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Gary Stang now had a little more than 2 years left on his 20-year lease, and promoters of the new town center seemed to be planning on coexistence with Skateworld. In 2000, the City finally purchased the lot where the old gas station had been, and town center organizers began looking west on Comstock at two properties that, if acquired, would allow the project to expand all the way to the library. One of the properties is occupied by a company called Buggy Wash, then owned by Frank Piersall.

By phone, I reach Piersall at home. He tells me that Bayside’s Bob Williams and a City official, whose name he no longer remembers, spoke to him about “some weird project with a clock tower on top of it.” To complete the project, they wanted to acquire the Buggy Wash property but did not offer him money. Instead, says Piersall, they wanted him to relocate his business to an empty lot in Linda Vista across from Kearny High School. “I told them no way,” he says.

And that seemed to end the plan to build the town center at the corner of Comstock Street and Linda Vista Road. But the plan’s collapse apparently suggested to Williams the possibility of expanding the project in a different direction — onto the Skateworld property. Linda Vista resident Doug Beckham tells me that Williams, who died in 2004, also promised that “Bayside will eventually occupy the Skateworld building.”

∗ ∗ ∗

In early 2001, Valerie Stallings was forced to resign her council seat after admitting she took gifts from San Diego Padres owner John Moores during a time she was voting on a new ballpark for the club. To replace Stallings, a special election was held that June, an election won by Donna Frye. After Frye went on to win reelection in 2002, a redistricting ordinance put all of Linda Vista into District 6, and Frye has been its representative ever since. She terms out this December.

When Skateworld’s lease expired later in 2002, Gary Stang proposed that the City extend it another 20 years, promising to make additional improvements to the property. He submitted plans drawn up by a local architectural firm. He also suggested using the old gas station parcel as a badly needed parking lot for Skateworld. But the City told him it wanted time to review other options with the community and granted Skateworld a 3-year lease only.

On September 10, 2004, Maureen Ostrye, of the City’s Department of Community and Economic Development, wrote to Donna Frye, outlining three options: first, develop the corner lot alone, where the gas station had been, with private retail outlets and a public meeting hall; second, grant a lease for an upgraded use of the Skateworld property, with an option to buy; and third, combine the two properties, adapting the Skateworld property for continued use and building commercial space on the corner lot.

Close to a year later, as the three-year Skateworld lease was approaching its end, councilwoman Frye lifted Stang’s hopes. At a May 11, 2005 meeting of the City Council’s Housing and Land Use Committee, she made the following motion: “With respect to the Skateworld property: enter into negotiations for a long-term lease with an option to purchase with the current lessee…” Frye added language to the motion requiring research into the historical nature of the building, improving its appearance, keeping the current retail tenants, and obtaining the Linda Vista planning committee’s opinion of the plan. The motion passed four votes to zero.

Gary Stang and members of the planning group, including Wayne Bamford, were in attendance. “At that meeting, Donna Frye said some very nice things about Skateworld,” Bamford later told me. “We were all excited about the business continuing in Linda Vista.” But Stang was soon disappointed. According to city council protocol, the Housing and Land Use Committee was supposed to pass its resolution on to the council for a final vote. But the committee did not follow through. Both Bamford and Stang have told me that they inquired numerous times to Frye’s office for insight into what happened but got no answers. To this date, Frye has never explained her mysterious change of mind. Stang would never again get a chance to negotiate for the long-term lease.

Instead, the Redevelopment Agency began to grant Stang a series of one-year and six-month leases as it considered a new approach. In 2006 and 2007, the agency put out requests for proposals to develop the former gas station property but leave Skateworld alone. “Not long after that,” Stang tells me, “Michael Weber and Ivar Leetma from the Bayside board of directors came over to Skateworld to look around and talk to me. I could see they were frustrated that the latest call for proposals still had a restriction in it that my building had to be used as a skating rink.”

Stang responded to both the 2006 and 2007 calls for proposals to develop the corner lot. At about this same time, he also offered to buy the Skateworld property from the City for $2,000,000. He had found several financial backers for the plan. But the City turned him down and eventually reported that it had received proposals from only one person, Gary Stang, and that the proposals did not meet expectations. “Whatever those might be,” added Bamford during our 2007 conversations.

∗ ∗ ∗

During a recent conversation, Stang tells me that for all but the last few years his negotiations with the City have always gone through the Real Estate Assets Department. “The conversations were always cordial,” he says. In January 2008, the City handed over control of the Skateworld property to the Redevelopment Agency. “And then the tone changed,” says Stang. “All their dealings with me became hostile.”

Not long afterward, the Redevelopment Agency introduced a new talking point: Skateworld was “not a viable business.” According to minutes of the July 2008 Linda Vista Planning Committee meeting, the City’s Maureen Ostrye came to the group’s July 2008 meeting to deliver the pronouncement. The minutes indicate that Stang, present at the meeting as a planning group member, vigorously objected, but not before resigning and taking a seat in the audience. Stang’s objection hasn’t prevented the charge from being repeated by his opponents ever since.

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Comments

Brian_T_Peterson_DVM Sept. 1, 2010 @ 4:49 p.m.

