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Rachel Laing, spokeswoman for Mayor Jerry Sanders, cited several reasons last week about why it made sense to have nonprofits lead city redevelopment efforts in downtown and southeastern San Diego but not in other neighborhoods designated as blighted.

Laing cited three reasons: Each community’s size, its tax base and potential for progress. But those didn’t apply to City Heights. Laing later added a fourth 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?”

The headline on my post was: City Heights Development Corporation?

Turns out there’s already been a City Heights Development Corp. It’s no longer living.

The organization was formed in 1992 as the City Heights Development Corp., but changed its name to the Mid-City Development Corp. during its first year. According to a 1993 Union-Tribune story, that was about all it did that year. The story says:

At least one exasperated City Council member is considering pulling the plug on the agency and disbanding its community-based board of directors. …

Over its 40-year project life span, the agency was projected to have at its disposal an estimated $1.6 billion in tax revenues generated by improvements in the area.

But the agency has yet to be involved in the creation of a single job, city records show.

It has yet to remove any graffiti or spruce up a street or sidewalk.

In a community with more than 150 buildings that are nearing collapse, the agency has not lent a single dollar to fix up a dilapidated home or business.

It has failed to open an office in the community as required by its own bylaws.

The few official actions accomplished by the agency’s board include changing the corporation’s name — it was formerly the City Heights Development Corp. — and expanding the original nine-member board to 11 directors.

A major reason for the stumbling start has been the governing board’s inability to hire an executive director and other support staff.

Howard Wayne, a local attorney who served on the Mid-City board, said a recession had doomed the fledgling agency. When the district was created, property values were high. The country hit a recession, property taxes declined, and the district didn’t have any tax revenue to finance its budget.

It subsisted for a short time on grant funding, then decided to use that revenue source to build a local police station. The organization was disbanded in 1996.

Jay Powell, executive director of the City Heights Community Development Corp., which isn’t associated with the city, said there hasn’t been much of a push to reestablish such an organization in the years since.

“Someone saying we want something like SEDC, CCDC, amid all this turmoil, all these investigations — you’d have to demonstrate why it’s working,” Powell said. “That’s an uphill battle. Who’s going to want to stand up and say we want to be like them, in this environment?”

ROB DAVIS

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