March 26, 2004

Editorial:

Get it in writing

The City of Chula Vista would like to add 494 acres of property in the north-ern and southern sections of the city to their redevelopment area, primarily Broadway and Third Ave. Towards this end the City Council, which also wears the hat of a redevelopment agency, held a public hearing on the proposed expansion this past Tuesday, March 23. After listening to a majority of the business owners in the affected area that addressed the city council, it is obvious that they are skeptical of the plan at best.

  But before even discussing the merits of the plan, the community of Chula Vista should be asking why is the city council going through with this plan while they are in the midst of reorganizing and reshaping the redevelopment department into a private, nonprofit corporation, through the auspice of the UDC (Urban Development Corporation). The UDC’s proposal is on the fast track, so much so, that the Economic Development Commission, made up of citizens of Chula Vista and which provides input on redevelopment issues, has been put on hiatus since the first of the year, until the redevelopment reorganization had been completed.

  It would seem, since reorganization is eminent and apparently destined to be completed within the year, that other than handling house keeping chores, the city council should also put on hiatus any new projects until the new Redevelopment Agency is formed and has an opportunity to their develop a plan, unless the city is already moving in concert with UDC’s vision? But right now, the city council is making plans without their community-based agency, the Economic Development Commission, providing input.

  A plan – herein lays the second major problem for the business owners of the affected area. There is no real plan in place for the area, nor is there any projected plan per se, except the broad outline of improving the area. When a plan does come about the cost/impact to local business is unknown, yet the city council is asking these small business owners, many of whom operate on a slim profit margin, to trust the city council and that the council members have their best interest at heart!

  What drives the greatest fear amongst the property owners is the aspect of eminent domain. While the council spins a rosy picture about the future and downplays the aspect of eminent domain, the bottom line is that this tool, eminent domain, has come into play more and more as a tool to clear out business that lie within the footprint of larger projects. One only has to look north to National City which is expanding its power of eminent domain to clear out areas for condominiums. Or, a little further north to Petco Park where eminent domain was used to clear out businesses within the footprint of the ballpark. While eminent domain may have been a dormant tool at one time, recently, it has become a tool of use more and more.

  While the city council is asking business owners to accept and support this expansion of the redevelopment area they are leaving the owners in the dark about the future. In the meantime, the city council is telling the owners that, on their word, they promise the owners that this change in redevelopment designation will not adversely impact them. The only thing wrong with this is that once the councilpersons leave office, aka Mary Salas term limits or Patty Davis if she gets elected to the Assembly, so too do the promises made leave, the tools to effect change will be in place and the new council members and new mayor will not be obligated to the old city council’s promises.

So like my daddy always said, “In business when you get a promise, get it in writing.” That you can take to court!

The City Council will take final action on this proposal to add 494 acres to property to redevelopment April 20, 2004.

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