Monday, March 06, 2006 | A story in Voice of San Diego about the new downtown plan put in place by the City Council last week said that competing sides had found a “middle ground.”

This isn’t “middle ground” – this is the usual fertile field a.k.a. “let’s-cut-a-deal swamp.” And no one even tried to fix it. Councilman Jim Madaffer whined about the new fee to pay for parks while at the same time complaining and acknowledging that the plan is missing 71 acres needed for parks.

This guy wants to give cake to his backers and eat it too. And isn’t this the guy who criticized San Diegans for wanting champagne on a beer budget? This is the equivalent of serving champagne to a few while racking up debt that everyone else has to pay for.

But I liked the domino stunt where he put up dominoes, named them to criticize actually charging developments more of their fair share for the infrastructure required to support the huge amount of new growth in plan – and then pushed one to illustrate his version of the “domino effect.” (This was also clear evidence that he came to the hearing having already made up his mind he wanted to perform such a cute stunt.)

But the taxpayers of San Diego would likely give a different set of labels to those dominoes:

– Add huge growth entitlements as cheap as possible.

– No list of infrastructure.

– No analysis of funding requirements.

– Billion-dollar questions asked by the Independent Budget Analyst; but no Independent Budget Analysis.

– Significant unmitigated impacts that they admit to.

– Significant unmitigated impacts they lie about.

– Significant new additional liabilities to the General Fund (cops, fire, parks, streets).

– Existing $2.1 billion deficit for infrastructure.

– Existing $2 billion+ deficit for pension.

Is that all those dominoes I hear tumbling down all the way to bankruptcy? Hey, we’re so far down, let’s just keep piling on. Here’s a real diagnosis: the pattern of saying they care

As Donna Frye carefully pointed out – by citing how population has increased while the number of police has decreased – even when they’ve agreed to perform, they haven’t.

But let’s just keep the party going. Maybe no one will notice we’re deadbeats.

Let’s say we care and “encourage” and “suggest” and ask that the Centre City Development Corp. “consider” doing better. Heaven forbid they would actually propose to “amend” the proposal to “require” or “direct” anything to match their espoused caring. Let’s just beg instead of requiring them to perform.

But Councilwoman Toni Atkins gets the prize for over-the-top ignorance or complicity by suggesting that CCDC find ways to facilitate the use of the site at 20th & B for parkland. Duh! It is already dedicated parkland and it’s in her district. So why hasn’t she brought forward an action to kick out the inappropriate and illegal uses years ago? Doesn’t she know that CCDC cannot spend their tax increment outside their plan area without requiring such mitigation in the environmental impact report? Didn’t she realize that she could have offered an amendment that would both allowed and required CCDC to help solve this problem if she really had the integrity to match her alleged caring?

And all that sincere caring about the homeless – and affordable housing – yet not one motion to amend the Environmental Impact Report to require that CCDC actually provide housing for low-low income residents as suggested by more than one speaker yesterday. Instead the EIR clearly states that this council and mayor approved exporting homeless and related impacts to other communities because it’s so “difficult” and “challenging.”

Meanwhile CCDC Vice Chairman Fred Maas even queued up a softball opportunity to make a difference by suggesting that CCDC could provide more affordable housing if only the council changed its in-lieu fee policies to require inclusionary housing.

Did anyone take a swing at that one? Offer a motion to amend? Nah. They’d rather talk about their feelings instead of achieving results that matter.

No one actually uses the rules to get things done up there.

It’s evidently too messy to use the public hearing to do the public’s business if you don’t have the motion all conveniently typed up in advance. And to think how many people who actually have to work for a living took the time out to go down there and hope for something better.

Shame on this City Council. Shame, shame, shame!

The chambers were oozing with sincerity without an ounce of the integrity required to make a difference.

Sure they care. That’s the easy part. That’s the heart of the hollowed-out American soul – or what’s left of it. We express our sincere feelings and the people must endure hardships for no reason other than the incompetence or corruption of their leaders. They are hollow people because they do not have the integrity that matters when you actually have the power to do something about it.

Why wasn’t the council less concerned about the list of 16 developers speculating in advance of the plan update who would affected by a few weeks delay, and more concerned about the one and one-quarter million citizens and taxpayers who will be affected by this plan and have to pay for its consequences.

Your headline should have been: “Smart Growth Sham/e Passed Again.”

Subhead: Taxpayers and residents take in the chin (again).

Carolyn Chase currently serves as a Planning Commissioner for the City of San Diego. A past recipient of the Mediation Center’s Peacemaker Award, she is also a founder of the largest observance of Earth Day in the country: the EarthFair in Balboa Park.You can reach her at

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