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There’s one big problem with a major project in East Village that otherwise checks all the boxes for the type of development normally sought by San Diego leaders.

Cisterra Development has proposed a nearly 40-story building on city-owned land at 7th and Market with a Ritz Carlton Hotel, Whole Foods Market, over 100 market-rate apartments and 30 for low-income residents. Plus, the city put all the money it gets from selling the land to build more affordable housing down the line. And the developer’s already agreed to a deal with local construction unions to build the whole thing.

But City Council Democrats want Civic San Diego — a nonprofit that regulates downtown development — to have the developer agree to certain union-friendly provisions for the entire property. The developer says Whole Foods and Ritz Carlton will pull out of the deal if that happens, and then the whole project’s in jeopardy.

The issue is coming to Council Tuesday, and it’s in some ways a preview of what might have been in store for downtown development had a state bill proposed by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez this year become a law. It passed the Legislature, and Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it. Gonzalez has vowed to re-introduce it next session.

The NFL Is Broken, and Our Streets Aren’t Getting Fixed

We broke down the (non) developments this week in two of the city’s most pressing concerns on the latest podcast, having a bit of fun with how little things seem to change in this town.

It had been clear for a while that San Diego wasn’t going to meet the NFL’s timeline for offering up certain delivery of hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars for a new stadium, but the league’s commissioner made it official on Thursday. That got Scott Lewis going, as he declared the league broken: It’s mashing its players brains and hiding the evidence, you watch their limbs get mangled every week while struggling to understand their increasingly opaque rules (which the officials routinely screw up), all while they extort cash-strapped cities of money for facilities they don’t really need. Lewis couldn’t take it anymore, and let loose.

We brought reporter Liam Dillon in for a guest appearance to run down Councilman Mark Kersey’s new plan to put infrastructure financing on the June 2016 ballot. There are lots of problems with the proposal, Dillon outlines, not least of which is it won’t do much at all to meaningfully improve the city’s busted roads, sewers, lights and sidewalks anytime soon.

Sacramento, in Paris

When you see how many California officials went to Paris for the United Nations’ COP21 climate talks, it makes you wonder just who was left to run the show here. San Diego Assemblywoman Toni Atkins is there, as is Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas, as we discuss in this week’s issue of the Sacramento Report.

We already knew Atkins was on the way out of her role as Assembly speaker, making way for Assemblyman Anthony Rendon of Paramount, but we now know the formal vote will take place Jan. 11, 2016, and Rendon will be sworn in March 7. The Assembly reconvenes on Jan. 4.

Also in the Sacramento Report, Assemblyman Brian Jones wrote Brown urging him not to let any Syrian refugees — not any — into California. Sen. Joel Anderson din’t go quite so far, but did ask Brown to take extraordinary precautions in vetting those fleeing the civil war in Syria.

An Unlikely Coalition Forming Behind Ambitious Ballot Proposal

Public interest attorney Cory Briggs has a reputation for stopping things — like a proposed Convention Center expansion — not starting them. So it was, admittedly, surprising when he rolled out a ballot proposal this fall that promised to resolve a host of the city’s longest-running issues.

It’s a complex dance, but in the end the proposal could generate enough money to expand the Convention Center while preserving the waterfront area where the expansion had been planned and raise money for the tourism industry while ending ongoing litigation that threatens the current funding source for those efforts. Scott Lewis explained the whole thing in greater depth a couple weeks ago.

A funny thing has happened since he announced it: The folks you’d expect to hate the thing haven’t had all that much to say. And this week, at a panel Lewis hosted, previous Briggs foe Kris Michell, who runs the Downtown Partnership and was Mayor Jerry Sanders’ former chief of staff, even applauded the plan as an example of leadership and compromise the city needs.

“Look at the merits, forget the author and study it,” she said of Briggs’ plan, speaking for herself, not for the partnership. We profiled Michell a few years ago, calling her the city’s most powerful person you know nothing about.

Meanwhile, San Diego Union-Tribune sports writer Kevin Acee now says the mayor’s last chance to keep the team in town is to climb aboard the Briggs bandwagon.

Link Roundup

• There’s been time for local beer drinkers and industry watchers to digest the news of Ballast Point’s $1 billion sale to Constellation Brands, which owns Corona and Modelo. Over at San Diego Magazine, Troy Johnson collected the universally supportive reactions of others across the industry, and cajoled them into speculating on what the deal could mean for the local industry. Stone Brewing Co. CEO Greg Koch, for instance, says it’ll be harder than ever for small, local brewers to expand their distribution across San Diego. (San Diego Magazine)

• Local environmentalists are suspicious that local mayors asking Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency ahead of a looming El Niño rainy season are really just looking for an excuse to weaken environmental protections so they can do a bunch of stuff they’ve always wanted to do, without having to fuss with environmental rules. (KPBS)

• A new art installation depicting members of City Heights’ immigrant and refugee population aims to confront travelers with the implications of rhetoric surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis. (KPBS)

This Week’s Top Five

Here is a link to the Top 10 most-read stories of the week at Voice of San Diego. And the Top Five:

1. Small San Diego Developers See a New Frontier in Tijuana
The Lafayette Hotel on Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana is being renovated by San Diego developer Greg Strangman. (Maya Srikrishnan)

2. NFL to San Diego: Only Losers Hold Public Votes
Roger Goodell tells San Diego to have final stadium plans – plans that are “certain” – to the league by the end of the month. That means no vote. (Liam Dillon)

3. Opinion: Want to Save Florida Canyon? Kill Florida Drive.
Florida Drive must be closed and ripped out so the canyon it runs through can be returned to its native state. (Vicki Estrada)

4. ‘Just Because Somebody Can Make Bail Doesn’t Make Them Safer’
San Diego County courts have been operating without a pretrial services program since October due to lack of funding. (Kelly Davis)

5. The Dream of a Cross-Border Bike Lane
A local Tijuana designer is pushing for bike-friendly infrastructure at the San Diego-Tijuana border crossing. (Maya Srikrishnan)

Andrew Keatts

I'm Andrew Keatts, a managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you'd like at

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