Dear City Council and Mayor:
I am a property owner in downtown San Diego and the board treasurer of the Aloft Home Owners Association, a 168 member high-rise in downtown San Diego. I am disturbed with the focus of discussions pertaining to redevelopment citywide. The Emerald proposal wastes precious time speaking about ill-perceived and fruitless endeavors for framework and bureaucracy. My point and theme today is that our representatives should focus on “doing” rather than constantly discussing and implementing bureaucracy changes.
Discussing the proposal is a waste of time because it is fundamentally flawed. It fails to recognize fundamental redevelopment objectives where it applies a narrow focus on jobs and low income. It will be the source of repetitious and useless government action, which takes away from redevelopment effectiveness. Ultimately the proposal will do absolutely nothing to stimulate the local economy. It is a classic example of wasted government resources.
The dialogue this proposal seeks to initiate detracts from legitimate redevelopment goals which are, first, to provide affordable housing and, second, eliminate blight in order to reinvigorate the local economy.
A dialogue about redevelopment bureaucracy rather than a dialogue about “doing” causes redevelopment dollars to remain on the sidelines where they are not properly expended on legitimate purposes.
The foundational assumption for redevelopment: Blighted property is in direct competition with non-blighted property for real estate capital.
Redevelopment agencies level the playing field so that blighted areas can compete for real estate capital investment, but instead of discussing ways to attract capital investment, this proposal narrowly applies a low-income and jobs focus.
First, it places too much emphasis on ensuring affordable housing is for people of low-income. How about a focus on affordable housing for median income populations?
Second, it focuses on jobs which are a desired outcome of redevelopment. It is not the task of this council to be so narrowly focused on these elements. Instead, the task is to cover broad redevelopment topics that will stimulate growth among a free market.
The Emerald proposal takes aim at excessive salaries of redevelopment professionals, at the tools employed by the agencies, and even takes aim at “high-end projects” not focused on low income.
But nothing in redevelopment law requires agencies to make “low-income” the number one project priority. Instead, the words are “affordable housing.” Are we talking about affordable housing for mid-income wage earners who help to grow an economy, or are we talking about low-wage workers who cause an increase in social benefit roles?
These are the topics I would like to see the San Diego City Council discuss. These are topics that act as agents for change. Discussions on bureaucratic paradigms are costly and unnecessary.
So often, this council is talking about social services. The conversations have grown from having beds for the homeless in wintertime to full-blown homeless service centers. When were such services implicated by the redevelopment laws?
Creating jobs is noble. Yet, it is not the primary purpose of redevelopment. Redevelopment is not that narrow in its scope. The broad purpose, rather, is for the agencies attract investment to blighted areas, that without government intervention, those areas could not attract investment on their own.
The affordable housing conversation should identify who the mid-wage workers are. Do they have access to affordable housing? Are redevelopment projects causing economic stimulation? If so, how can we measure that?
Artificial job planning and creating extremely low-income housing is only increasing the need for taxpayer-funded social programs. This council should get involved in the redevelopment process to the extent described in the existing bylaws of each agency.
There are numerous ways this council can ensure transparency and accountability of the present circumstances that do not involve a discussion of adding to the bureaucracy. Transparency and accountability can be ensured by the council’s staff going to redevelopment meetings, brainstorming redevelopment projects, and soliciting venture capitalists.
As it stands, we are looking for the next community block grant so that we can house 500 homeless people who are fully dependent on social services.
The solution to our redevelopment problems are for this council to:
• Recognize statutory objectives and not exceed the scope.
• Understand that agency tools require less bureaucracy.
• Expand the emphasis on office and retail space to create more jobs.
• Think outside the box — consider ingenuity, partnerships, and vertical farms.
My question for you: Is transparency really the problem? If so, does adding additional layers of bureaucracy increase transparency and accountability? In fact, it increases opportunity for closed door business practices, and makes it more difficult for the public to see what is going on.
Please save us the political drama that will be played out in CityBeat, the San Diego Reader, and voiceofsandiego.org. I can see the cover of the Reader now … Carl DeMaio’s face on one half and Marti Emerald’s on the other, each seemingly gloating their political positions, while placating their constituencies.
David Garrett owns property in Cortez Hill.