As Mayor Jerry Sanders pushes forward with a proposed overhaul of the city’s two nonprofit redevelopment agencies, his office must justify why keeping the two independent nonprofits is the best way to promote revitalization efforts in downtown and southeastern San Diego. The nonprofits are the only of their kind in the state.

At the same time, it must explain why having a separate city redevelopment bureaucracy is the best way to promote revitalization in other blighted neighborhoods.

Rachel Laing, a spokeswoman for Sanders, told me yesterday that keeping the two agencies as standalone nonprofits ensures that they’ll maintain a specific focus on revitalizing downtown and southeastern San Diego. They’ll be more responsive to the community than if they were in a large city bureaucracy, she said, such as the city’s existing Redevelopment Agency.

Take that explanation a step further: If the Redevelopment Agency, led by Mayor Jerry Sanders, were overseeing revitalization in downtown and southeastern San Diego, it wouldn’t give the neighborhoods the attention they deserve.

So what does that say about the attention given to neighborhoods like North Park, Grantville and City Heights, which the agency does oversee? Would they get more attention if they had nonprofit overseers?

I asked Laing about that yesterday. She said that creating nonprofits for those neighborhoods doesn’t make sense for three reasons. She said:

  • They don’t generate enough tax revenue to sustain a nonprofit.
  • They don’t have the potential for progress that downtown and southeastern San Diego do.
  • The different project areas (such as the 12-acre Linda Vista project area) are often too small and not contiguous enough to justify a nonprofit.

But City Heights doesn’t fit into any of those categories. The neighborhood has been designated as blighted, and today generates more tax revenue ($14 million) than southeastern San Diego does ($7.4 million). It is a large, contiguous neighborhood with a revitalization focus area that’s 500 acres larger than CCDC’s. And Laing acknowledged that it has “tremendous” potential for progress.

Laing said today that she should have added another reason: “There needs to be a push for a separate focus,” she said. “City Heights has not had that in the past. What it doesn’t have is anyone pushing for a nonprofit for the reasons they pushed for it for SEDC and CCDC.

“Does City Heights want to sustain a nonprofit?”


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