At the end of each episode of the '80s TV series The A Team, team leader Hannibalwould roll a cigar between his teeth, grin and say, "I love it when a plan comestogether."
The folks whose creative planning saved Sharon Johnson's job from being cut lastweek are no doubt thinking the same thing.
City Councilmember Toni Atkins remembers calling Johnson, San Diego's homelessservices coordinator, about a family living in their car in Golden Hill. "Theywere able to get into the Cortez Hill Family Shelter, thanks to Sharon," Atkinssaid.
And so it was Atkins and her policy advisor, Jeff Gattas, who talked to San DiegoHousing Commission CEO Betsy Morris about whether the Housing Commission couldcome up with the money to pay for at least a portion of Johnson's salary. Thecommission's budget is tight, but Morris said she could kick in $60,000-a littlemore than half the money needed. Atkins figured she'd ask the Centre CityDevelopment Corp. (CCDC)-the city's redevelopment arm-whether it could cover therest. Little did Atkins know, the money had already been secured.
While Atkins was talking to Morris, Don Mullen, policy advisor for CityCouncilmember Michael Zucchet, was talking Frank Alessi, CCDC's chief financialofficer. CCDC already shares the cost of several city government positions whosework impacts the downtown redevelopment area. Mullen wondered whether they coulddo that with Johnson's position, too. "Homeless live in nooks and cranniesdowntown and as we develop, we're moving the homeless population around," Mullensaid. It's in CCDC's best interest that there be someone on hand to watch out forthat population, he added. Mullen knew Atkins had talked to Morris; Atkins didn'tknow Mullen had talked with Alessi.
Johnson, meanwhile, didn't know about any of this. She'd taken her granddaughterto England to celebrate her college graduation and admission to graduate school,returning a day before the budget hearing. She didn't attend the meeting duringwhich her job was on the table; she watched budget talks on TV on June 14, tohear Atkins mention the Housing Commission money, ask whether CCDC could come upwith the rest and find out it had already been taken care of.
On Thursday, June 23, the San Diego Planning Commission will vote on whether ornot to approve a new condo project in University Heights that opponents fear willdwarf the historic Lafayette Hotel and ruin the character of the neighborhood.
If approved, the project will include a 17-story tower with 271 residential unitsbehind the Lafayette Hotel on El Cajon Boulevard between Mississippi andLouisiana streets. The hotel, built in 1946 and designated as a historic site in1993, will be renovated.
According to the University Heights Urban Development Review Council, a communityorganization opposed to the project, the height of the tower would ruin theskyline along the street since, besides Grace Tower housing complex on the cornerof University Avenue and Park Boulevard, there is nothing in the area taller thanfour stories.
"We really are for thoughtful development going along El Cajon Boulevard andwelcome some revitalization, but we can't accept something so grossly out ofcharacter," said Mary Wendorf, who chairs the review council.
Project developers Hampstead Partners argue that the height is necessary in orderto build enough units to make the project economically feasible without tearingdown the hotel.
Chris Foster, president of Hampstead Partners, said plenty of parking would beavailable to accommodate the influx of residents in the new tower. Plans includea three-story parking garage beneath the building, and existing driveways will beturned into curbs, increasing the amount of street parking.
The project will go before the Planning Commission Thursday at 9 a.m. at CityHall, 202 C Street, downtown.-Lydia Osolinsky