When we first ran our story on the cross last week, I made a mistake. Yes, it does happen occasionally.
If the cross is removed from Mount Soledad and the 17-year legal challenge is over, the city is then essentially free to sell on the land to the highest bidder. In describing this scenario in my story, I got my words muddled. San Diego City Council President Scott Peters had told me in an interview that it takes a two-thirds vote of the public to sell dedicated public parkland. I thought he said designated public parkland and that’s what I wrote.
That prompted a reply from a reader, who pointed out that designated public parkland doesn’t need any sort of vote. It’s only dedicated parkland that requires the two-thirds majority. I listened to the interview again, realized my boo-boo, changed it on the site and put a correction at the bottom of my story.
But this morning I got another e-mail, this time from Bill Kellogg, president of the Mount Soledad Memorial Association.
Here’s what he wrote:
In looking at your correction at the bottom of the article, I should point out that Mt. Soledad Park was in fact “Dedicated” in the early 1900’s. In 1992, before the first sale to our association, a ballot proposition was created to “Un-dedicate” a portion of Mt. Soledad park for the purpose of selling it to our association. Arguably, that proposition is still in force since it was never actually addressed by any lawsuit. However, it is still possible that the attorneys may conclude that the park needs to be “Un-dedicated” once again before selling the property.
In other words, the ballot proposition in 1992 was essentially a vote to un-dedicate the parkland, which allowed the city to sell it. Kellogg said his attorneys are of the opinion that proposition still stands, and the city therefore won’t need another vote to OK a future sale.
However, Kellogg pointed out that the city attorney’s office has some trouble with that take on things.
That’s because the 1992 sale of the cross to the Memorial Association was later deemed unconstitutional by a judge. Because the judge never addressed the issue of the vote giving the city permission to sell the cross, and only struck down the later sale, there’s some confusion as to whether the proposition still stands. Nobody seems quite sure whether the city could use it these days as legal justification for selling the cross.
Of course, as I pointed out in my story, Peters has said he doesn’t see any sale being approved by the City Council anyway. Without a prearranged buyer for the land, which would be illegal, the land could be bought by anyone from Jewish Groups, to Atheist Groups to condo developers.
And, with today’s announcement from the Supreme Court, the pressure’s off anyway. Once again, it doesn’t look like the cross will be coming down any time soon.