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Thursday, July 19, 2007 | After having sat through numerous meetings on further development of the El Cortez site, I finally understand how something like Sunroad could happen in San Diego. The development-approval process is either corrupt or willfully stupid.It’s a process where:

  • A well-connected developer can formally guarantee to the city that he won’t build on a site for 25 years and then break that agreement with impunity a couple of years later.
  • He and his agents can tell buyers in the initial development personally that nothing will be built on the site for 25 years and then come back and say, “Hey, it was all there in the fine print,” and have the city go along with that.
  • He can fail to report to neighbors his plan to avoid certain obligations by having his site divided in two, and when that failure is discovered, have the city say, “Hey, what’s done is done.”
  • He can promise new plumbing systems in his original development, not provide them, and then say, “Hey, the building is 27 years old!”
  • He can get approval after approval for a project that numerous experts have deigned extremely risky, and without having to provide liability bonds to those who stand to lose property if not more if his creation topples.
  • He can take money and tax incentives by getting on local and national historic site registries and then have officials say, “Hey, historic preservation is too old-fashioned to care about.”
  • The city’s Historic Resources Board can reject his new project for noncompliance with preservation standards, and the official body representing the neighborhood can blow that off and approve the project anyhow!!
  • He can ignore the fact that the city’s Master Plan designates the community a mid- to low-rise neighborhood and, on the urging of one member of an official body, come in with a high-rise design that he justifies by pointing out other examples of out-of-compliance buildings that the city has approved in the neighborhood.
  • And to top it all off, his project can undergo intense design review even before the city has ruled that the project can go forward! — with official bodies expressing such pity for the developer when each of his designs fails to pass muster, that the officials representing the neighborhood say, “Hey, something’s gonna be built on this site sooner or later” and for that reason approves the last design submitted.

Wanna know why San Diego is such a second-rate city? You got it.

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