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Friday, Feb. 9, 2007 | Thanks for your reporting of the latest initiative by Steve Peace and Supervisor Roberts to re-envision the San Diego waterfront. But you missed the main point: this is a very carefully orchestrated developer’s vision. It is not, nor was it ever meant to be, an opening for the people of San Diego, including youth and cultural groups, to truly examine some of the history that has led to this point of utter breakdown of civic responsibility.

The Navy real estate division is proposing sitting the most attractive terrorist target in the region in the midst of a major American residential and commercial center. The city and federal authorities, with the encouragement of real estate developers, have banded together to propose that the best way of paying for this is to construct high-rise condo-towers directly on top of active earthquake faults. In this situation, it’s not even the extreme seismic risk which is the biggest problem: because these are former tidelands and they were not filled or braced to support high-rise construction, there is extreme risk of liquefaction in the event of an earthquake. And it is a sizable investment of assets in low lying land when the city hasn’t even acknowledged the challenges to infrastructure commitments faced by the certain knowledge that sea levels will be rising with thermal expansion of seawaters compounded by melting ice associated with global climate change.

On the fiscal dimension, this is also the last major parcel on the San Diego waterfront in public ownership, with the potential to become a badly needed park in an area with an extreme deficit of publicly accessible and practically usable parks. During the press lead-up to the Navy Broadway deal, the Mayor’s Office proposed direct payment of $20 million directly to the private developer involved in the project for one additional acre of publicly accessible open space. At that point in the negotiations, the developer had no cognizable private ownership interest in the property and it already belonged to the public.

The real story on the San Diego waterfront is that this is a public lands scandal and a breach of public trust in governance institutions at all levels. An essentially bankrupt city leadership is engaged in what might appear, at least to a rational outside observer, as a fire sale to transfer some of the most valuable public assets in California to private real estate developers.

Thanks for your quiet hints that not everything may be as it is presented in the public media.

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