One San Diego redevelopment leader has a theory for why Mayor Jerry Sanders asked for state legislation to keep $6 billion in property taxes downtown: San Diego couldn’t prove downtown was still rundown.
Typically, redevelopment dollars go to helping neighborhoods eliminate blight. When neighborhood blight is eliminated, redevelopment is supposed to end.
Downtown’s time was coming soon, said Brian Trotier, interim head of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., and just as the city was seeking to extend downtown redevelopment’s life.
“I don’t know how they would have been able to prove blight,” Trotier said. “I think it might have gotten challenged.”
Downtown San Diego’s redevelopment agency, the Centre City Development Corp., is considered one of the biggest redevelopment successes statewide. (It is also a sister agency to Trotier’s SEDC.)
The downtown agency was spending $500,000 to study downtown’s remaining blight as a precursor to lifting the limits on how much money it could collect and spend. The study stopped earlier this month when state Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher shepherded last-minute legislation that extends the life of downtown redevelopment without the need for a study. The legislation means downtown redevelopment will go on without proof it remains blighted.
Trotier was upset his agency had to spend $300,000 to study increasing its lifespan when it was clear southeastern San Diego was more rundown than downtown. That money, Trotier said, could have been better spent in southeastern neighborhoods.
He also wished Fletcher would have eliminated redevelopment limits for his agency in the bill, too.
Fletcher’s spokeswoman referred comment to the downtown redevelopment agency or the Mayor’s Office.
Downtown redevelopment agency head Fred Maas called Trotier’s comments “silly” and “unfortunate.” Trotier is expected to leave SEDC soon amid reports the city has hired Carson’s city manager as a permanent replacement for scandal-ridden former President Carolyn Y. Smith.
“If Mr. Trotier was more circumspect in his comments, they may have leaked his name as the president of SEDC instead of the gentleman from Carson,” Maas said in an interview.
Prior to the legislation, Maas had planned to have the city’s blight consultant present a preliminary study and update at the end of this month. He said he wasn’t sure if the consultant had reached any findings yet.
Maas, Fletcher and other downtown redevelopment backers have pointed to numerous prior studies showing that downtown remains blighted. Also, the city must prove blight exists before going ahead with many projects.
For his part, Trotier said the entire legislation is an example of downtown benefitting at the expense of his neighborhoods.
“I know what everyone in southeastern is going to say,” Trotier said. “It’s the haves getting what they want again and the have-nots getting screwed again.”