The people of Barrio Logan stare at an empty lot on the east side of Cesar Chavez Parkway. No wonder they don't trust city government.
Last week, City Councilmember Ben Hueso, whose district includes Barrio Logan, held a community meeting to get input on the long-stalled project to build a Mexican-style mercado. He brought good news in the form of an official calendar for development, as well as representatives from the three developers in the running for the contract. Proposals are due Nov. 17, with a public presentation on Dec. 9. He proposed a five-person committee to sift through proposals and decide which should be sent to the City Council for a vote on Jan. 7. The committee, he suggested, would have three city officials and two members of the community. The two from the community would be selected by Hueso's office.
Well, that went over like the proverbial lead balloon. Consider the comments made to Hueso, redevelopment project manager Jim LoBue and the mayor's land-use czar, Jim Waring (none of the questioners would provide their names for CityBeat):
"If there are three from the city and two from your office, who's there from the community?" asked one middle-aged resident.
"It should be three from the city and three from the community, so it's equal," said a young woman.
"Why didn't we get to look at the proposals from the original 16?" asked a bespectacled young man, referring to the 16 developers who submitted their qualifications to the city this summer. Hueso's office worked with the staff from the city's redevelopment agency to winnow down the companies to a list of five, two of which later dropped out.
Hueso emphasized that the committee is only a proposal, and the composition may change.
Last month, CityBeat reported the story of Emmett Smith, a legally blind homeless man who uses marijuana to cope with advanced glaucoma. On July 18, Smith was sitting on a wall by downtown's tailgate park, his container of marijuana on his lap, when two plainclothes Metropolitan Transit District security officers grabbed the container and took off. Thinking he'd been robbed, Smith followed the men (he can make out shapes with one eye) to the Imperial Avenue transit station, where they cited him for marijuana possession on transit property-the spot where Smith was originally sitting doesn't fall under transit jurisdiction. They also kept his pot. When Smith tried to show officers his doctor's recommendation to use marijuana, they wouldn't accept it.
Smith was scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 29 on a misdemeanor charge. But when he and attorney Patrick Dudley showed up, the deputy city attorney assigned to the case told Dudley he'd drop the charges-ends up he read about Smith in CityBeat. A City Attorney spokesperson was unable to identify the deputy city attorney handling misdemeanors that day.
The judge declined to give Smith his marijuana back, telling Dudley he doesn't order the return of medication seized by law enforcement because it might have been tampered with. Dudley pressed on and the judge told him to file a motion for another hearing the first week of October. "By that time, the marijuana's going to be basically spoiled," Dudley said. "For someone like Emmett living very close to the edge, $100 to $200 [the cost of the lost pot] is a big deal." Smith, who's since found a room to rent downtown-albeit one that eats up almost all of his monthly Social Security-says he may pursue a civil case against the transit authority for false arrest.