The Southeastern Economic Development Corp. board is scheduled tonight to approve the new call for a development partner on the troubled Valencia Business Park.

SEDC, the city of San Diego arm responsible for revitalizing some of its most blighted neighborhoods, is putting the project back out to bid after concerns were raised about how the agency selected its last development partner.

Here’s a short recap of the story so far: SEDC put out what’s known as a “request for proposals” for the small plot of land known as Valencia Business Park in May 2005. The RFP was essentially a call to developers to come up with a suitable project for the site and to offer a purchase price for the land.

But the 2005 call to developers has a significant detail: Developers were asked to only suggest an industrial project for the land. Nothing else was to be considered.

The bidding process was won by Pacific Development Partners, a Santa Monica developer. A previous investigation had showed that PDP had a strong, continuing business relationship with Chip Owen, the SEDC board chairman. Our investigation also showed that PDP had been paying Owen tens of thousands of dollars for several years from a commission earned on a previous project. Owen has recused himself from any discussion of PDP’s business with SEDC.

About a year after PDP won the bidding process, the company had a new plan: They wanted to build a commercial, not an industrial, development on the site. SEDC went about advocating for a zoning change from industrial to commercial to accommodate that new use. We pointed out in this story that the zoning change could possibly double or triple the value of the land as PDP had purchased for $1.5 million in 2005. Land’s value is tied to what the government allows to be built on it, and commercial generally is assigned a higher value than industrial.

Our stories got the attention of Councilman Tony Young and City Attorney Mike Aguirre. The City Attorney’s Office got involved in SEDC’s handling of Valencia Business Park and Young asked the City Council to delay changing the zoning for the project. Then, earlier this month, the City Attorney’s Office announced that SEDC would be putting the project back out to bid and this time they would be courting both commercial and industrial projects for the site.

That brings us up to date.

Tonight, at 5 p.m. in SEDC’s offices, the board is meeting to discuss, among other things, the issuance of the new request for proposals. SEDC’s website has the meeting agenda. The agenda confirms that the new call for bids will be asking developers to submit both industrial and commercial projects for the site.

But there’s also an interesting paragraph in the minutes. Here’s what it says:

Finally, the RFP acknowledges that the agency currently has a Disposition and Development Agreement for the development of lots 2-7 with a development entity that may also participate in the process. In the event that the Developer’s development proposal is not selected the Developer agrees to voluntarily terminate the DDA.

We plan on getting copies of all the bids that come in once SEDC’s deadline for submitting proposals expires. One thing we’ll be looking at is how much PDP is offering for the land now that it could possibly be used for commercial.


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