it faces about $12 million more in immediate spending needs and about $15 million in anticipated expenditures for the remaining nine months of the 2006 fiscal year, the report says.

Budget Director Jeff Sturak said the city will have about $2 million in savings left over, and that he is asking the council to allow his staff to study how it can make up the $10 million that is needed to pay pending bills related to ongoing federal investigations and its withheld audit, complying with water quality regulations, relocating the government’s publishing services and repairing the San Diego Civic Theatre after a fire in August. Insurers may reimburse the city for the fire repair costs, Sturak said.

About $9.4 million of the immediate spending needs is related to attorney, consultant and auditor fees and for the purchase of an electronic document repository approved in September that allows investigators to more efficiently search for documents related to their probes. Auditors at KPMG are awaiting a report by the outside audit committee before it decides whether to certify the city’s financial statements for 2003. The city has also retained the audit committee and other attorneys to help answer questions of investigators at the Securities and Exchange Commission, U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.

The City Manager’s Office is recommending that all departments that receive their funding from the city’s day-to-day budget, except for Fire-Rescue and police, incur an additional 3-percent cut on top of reductions that were made leading up to the fiscal year’s start in July.

The current year’s budget includes reduced library hours, city employee layoffs and less funding for maintenance at parks and recreation centers in order to sustain a much larger payment into the city’s beleaguered retirement fund.

View how general fund departments are having its spending on staff salaries, service and supplies reduced while benefits’ expenditures are increasing.

The report also shows that the city expects to take in an extra $5.5 million from taxes and fees, such as the hotel guest fees and property taxes, than was originally budgeted for the current fiscal year. If realized, the surplus can go toward paying the $15 million budget officers say will be needed to pay for public safety overtime costs, rising gas prices for the city’s vehicle fleet and the completion of the audit committee’s report, which is expected in December.

For more than a year, the port commission has been studying pension alternatives to its current retirement plan, the beleaguered San Diego City Employees’ Retirement System, which has been the centerpiece of federal and local probes into the city’s financial dealings and has drawn fire from public officials for alleged mismanagement, port spokeswoman Irene McCormack said.

“Port commissioners were very concerned with the retirees’ funds being managed by SDCERS,” she said. “We were limited in what we could do, so the board asked staff to explore what other options are available.”

Their concern stems from frequent hints of bankruptcy for the city, which would ultimately affect the $141 million stake the port has in the nearly $4 billion pension fund, McCormack said. Although conditions of the port’s funds are independent of the city’s pension dealings, the maritime agency’s funds are commingled in the SDCERS pool for investment purposes.

When the port district was created in 1962, the agency was allowed to contract with the California Public Employees’ Retirement System or through a retirement fund run by one of the port’s five member cities.

The port contacted state Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny, D-San Diego, to seek the ability to create its own pension plan this spring, McCormack said. She said that the port commissioners could begin weighing where the district’s retirement funds will be managed as early as its Nov. 8 meeting.

Calls placed to SDCERS for comment were not returned as of press time.

Besides the city of San Diego, the port and the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority contract with SDCERS to manage and administer their employees’ retirement funds.

evan.mclaughlin@voiceofsandiego.org

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