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Empty. Closed. Vacant. These adjectives describe many of the former sites of grocery stores and other shops in southeastern San Diego, a sign of a community in decline.

Sure, some churches have opened up their doors in these spaces, as has a welfare office. But the places to buy food, and those with tables to eat it, have long been disappearing. Adrian Florido tells the tale of how this happened, drawing on the perspectives of local businesspeople and the city’s first black councilman.

Limited by racial restrictions on land in other parts of the city, black families moved there. White families left for newer housing developments in northern communities. “Businesses that had served the white residents started packing up, too,” Florido writes. “It was the type of economic retreat that has been a scourge of many urban, poor, minority communities nationwide, and it accelerated southeastern San Diego’s economic decline.”

Change is coming: new residents (often Latino) and new buildings. But their presence is raising its own questions for long-time residents.

Catch Up on Our Confab

We had a lively and wonk-friendly forum on redevelopment this week.


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The panelists and audience discussed whether redevelopment should focus solely on curing blight, whether it does enough to create affordable housing, whether it has shifted too much in the direction of trying to serve as a economic driver that is intended to create jobs, and whether redevelopment has focused too much on downtown at the expense of other neighborhoods.

• Erik Bruvold, president of the National University System Institute for Policy Research, said we’ve created more low-wage jobs that in turn created more demand for affordable housing, a demand that is not being met. He said we need jobs that export goods and services outside the region and import revenue into it, that are high-paying, and that create more jobs themselves, such as by requiring lots of raw material.

• Susan Tinsky, executive director of the San Diego Housing Federation, said we’ve lost sight of what true blight is about and do not need to fixate on downtown or a Chargers stadium where there is very little blight. Her ideas are explained at length in a couple of op-eds.

• Vlad Kogan, a Ph.D. candidate at UCSD and co-author of the upcoming book “Paradise Plundered: Fiscal Crisis and Governance Challenges in San Diego,” looked at the opportunity costs of redevelopment — when we spend money on redevelopment, what could we have spent that money on elsewhere? Before the forum, Vlad made it plain that he believes “continuing redevelopment will result in cuts to other programs — including core services such as public protection, aid for the poor and disabled, and our schools.”

• As a way of trying to answer that question, Kogan also explained how many affordable housing units redevelopment is creating. According to state data, the SD redevelopment agencies have built 3,406 affordable housing units in last 20 years.

• Murtaza Baxamusa, director of Planning and Development for the San Diego Building Trades, Family Housing Corporation, continued on themes he offered in a previous commentary in which he asked questions he believes can lead us to understand whether we are spending our redevelopment money wisely.

We have PDFs of reports from Kogan, who looks at the pros and cons of redevelopment, and Bruvold, who works his way through a look at whether downtown, ground zero for local redevelopment, is an “engine” for the city.

Incidentally, we polled the audience of about 60 attendees at the end of the forum and found that more than half said they’d keep redevelopment alive if they were members of the state legislature.

You’re the Editor for the Day

Our People’s Reporter feature has returned. Today, you’re the boss of reporter Keegan Kyle, who specializes in analyzing data and writes many of our Fact Checks. He’s looking for assignments about recently released census data: What would you like to know? Check out this NYT interactive map to get some ideas.

Lone Star State on Our Heels

The other day, State Senator Christine Kehoe declared that California is business friendly. After all, she said, “we have more Fortune 500, or we’re within one or two Fortune 500 headquarters as New York and Illinois, the other two states at the top, far more than Texas or Connecticut, other wealthy states.” She’s wrong.

San Diego Fact Check finds that there actually were 57 Fortune 500 companies in California last year, the same number as Texas and just one beyond New York. The year earlier, we were in third place behind those two states. As for our county, home to about one percent of the nation’s population, we’ve got just two of the Fortune 500 companies: Qualcomm, the telecommunications company, and Sempra, the parent company of SDG&E.

Talk Isn’t Cheap, but It’s Definitely Limited

The mayor, taxpayer advocates, businesspeople and one of the city’s top Republicans are busy negotiating over a way to reform the city’s pensions. See anybody missing from that list? Well, most of the City Council, for starters: “You know, the people who could actually just implement this sort of thing,” as Scott Lewis puts it.

Among the purposefully excluded is the council’s most visible Republican, Carl DeMaio, who has an alternative idea and tends to alienate his fellow Republicans.

At stake is the possibility that one or two pension reform measures may appear on the ballot next year. Lewis asks himself questions and answers them — reminds me of some political debates — to help you understand what’s going on.

Bills, Bills, Everywhere and Not a Drop to Reduce

San Diego Explained, our video series, examines why the price of water in San Diego has skyrocketed by almost 70 percent in just four years, even socking those who have drastically cut down on their consumption.

I’m Sure He’ll Get Another Pulitzer For This One

Two-time-Pulitzer-winning U-T editorial cartoonist Steve Breen is getting heat from East County residents (including a U-T staffer) who took time away from line-dancing marathons and chili cookoffs to express annoyance with a cartoon depicting folks out there as “fat, tattoo-loving slobs.” Breen, who zinged La Jollans too, is non-plussed: “Both are gross stereotypes, but that’s what cartoonists do.” Neal Obermeyer, another editorial cartoonist, tweets a helpful translation: “Don’t blame me — Cartoonists are supposed to be lazy!”

Cubed Clones and Cuties

A new “Star Wars” exhibit has opened at Legoland California in Carlsbad, featuring Lego simulations of movie scenes and more. R2-D2, Darth Vader and even hirsute Wookiees (yes, that’s now their name is spelled) are on hand.

This is promising. If they figure out how to make a sexy Princess Leia out of Legos, we’ll have to move Comic-Con up there.

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com...

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