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Issue One, September 4, 2007
Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation to be Given More Authority
The Beginning of the End of Democracy in Chula Vista?
By Theresa Acerro firstname.lastname@example.org
On September 4, 2007 the Chula Vista City Council and the Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation (CVRC) met at 6 PM in the Police Community Room at F Street in Chula Vista. We (Derrick Dudley and I) attended and video taped the meeting. (The entire meeting is available on 3 DVDs to anyone who requests it from us.) Most of the community members who spoke at this meeting were concerned that this plan to give decision-making authority to an appointed board is an attempt to shield the council from the political ramifications of unpopular decisions. The city manager and the mayor kept emphasizing that the proposed changes were minor: (http://www.chulavistaca.gov/City_Services/Development_Services/Community_Development/PDFs/9-4-07JointCVRC-CCAgendaItem2.pdf).
Council member Castaneda gave the matter the proper perspective when he pointed out that the current authority that the CVRC has was only granted because at that time all 5 of the elected council members were members of the board and the bylaws made sure a majority of them had to concur with any decisions. He made the point that not only are the new powers being proposed questionable, but since the council has removed themselves from the board the existing powers should also be a matter of concern.
During the meeting a great deal of discussion dealt with who should approve tentative maps. The city manager and others tried to insist this was no big deal because the council would approve the final maps. City Attorney Ann Moore made it clear that by law if the developer completely fulfilled all of the conditions on the tentative map, approval of the final map was a ministerial function and if the council did not vote to approve a judge would force them to do so.
Councilman Ramirez noticed in the staff report a reference to creating greater autonomy for the CVRC . Eric Crockett (Redevelopment Manager since 2004) responded in a manner that indicated the goal was eliminating duplication of effort by the council and the CVRC- essentially making them more autonomous from the council. The city manager took objection to Mr. Crockett’s nodding his head to Councilman Ramirez’s conclusions and tried to explain away the word as an attempt to make the staff of redevelopment autonomous from the city .
Those of us who feel the staff is already not adequately responsive to the public are a bit concerned about redevelopment staff becoming “at will employees” (no longer having civil service protection). Their jobs will depend upon producing results. One wonders how the health, safety, and quality of life of existing residents will fit into this new equation or ethics for that matter?
This change to the CVRC began on March 22, 2007 with a recommendation to remove the city council from the board and was confirmed on May 24, 2007. This was initiated by the former Community Development Director Laurie Madigan, which should raise a red flag for everyone. The CVRC now consists of seven appointed “experts”: Four live outside of Chula Vista: Doug Paul, urban designer, Chris Lewis, real estate developer, Paul Desroches, retired Community Development Director of National City, and Christopher Rooney, architect. Three newly appointed members are Chula Vista residents: Rafael Munoz, school facilities planner, Hector Reyes, architect, and Sal Salas, asset manager.
Chris Lewis who is the chairperson made clear what their intention is . He stated several times that he wanted their hands untied. They wanted to see projects in the ground. This any development as quickly as possible attitude is quiet troubling.
City Manager David Garcia’s references to the condition of Chula Vista’ “inner city neighborhoods” was as insulting as it was inaccurate. Chula Vista is essentially a bedroom community. The expanses of Orange County style housing developments in the east obviously fit this picture, but the western part of the city started from agricultural roots and as these farms and orchards were subdivided they were replaced with homes-most of which are kept up by their owners.
There are more renters in the west than in the east, but just because homes and apartment buildings are older than 20 years old does not make them “inner city neighborhoods.” We do not now have “inner city neighborhoods.” We have neighborhoods of suburban style homes with apartment buildings and mobile home parks interspersed to provide a variety of housing options. Some of the ideas expressed in the “flawed” Urban Core Specific Plan and the newly (12/05) amended General Plan would produce dense inner city neighborhoods, but these do not exist in Chula Vista now, nor do most of the negative problems associated with them.
There is a $369 million dollar infrastructure deficit in streets, pavement and drainage but deferred maintenance, questionable planning decisions, and annexing of the Montgomery neighborhood without adequate resources for improving deficits in infrastructure are the main causes. All of the deficits are not in the west and the building, which occurred in the east, exasperates several of the drainage problems in the west. There are some significant drainage problems in the east caused by allowing developers to fill in canyons and pave excessive amounts of surface area without making sure the storm water flows did not increase substantially. When it rains now there is significant “stream scouring” (the erosion of the sides of canyons) caused by storm “surges” (large fast run-off from paved surfaces) entering several natural canyons in the east. Two of these canyons drain into the west causing problems (Telegraph Canyon, Palm Road). One (Long Canyon) drains into The Hill Road Canyon surrounded by homes in the county.
It is true that the majority of the problems with streets and lack of sidewalks, gutters and pavement are in the west. It is also true that all the problems are not in Redevelopment areas and tax increment must be spent in redevelopment areas. It is extremely misleading to state continuously that redevelopment will solve our infrastructure problems. It actually has the potential to exasperate them by stressing already old pipes, streets, etc. with added use. There is also the problem that there is no development traffic fee imposed in the west and the park acquisition fee is half what it is in the east (while we have .9 acre of park per 1,000 in the west and 3.5 acre in the east). Therefore these projects will not even contribute needed funds for their own impacts much less improve existing deficits. State law requires a nexus before a development fee can be charged. Considering most of the infrastructure problems are in residential neighborhoods and most of the redevelopment areas are in commercial areas in the northwest. It is doubtful this nexus can be found.
There is also the problem that 53% of all tax increment (after pass throughs to schools and low income housing) goes to service the debt of the redevelopment agency and 34.9% goes toward administration (mostly salaries) according to budget for 2007-2008. This does not even leave money to promote redevelopment which is what it is supposed to be spent for, much less to improve infrastructure.
City Manager Garcia is thinking of Los Angeles where he worked as Deputy Director of Community Development. He worked on the Staples Center project, which essentially moved the teams from the Forum in Inglewood and moved a model homeless center (Dome Village) out of this area as well as displacing many residents and causing difficulties for others in the area. After he left the city and the Ford Foundation have sponsored a model Community Benefit Agreement that will help the existing residents and the neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles.