Expect fireworks at Tuesday's San Diego City Council meeting, when charmed developer Corky McMillin comes bearing hat in hand for more financial help with his increasingly controversial Naval Training Center redevelopment project.
Council insiders predict a day heavy on the grilling of McMillin representatives-and public criticism galore-over an additional $12 million in loans and so-called tax-increment funding the developer desires to keep the project moving along.
Long-time NTC redevelopment opponents like John McNab of Save Our NTC contend that the city is continuing on its give-away path in the debacle that is now known as Liberty Station, McMillin's effort to build housing and various other amenities on the former military base west of Lindbergh Field.
But some council members now are saying privately that NTC is a done deal, thanks to the previous council's dealings with McMillin. “It all goes back to the original deal,” one recently told CityBeat. “[Opponents] all want to rewrite the deal, and you can't fuckin' do that. It was signed in 1998. It's like going back and redoing the Chargers' ticket guarantee. Why would they ever do that? They got a great deal. So we can moan and bitch, but at the end of the day, you can give it a ‘no' vote for fun, but you've got to do it. It's contractual.”
The councilmember pointed out that the city, for example, requested that storm drains be constructed in a way that was not originally contemplated, and that McMillin is entitled to compensation to make up the difference.
When it comes to the NTC Foundation, charged with restoring some two-dozen historic buildings at NTC and creation of a cultural center in those buildings, the going gets a little murkier. McNab points out that the foundation's president, Nancy Nygren, recently resigned.
Writes McNab: “When reuse of Naval Training Center was being formulated, the city of San Diego stated that rehabilitation of NTC would be too expensive and that a master developer was needed to bear the costs. [What] the public would get in exchange for giving most of NTC away for free was a 46-acre park and 600,000 square [feet of] civic, arts and cultural area within the historic core to be fixed up by the developer.
“Last year, the cost of creating the park was transferred to future NTC homeowners and businesses. Now the cost of the... cultural area is to come out of the tax revenues the city planned to get from the development.”
The councilmember agrees somewhat, but adds: “You are relieving [McMillin] of an obligation, but the notion that they were going to be spending $5 million or $10 million in cash out of their pockets is naïve. That was never going to happen. So now the foundation has come along and said, fuck all that. That's going to take too long, and McMillin is going to run it poorly, and we want to do one for the artists.”
The councilmember said the foundation came up with the funding idea through tax increment and agreed it would relieve McMillin of yet another obligation, “but when you take a closer look at it, it wasn't much of a requirement to begin with.”
McNab notes that McMillin agreed to fix up the historic buildings “concurrently” with its new housing construction, which is not occurring. He said bailing out McMillin with tax-increment revenues-raised from county property taxes, due to NTC's redevelopment-district status-represents “more good money being thrown into a bottomless pit of broken agreements. The public has given McMillin too many concessions without getting anything in return. It is time instead to demand our buildings and land back.”
Ain't gonna happen, the council member said. “McMillin is going to get what the contract says, which is what McMillin wants because people wrote it for him back in 1998.”
Is the San Diego City Council careening into territory where City Manager Michael Uberuaga's job might be on the line? Some council insiders say “yea.”
It seems that as Mayor Flippy-Floppy grows weaker politically as time rolls by, some council members are said to be working behind the scenes to “pull the rug out from under the city manager and replace him,” one city insider said.
The troubles for the mayor continue. He apparently sent his conservative legions over to the folks running the San Diego Convention Center seeking a cut in their annual subsidy, and they returned saying they actually now support a financial boost for the bayfront tourist hangout.
With budget talks set for next week, the mayor may also have to tick off some of his newfound friends in the business sector who so gleefully stood up at the “Draft Murphy” showing in front of City Hall a few weeks back. On the table, such revenue “enhancers” as a hotel-tax hike, a parking surcharge, a boost in franchise fees for companies like Cox Cable and even a trash-collecting fee, won't be popular but require consideration.
Meanwhile, word has it that Ron Roberts will toss his hat in the mayoral ring, while his former campaign chairman John Davies, a UC regent, is said to be circulating the rumor that the Mayor is again thinking about opting out.Almost as funny as Roger Hedgecock recently referring to Donna Frye's husband Skip as “Chip.”