“No! Are you kidding me?” said Kris Michell, CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, on Friday, after I explained that a worker, overseen by her nonprofit, had admitted to removing a number of CityBeat's newspaper boxes in the Gaslamp Quarter.
While the Downtown San Diego Partnership has since taken responsibility for improperly removing the boxes—including ones owned by the San Diego Union-Tribune, The Reader and DiscoverSD —the Partnership won't say who gave the order. However, it sent CityBeat a letter today explaining that concerns about how the boxes looked were the driving factor behind the removal.
“As part of its mission and commitment to making downtown a community that is clean, safe and beautiful, Clean & Safe is constantly exploring new strategies for neighborhood enhancement and beautification,” Michell said in an email. “Removing the boxes was an idea discussed after [receiving] feedback from residents and community stakeholders.
“Clean & Safe is now working diligently to correct the displacement; plans are already under way. As CEO, I take full responsibility for our actions. We regret our error and appreciate patience by those organizations that have been affected."
For nearly two weeks, CityBeat tried to track down roughly a half-dozen of its missing boxes. Officials with the city said they had no knowledge of what happened to the missing boxes.
Then, last week, CityBeat Editor Ron Donoho found several of the boxes in a dumpster at the city's Central Operations Station at 20th and C streets after talking to a Clean & Safe maintenance ambassador who said, without much explanation, that he took them there.
Since the Downtown San Diego Partnership manages Clean & Safe, a property and business improvement district (PBID) program, I asked Michell who gave the order to remove the boxes. While Michell said she didn't know, she said she had suggestions of how to spruce up the boxes.
“I actually have an interesting idea that I want to talk to folks about that would even make it better,” she said. “I can't share it yet, but meaning ways in which people distribute things, so kiosk and things, that I know Gaslamp wants to do.”