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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008 | As the president of the Grantville Action Group, the folks who oppose the Grantville redevelopment project, I feel it is important to address the categories of the controversy that Vladimir Kogan identifies.
We support the concept of a Grantville Master Plan. It is important, however, that the plan is agreeable to the current residents of Allied Gardens and Grantville, and that it supports the concept that the current business owners have a right to maintain their businesses where they are. Currently, the Grantville Stakeholders Committee is driven by the handful of large landowners in Grantville. The community members and small business owners on the panel seem to be shut out.
The mode of financing this planning process is also a problem. Originally, it was to be funded with federal Community Development Block Grant Program money. It turned out that Grantville is too upscale to qualify and the funds were withdrawn. The City is now funding it with general fund dollars to be repaid with Grantville tax increment. Also, mysteriously the price tag has gone from $600,000 to $780,000. It’s almost like the City is paying for this twice.
Grantville is not blighted. The health and safety code is so vague that any community may be designated as blighted. Kogan mentions lots of irregular sizes, but the health and safety code also mentions buildings more that 30 years old and visible dumpsters. The City hired a consulting firm to find blight in Grantville, and of course, they did. Their report even equates the Kaiser medical facilities with blight.
The economic conditions in Grantville are not so perverse that government intervention is necessary. The recently approved Center Point mixed-use development started before any mention of redevelopment, and it is moving forward without assistance from the Redevelopment Agency. Toyota of San Diego recently redeveloped their whole property at Mission Gorge and Fairmount as the Grantville redevelopment project has been stalled by the County’s lawsuit and without the benefit of the Grantville Master Plan. The largest single project in Grantville, the Superior Ready Mix redevelopment, has been in the works since before Grantville redevelopment was even conceived. They were approached by Councilman Madaffer to see if they would want to be included in a redevelopment project area. They said yes. They like the concept of public money paying for their infrastructure improvements. But, according to a spokesman for SRM they would redevelop even if there were no Grantville redevelopment project.
Eminent domain absolutely should not be used in the project area, unless it is for a specific public use. Eminent domain should not be abused to transfer property ownership from one private owner to another private owner. One facet of the recent Grantville Settlement Agreement removes eminent domain from the properties owned by the Teyssier family. They had joined the County’s lawsuit, and this is what they sought from the settlement. Good for them! At the City Council hearing on this issue, however, we found out that one does not need to sue the City to have eminent domain removed. It is a discretionary move by the Redevelopment Agency. Mr. Madaffer has said that the fact the Teyssiers are no longer threatened by eminent domain proves that eminent domain will not be used in Grantville. Then, Mr. Madaffer, use your discretion and remove eminent domain from the rest of us.
To further complicate the issue, now with the Grantville Settlement Agreement, $31.4 million of Grantville tax increment will be devoted to downtown improvements. This is over 11 percent of the funds that would otherwise be used for improvements in the Grantville project area. The money transfer facet of the agreement completes the $46 million payoff to the County to settle the Grantville lawsuit, thereby validating Grantville as a redevelopment project area. Are trolley line improvements on C Street or improvements to County property at the North Embarcadero Grantville improvements? The “Redevelopment Welfare Warriors” (quoting Pat Flannery) would like us to believe so. Read Section 33445 of the health and safety code for yourself. Even if we suspend rational thought and buy into their belief that any downtown improvement is a Grantville improvement, this section of the H&S says that there must be no other reasonable way to pay for the improvement. Why can’t the CCDC cash-cow pay for it?
To answer Kogan’s final question: Grantville and the rest of the City would be a better place without redevelopment and without the tax increment diversion. Let the Master Plan process go forward, but then let the free market dictate the pace of change. The City, County and the current Grantville and Allied Gardens residents would all reap the benefits.