March 6 2015 04:51 PM

Bill would require City Council approval of city-funded nonprofit's decisions

Lorena Presser on Civic
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez in Civic Center Plaza on Friday announcing a new bill to regulate Civic San Diego
Joshua Emerson Smith

The city-funded nonprofit Civic San Diego plans, permits and approves land development Downtown. While the mayor and City Council appoint the agencys board members, elected officials have virtually no oversight when it comes to day-to-day operations.

Around the state, Civics authority to make traditionally governmental decisions is something of an anomaly, said Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez.

Not only unique, its possibly illegal, quite frankly, Gonzalez told CityBeat. We dont allow legislative bodies to just delegate legislative functions in that way. Now that redevelopment in its traditional state doesnt exist, we think that this is challenge-able.

In response, Gonzalez announced Friday that she intends to introduce legislation that would require the San Diego City Council to approve Civics land-use decisions. AB 504 would require municipal zoning, planning and permitting activity by a private individual or nonprofit organization to get final approval by the local governments governing board.

What were actually doing is trying to save the city from itself, Gonzalez said. Were saying, if youre going to delegate these recommending roles, it needs to come back to City Council for final approval, at the very least.

While a large coalition of labor organizations have come out in support the bill, Mayor Kevin Faulconers office responded to the idea with disdain.

This legislation is another example of state interference in local control and will cripple Civic San Diego in its work to invest in neighborhoods like Encanto and City Heights, said Charles Chamberlayne, a spokesperson for the mayor, in an email. If passed, this proposal will result in a more onerous, longer project process downtown than the rest of San Diego."

Equally disturbed by the legislation was the Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit representing business interests in the citys urban core.

For Downtown, in particular, AB 504 would be especially devastating. Just as we are seeing our local economy rebound, this would upend Civic San Diegos development process, which has long been touted as a model of efficiency, said the groups president, Kris Michell, in an email.

The announcement of the bill comes in the wake of months of wrangling between Civic San Diego and community groups over whether to impose requirements on funding for development projects allocated by the nonprofit.

The push for so-called community-benefit requirements, such as a living wage and affordable housing, kicked off more than a year ago after Civic San Diego officials announced their desire to expand permitting and planning authority outside of Downtown and into several low-income neighborhoods, including City Heights and Encanto.

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