San Diego’s Battle for Urban Renewal Continues

'Bells & Whistle' Projects Part of Urban Renewal Fabric


San Diego's battle to keep the state from hijacking local redevelopment money involves far more than big-ticket projects downtown.
Hundreds of projects all over the city are targeted for that money.
City officials have compiled a list that adds up to about $4 billion in redevelopment funding needs over the next three decades.
Most of the money covers what amount to meat-and-potatoes 'public infrastructure' projects.
But some involve historical preservation ventures -- 'bells and whistles' that also enhance deteriorating communities.
"The goal of this kind of a project," says architect Richard Bundy, "is to restore these historical buildings so we not only do historic restoration, but you also -- hopefully -- create a better karma in the neighborhood to make things happen better."
Bundy is working with the property owner of a historic art deco-design building at the northeast corner of Euclid and University Aves. in City Heights.
It once housed the Silverado Ballroom, a second-floor dance hall that was quite a destination for teenagers in the '40s-through-'60s.
The structure sits across University from the previously restored Euclid Tower, and one of several more redevelopment projects in line for $1.5 million worth of renewal work.
But redevelopment isn't always a set of greased skids for property owners.
"We're dealing with people who aren't familiar with a bureaucracy," says Bundy, who's spent a decade on the project proposals.  "So the city comes in an says, 'We'll help you out; we've give you some money.' 
"And then they start piling on the paperwork that needs to be done to put this together -- and then (the owners) back off."
Meantime, $150,000 is targeted for upgrading eight pairs of historic gates throughout Talmadge, named for a trio of sisters who were well-known Hollywood actresses in the Roaring Twenties.
Neighborhood residents used to bankroll periodic renewals,but these days, money's short.
"At this time in the economy, people really can't afford to do a lot of upkeep," says Talmadge resident Michelle Word.  "So any help that the city could do would be wonderful ... because (the gates are) not just going to stand forever."
The gates and the buildings in City Heights are among projects that are farthest along in the redevelopment pipeline.
Since they're due to get under way this late year and early next, they're might be the safest from a state raid on local renewal money.
But a looming showdown between Sacramento and the cities and counties that have redevelopment agencies appears to be headed for a flashpoint in the next week or two, and may take a quick detour into the courts.

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