December 10, 2004

Editorial

Chula Vista Mayor/City Council Removing the Public from Redevelopment Process!

The City of Chula is one of the fastest growing cities in California, and as such it has had to face many growing pains. The east side of the city, over the past ten years, has been transformed through unprecedented housing development. Every undeveloped piece of land has been changed into mega-housing tracts. There are few undeveloped lands left for the time being, but there are specific plans for those areas.

Now, all eyes are squarely focused on center city Chula Vista. Developers see this area as the next big growth area. City Hall insiders see this area as an excellent opportunity to maximize the revenue flow of the city through revenue-generating businesses. Change and growth is on the horizon for the City.

Mayor Steve Padilla has worked hard toward creating the newly formed Chula Vista Redevelopment Corporation that will work toward bringing in new businesses and redeveloping the urban core of Chula Vista - basically changing the face of the west side of Chula Vista.

The urban core of Chula Vista, which is primarily bordered by Broadway and 3rd Ave running parallel from the North of Chula Vista to the South, is a hodge podge of small business, trailer parks, a slew of tire stores and furniture stores, and a lot of old homes and neighborhoods. To develop east side Chula Vista, everything east of I-805, was easy. The west side is a bit more problematic.

The west side reflects the historic side of Chula Vista. The homes are old and stately; there are many historical landmark homes on the west side. Generations of families have lived on the west side and there is a large senior citizen population that lives there. These families, these people have grown up on the west side and are very comfortable with their surroundings. Change for these people will not come easy. Redevelopment of the urban core will impact schools, churches, traffic patterns, microclimates, and some argue, eliminate the small-town feel of Chula Vista.

Apparently the Mayor and the City Council saw and understood these potential problems. Their solution has been to limit public input into the decision making process about redeveloping downtown Chula Vista by limiting the membership of the new Redevelopment Board to the sitting members of the Chula Vista City Council and a handful of private “experts” in the fields of development, experts who may not even be residents of the city. All other concerned citizens or public interest groups where excluded from participation or having any voice in how their City will develop!

There won’t be a question of IF or WHAT, but WHEN and WHERE they will build. And, they insured that the sitting Board members get paid $750 per month with the director getting $1500 per month all without approval from the citizens of Chula Vista. Nothing like a City Council giving themselves a raise without voter approval AND NOT CALLING IT A SALARY RAISE!

To further solidify their stranglehold on downtown redevelopment and put this program on the fast track, all redevelopment plans WILL BYPASS the Planning Commission, the Design Review Commission, and the Resource Conservation Commission, effectively removing and restricting public participation in the process! The Mayor and City Council has already disbanded the Economic Development Commission, which at one time oversaw redevelopment issues, and put that commission on, apparently, permanent hiatus!

The Mayor and City Council has eliminated all input from the citizens of Chula Vista. The general public will not have much of a say in the redevelopment of Chula Vista! This is outrageous! Government is setup to represent the will of its citizens and to encourage public participation! In Chula Vista the exact opposite is taking place. All citizen participation has been removed from having a say in what their elected representatives do with public funds, in city planning, or in development of their City.

As the Mayor and City Council have structured the corporation, developers who want a piece of the action, must first go before this Redevelopment Corporation, (comprised of the sitting City Council members) to get their plans approved. Then the City council will have the final say over plans they already been approved in the Redevelopment Corporation! This process will open the door to corruption and bribery. This is not to say that this sitting council would partake in such shenanigans, but if human nature has taught us anything, at some point and time this will occur with such little oversight.

Then there is the question of unprecedented fundraising advantages this gives incumbent council members, with every developer, contractor, and designer looking to make friends. This would make an already almost insurmountable job for a challenger in facing a sitting incumbent an even tougher proposition.

Redevelopment is necessary for the urban core of Chula Vista, but to subvert public input out of the process, placing it exclusively in the hands of politicians and developers is a recipe for disaster!

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