Joe,

This is a great article. Everything you wrote is consistent with what I have been hearing through my involvement in fighting redevelopment abuse in Grantville. One complaint I hear from Linda Vistans is that all their redevelopment money disappeared. Now, from your article, I know why: it was all transferred out of the Linda Vista project area. Fortunately, this type of loss of revenue from a redevelopment project area will not happen again. In 2008 State Senator Christine Kehoe took note of the Grantville Action Group’s legal effort to stop the transfer of over $31 million in Grantville’s redevelopment proceeds to pay for downtown projects. (They claim that improving the trolley line on C Street and beautifying the County Administration Building will eradicate blight in Grantville.) Kehoe authored SB 93, which will prevent the transfer of tax increment out of redevelopment project areas, except in the strictest of circumstances. This bill passed unanimously through the legislature, Governor Schwarzenegger signed it, and it became law on January 1, 2010.

As far as the Grantville Action Group lawsuit, we will be in court on October 29th. If anyone would like to assist redevelopment reform in Grantville, after we helped to gain it for the rest of the state, please go to www.GrantvilleActionGroup.com and donate to the GAG legal fund. Thank you.

Brian T. Peterson, DVM Grantville Action Group, CEO

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sdgirl92123 Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:01 p.m.

The title on the cover says "Skateworld Rolls Away". Skateworld is NOT rolling anywhere! This is not a done deal!! We are fighting to save this rink and will continue to do so until we win!

Skateworld has been a pillar of the Linda Vista community for nearly 35 years! It is the ONLY remaining roller rink in the city of San Diego. Linda Vista has a recreation center, a teen center and a boys and girls club. There are also public use buildings at USD. If you want to play "Futsal" use one of those facilities. Don't be fooled skaters. Bayside claims they will have skating. But, mark my words, it will NOT be in the same capacity at which Skateworld currently offers skating.

The article states that the RDA owes the city money. Then WHY are they making a deal with a non-profit organization that pays NO money in taxes back to the city? Skateworld pays rent, property tax, sales tax etc. With the financial crisis facing San Diego tax paying citizens should be outraged that such a deal is even being considered.

This article does not tell of the many coincidences between those involved in this deal. When you start connecting the dots it makes an interesting picture. Stop to consider that Mike Weber is a long time board member for Bayside and Donna Frye is always there to support everything they do and has received many awards in recognition of that support, then add in the little fact that she and Mrs. Weber are best friends, it makes me question if they are in cahoots with each other for personal gain. After all Ms. Frye will be out of a job in just a few months. Perhaps one is waiting for her at MRW? I also find it interesting that there are prominent members from USD sitting on Bayside's board. Rumor on the street is that USD plans to buy the existing Bayside property to build housing. Although that's hearsay, I find it another interesting "dot" in the big picture.

The above article states the following:

"A page from the year 2002 stands out, a letter on Bayside stationery addressed to Gary Jones of the City’s Real Estate Assets Department. Dated October 24, 2002, and stamped as received in Donna Frye’s office four days later, the letter was written by Grover Diemert, then Bayside’s executive director. “We are developing a proposal to lease the property commonly known as the Skateworld property,” wrote Diemert. “We have alerted Donna Frye of our interest. She is looking forward to receiving our proposal. We request that you do not renew the Stang/Skateworld lease until you have considered and reviewed our proposal…. If you have any questions please contact our master plan committee chair Michael Weber.” "

So, Donna Frye knew back in 2002 that Bayside and her friend Mike Weber at MRW had this "master plan". Why was it not put into motion 8 years ago? Is it because she had just gotten elected after promising to do right by her constituents and she was afraid of committing political suicide? That's a bet I am willing take.

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sdgirl92123 Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:10 p.m.

Thank you Joe Deegan for your time in writing this article. I know you didn't have control over the cover and I want to clarify once again that this is NOT a done deal.

Skateworld is not rolling away!

To support our fight to save our Skateworld please join the "Friends of Skateworld Roller Rink" page on facebook or go to our blog at www.friendsofskateworld.com.

Thank you for your support!

S.O.S - Save Our Skateworld!!

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sandiegojoey Sept. 1, 2010 @ 6:40 p.m.

I grew up in Linda Vista, spent many hours at Skateworld AND Bayside. Skateworld is still a community asset, however, I can't say the same for Bayside. Now I know why my family and friends in Linda Vista HATE Bayside, and refer to them as "Bayside hispanic center". I wasn't sure how accurate a nick-name that was until this article. They want to tear down an American past time, and replace it with Futsal??? Why not volleyball, indoor field hockey, Lacrosse, or any other sport that the kids can also play in high school.

I now live in Allied Gardens and get to see our Chicago style politics play out again with the Grantville redevelopment project (see Brian Peterson's comment above).

THANK YOU San Diego Reader!! This story would never have gone out if not for your publication. Keep up the good work and keep on exposing the dirty rotten politicians like Donna Frye and the so-called "community center's" like Bayside who have an agenda that more in line with the city council than it is with the communities they claim to serve.

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RaffaelHoffmann Sept. 2, 2010 @ 11:21 a.m.

I had the pleasure to work as a full time volunteer at Bayside in 2008 and 2009. I'm a bit surprised by how the storyline is drawn and the previous comments are written. It is a black and white view of the world and the players involved. Skateworld is pictured as good and trustworthy, while Bayside is somewhat devious and untrustworthy. I resent this. