May 9, 2008

Editorial:

Proposition E reflects the concerns of the residents of Chula Vista

Somehow, somewhere along the way Proposition E became ma-ligned as the root of all evil for the future of the City of Chula Vista! If we are to believe all that is being said about this proposition, it will thwart our future health care, bring down a church steeple, and forever drive away future developers from investing in downtown Chula Vista. All this is all being rained down on Chula Vista residents by one man, Earl Jentz. This is what the opponents to Prop. E would have you believe!

Proposition E, or as the opponents like to call it the Jentz Proposition, is about maintaining an 84 foot height limit in most areas of the city and to set a building height limit of 45 feet on Third Avenue between E and G streets. The 84 foot limit can be amended by simple voter approval. Exempt from the height limit restrictions is the bayfront which includes the proposed Gaylord project.

Proposition E is not about Earl Jentz! Proposition E reflects the concerns and interest of the thousands of people who signed the petition to put this proposition on the ballot, not once but twice, and the concerns of the residents who spent countless volunteer hours and four years working on the General Plan for the City of Chula Vista. What came through loud and clear from all the community meetings, questioners, and surveys was what was important to the citizens of Chula Vista were community character and quality of life issues: preservation, planning, and protecting existing neighborhoods, maintaining the integrity of the neighborhoods.

Redevelopment and revitalizing the west side of Chula Vista, in particular the 3rd Avenue corridor was also considered a top priority. Often times the Gaslamp Quarter in downtown San Diego was held up as a successful model to emulate.

But there are huge differences between downtown San Diego and Chula Vista.

Downtown Chula Vista is a business corridor that is surrounded by homes, some very nice homes, some historical homes. The downtown of Chula Vista is home to families and senior citizens. The West side of Chula Vista is the home for some of the cities oldest families. It is not just the business corridor we are talking about developing and changing, but the impact upon the thousands of homes and families that are within the surrounding communities of this redevelopment area.

It is because of the mix of business and community that the residents have concern for the growth of the downtown corridor and why they stated in a loud and clear voice that they wanted to maintain community character and quality of life. This message came through in the General Plan Update. The mix of business development and community integrity is at best a tough balancing act.

The question then is if the General Plan Update addresses the concerns of the community, why do we need Prop. E?

The answer is simple. The General Plan is what is referred to as a living document. The General Plan is a vision for the city that will be the guide by which the city follows for the next twenty years. Over the life of the document things change, circumstances change and the General Plan changes with the times. The General Plan is a guide not a binding document, and those who can change the vision of the plan are the elected officials.

We have already seen early attempts to change the vision of the General Plan. The KOA park at the North end of Chula Vista was designated as recreation open space, but no sooner had the plan been approved the city was announcing plans to change the designation to Medium and Medium High Density Residential and some open space so that a developer could start building apartments for up to 552 residences.

Developer influence with local politicians, no matter if it is Chula Vista, San Diego, or any other city, is a matter of fact. It is the norm that developers have greater opportunity and ability to influence politicians.

In Chula Vista, for the past ten years developers, have enjoyed a receptive city hall and have built out East Chula Vista. There is no more open space left to build. Developers have now turned their builder’s eye onto the prospect of redevelopment of West Chula Vista. As a designated redevelopment area the urban core is afforded building opportunities and governmental regulatory and financial opportunities that make redevelopment attractive to developers.

Redevelopment is seen as the next big boon for growth and in Chula Vista the only way to go is up. Chula Vista residents near the corner of 3rd and H Street have seen this effort first hand when Jim Pieri developed that corner and the community fought the effort for a 15 story building, what stands now are two 8 story office buildings. For the developer it is a question of profit. For the community it is about quality of life.

It is a classic example of big business versus the community organizations. Opposing Prop. E are the supporters of big business such as the Chamber of Commerce. The opposition to Prop. E have pulled out the big guns to scare the voters, including St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, thwarting the future health care, and the development of a college.

The hammer on all these issues is that they will have to take their projects before the voters to get approval. This step would, they argue, dissuade them, the developers, from even trying. We find this hard to believe when you take a look at a couple of local projects. The San Diego Chargers volunteered to fund a million dollar study into the feasibility of a stadium in Chula Vista. This amount is much more than the $50,000 it would cost to hold an election on the issue of height. The Gaylord project developers have spent untold millions to get their project this far. So, for a major developer of a college for instance, an election on the issue would be a matter of the normal business process which is not unheard of. To get Petco Stadium built took a public vote, as does a new airport. Again just to name a few projects. So to say that a major project would avoid Chula Vista merely because a vote on the project was necessary is lubricious.

Proposition E puts into place defined limits on building heights. It makes a commitment to the residents of Chula Vista about the future of their city and takes the discretion of the decision making process out of the hands of the politicians and provides the citizens and residents with confidence that their homes won’t soon be overshadowed by city skyscrapers dotting downtown. A vibrant, exciting metropolitan city can be developed without sacrificing community, character and quality of life issues: preservation, planning, and protecting existing neighborhoods and maintaining the integrity of the neighborhoods.

We urge a Yes Vote on Proposition E for the City of Chula Vista.

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