SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 21: A general view of the San Diego skyline as competitors fly in the elimination rounds of the Red Bull Air Race World Series on September 21, 2007 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
San Diego civic leaders and grass roots organizations fought a desperate tug of war over billions of dollars in redevelopment money on Monday. It pitted downtown interests against those of a dozen other communities, with the state lurking on the sidelines for a big piece of the pie.
The key issue was how much the Centre City Development Corporation -- the 'big dog' in the fight -- gets to eat. Mayor Sanders proposed that CCDC get 60 percent of a projected $4 billion in urban renewal funding over the next three decades.
The City Council, on a 5-2 vote, endorsed that approach in a series of agreements with the city's Redevelopment Agency, aimed at shielding future tax proceeds from being appropriated by Sacramento to help close the state's budget deficit.
Representatives of outlying areas say that leaves them to fight over scraps.
"And that is why I think we should not send a message to San Diegans that we care more about future people who live in downtown San Diego," said City Councilman David Alvarez, in casting a lone vote against a new fire station in on Pacific Highway in Little Italy.
The so-called 'Bayside' station would cost $17 million, including nearly $200,000 for public art, at a time when up to eight of the city's 47 engine companies are 'browned out' on a daily basis.
The council also approved the first phase of a $29 million dollar makeover for the North Embarcadero waterfront, splitting that cost with the Port District.
"This is an extraordinarily important project for the entire city of San Diego," Councilman Kevin Faulconer said. "The waterfront belongs to all of us, no matter where you live."
Nearly $620,000 was earmarked to build an off-leash dog park and upgrade an adjacent surface parking lot in East Village.
Community activists argued that other, impoverished neighborhoods where blight is more rampant are being short-changed.
"We're just trying to get lights for public safety," said Claudia Dunaway, a spokeswoman for the San Diego Organizing Project. "When I compare that to talking about their [downtown residents'] highest priority being dog parks, I just think we live in two very different worlds."
The community groups wanted all 13 project areas merged under the Redevelopment Agency with a shared budget, for citywide input on priorities. They also urged that affordable housing set-asides be boosted from 20 to 30 percent.
Today, those were 'bridges too far' for the Council majority.
Meantime, Alvarez and Councilman Carl DeMaio expressed frustration that Mayor Sanders had not included in the discussion the prospect of transferring the city's $9.2 million annual debt service on the 2001 Convention Center expansion to CCDC, thus freeing up that amount for other General Fund spending.
And, backers of the San Diego Unified School District made a pitch for getting a $64 million advance from the district's future share of redevelopment funds. But City Attorney Jan Goldsmith ruled that the proposal came too late to consider, because prior public-notice requirements had not been met.