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Friday, March 7, 2008 | Scrap old ideologies, inhumane programs and policies. Create, renew and re-establish principles, policies and ordinances. Simply speaking: DO IT RIGHT, DO IT NOW!

I. Provide Safe and Dignified Living Conditions for Region’s Homeless

In times of austerity, it would behoove the city of San Diego to scrap the perpetual so-called “Homeless Task Forces” and tap its redevelopment coffers to create permanent fully-equipped full-service transitional housing complexes. These should be available throughout the city as to not saturate any given community. They should be clustered, with manageable units to take advantage of the full scope of services, and should be truly transitioning people into the larger community and work places.

Imagine the city Redevelopment Agency and its two independent corporations (SEDC and CCDC) chipping in to build the much needed permanent fully-equipped full-service transitional housing while collaborating with the Housing Commission, the County Housing Authority, the Unified Port of San Diego, the county administration and the Community College District.

Consider the following to provide dignity to, and safe living conditions for, the homeless children, women, and men:

1. Require that the 20% housing set-aside of the accrued tax increment for low and moderate income housing, or a portion thereof, in redevelopment areas be placed in a revolving development fund for full service transitional housing complexes. (According to the Office of the Independent Budget Analyst for the city of San Diego (Report #07-50, dated 5/11/07) the combined redevelopment budget for the city, SEDC and CCDC is $336.9 million of which $112.4 million will be set aside for low and moderate income housing.)

2. Create a multi-agency operational agreement with the county administration, the Housing Commission, the port, the Redevelopment Agency, CCDC, SEDC, the County Housing Authority, the Community College District, etc.

3. Secure “repayment” of the loans (seed money comprised of Community Development Block Grants) that the city and/or Redevelopment Agency lent to SEDC and CCDC and allocate a portion for the development and establishment of the revolving development and administration funds for full-service transitional housing.

4. Make the legal findings by which CCDC, SEDC and the Redevelopment Agency can transfer tax increment for the transitional housing located outside of adopted redevelopment areas.

5. Develop a full scope of work and needed services along with guidelines for administering and regulating such program.

II. Scrap Eminent Domain

Government entities must stop their free reign in its enforcement of seizing property (eminent domain) from private owners and shifting the property to favored private developers.

In spite of the fact that the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution limit the power of eminent domain to be restricted “for public use” (benefiting the public welfare or public interest, such as roads, parks, schools and other public facilities), governmental abuse is rampant enough to cause legal basis for replacing “for public use” with “for economic development.”

The 2005 Supreme Court ruling in the infamous Kelo vs. City of New London (Connecticut) gave local governments the absolute right to seize properties for private economic development.

The 2005 Supreme Court’s ruling is also responsible for massive property right protests against eminent domain, resulting in 2006’s Prop. 90 and the 2008’s Props. 98 and 99 which challenge eminent domain as we have come to fear it.

Ruthlessly, local government overtakes people’s homes (owners and renters), mom and pop businesses and community service providers, turning over the land to wealthy developers and big box corporations while subsidizing them with public funds [tax payers monies] and compromising community cohesive integrity.

Take the Mercado Redevelopment Project in Barrio Logan and Petco Park in East Village (formerly Center City East). Barrio Logan lost 29 houses and businesses via eminent domain for the proposed Mercado redevelopment project.

More than six acres of razed land went to a private developer for $100. The land is vacant, growing weeds and chain-link fenced after 15+ years of government blunders. NO property taxes have been collected or tax increment generated … thus NO community services and/or improvements.

In Center City East, an area that had long been earmarked for low, moderate income housing, the city and CCDC created blight by design by letting it deteriorate to the point that Petco Park became the “better deal.” Built with a $301 million public subsidy granted to the Padres (a private corporation) Petco Park replaced the city’s commitment to build affordable housing there. Instead, homes, businesses and historically-designated sites were razed to make room for the for-profit private development. Such irresponsible government actions need to stop.

The tide is turning. And in the near future, government and its independent corporations will be stopped from abusing its unbridled power of eminent domain. Prop. 98 or 99 will reform abusive eminent domain use by causing amendments to the state Constitution to make it harder and more costly for governments to condemn property (in the guise of eminent domain) or pass regulations that affect land values.

The playing field for cities, developers, community folks (owners, renters and local neighborhood businesses) would take a different twist.

III. Come Through For Barrio Logan – Mercado Project

After more than 15 years of empty promises, city fumbling, and a huge eyesore, Barrio Logan residents deserve better.

The city should honor their wishes for the land of the Mercado Project. Among several, these include a Chicano Park Living Museum/Performing Arts Theatre/Cultural Center; Community & Cultural Preservation; a library; a Mexican-style Mercado. The entire project design is to be consistent with the Aztec/Mayan theme as are the murals of Chicano Park, a historically designated site.

In addition, community residents requested a binding legal contract similar to a Community Benefits Agreement stipulating that residents of Barrio Logan get the first opportunity, in order of priority, for housing, employment, skill development apprenticeship opportunities within the project throughout all phases of the development. It’s also to stipulate that any housing developed shall fit the Community’s Average Income and be affordable to minimum wage earners.

It will ensure employment opportunities for community residents throughout all phases of development, including project design, construction and after the Mercado Project has been developed and business operations are in place.

Last but not least, community members advocate for the creation of a city-sanctioned Barrio Logan Community Planning Group so that travesties such as the destruction of 29 houses and businesses and the 15+ years of delayed development won’t happen again in Barrio Logan. As a safeguard, the community has requested that the Chicano Park Steering Committee continue to be actively involved with the Redevelopment Agency and the developer throughout the process.

IV. Re-Institute the City of San Diego Department of Binational Affairs and Its Select Advisory Committee

The city adopted the department and advisory committee in 1986. To date, it has not functioned for the intended purpose for which it was created. Furthermore, the Select Advisory Committee has never been formed as defined or programmed.

Former and present staff, basically, collect(ed) their salaries but we have nothing to show for it.

The intent of the city’s Binational Affairs Department was to identify areas of binational cooperation and coordination and maximize on opportunities of our San Diego/Tijuana international border region.

Some of these include, but are not limited to, economic development, bilateral land use planning, bilateral emergency services, environmental issues, international border crossings, etc. Speaking of which, the mayor of San Diego has been promoting the need for a third border crossing between San Diego and Tijuana.

Baja California will not go away, neither will California. The issues impacting both areas are of regional, national and international nature of which bilateral cooperation is required to foster mutual cooperation.

The second border crossing at Otay Mesa took 20 years to come about. We need the Binational Affairs Department and its Select Advisory Committee in place to serve as the vehicle to expedite the third border crossing.

V. Split the 8th Council District Into Two Council Districts:

South San Diego deserves its own elected City Council member. Ironically, residents of the District 8’s northern section feel that it’s treated as the stepchild of San Diego and those of the southern section feel that its importance is second to that of the northern area.

The notion that the 8th Council District should really be two distinct City Council districts has been in discussions for more than 20 years. A council district is presumably one contiguous area of similar trends and meets certain population numbers. According to the city’s 2000 Redistricting Commission, redistricting of council districts are to conform to using contiguous territory to form districts; preserving identifiable communities of interest; observing natural boundaries as district dividing lines; and composing districts that are geographically compact.

Many would not agree that District 8 is one contiguous area of similar trends. The northern and southern portions are not contiguous; both sections do not share identifiable communities of interest; both sections are divided by a natural boundary, and both sections are not geographically compact.

It’s high time to split the northern section from the southern section. Currently, South San Diego has expanded tremendously with huge residential and commercial development. Come the 2010 census, the population of the southern portion will probably exceed the population criteria.

Should that be the case, the northern portion of District 8 would have to be reconfigured if it does not meet the population requirements.

Remigia (Remy) Bermúdez, currently a teacher and community advocate, has 8 years of professional experience in California Redevelopment (in San Diego) and over 20 years of professional experience with federal, state and regional governments and community advocacy. She has a Social Science B.A., a master’s in city planning and a BCLAD (Bilingual Ed.) teaching credential from SDSU. She owns and operates RemyLinks whose motto is “Responsible Government for Better Communities.”

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