Several readers have asked: How in the world do you fund $300 million in improvements? It is a question a lot of people want answered.

When the Coastal Commission authorized Sea World’s expansion several years ago to include a roller coaster, it imposed upon the city an obligation to spend some time expanding the park space within Mission Bay Park, not just the commercial leases. Specifically, the city was required to develop priorities for completing improvements in Mission Bay Park; it was also obligated to develop a funding plan.

City staff worked closely with the Mission Bay Park Committee to develop priorities. It was a great example of private/public partnering. Work on the funding plan was not.

City staff twice came to Mission Bay Park Committee. Their first presentation of the funding plan was simply to indicate there was no money in the budget. The committee unanimously sent them away, requesting a specific plan identifying the needed funds, potential sources, and a realistic timeline.

When the city staff returned, the report was not much improved. It simply indicated that funds could come from the general fund, grants, or private donations. No timeline. No specifics. We sent them away again.

They never came back. (That’s one approach!)

The failure of the city staff to come up with a funding program has prompted the Mission Bay Park Committee, newly-reconstituted and representing a diverse cross-section of interested parties, to initiate a process to develop its own funding plan which we intend to present to the City Council by the summer of 2007. More on that process in my next update.

BOB OTTILIE

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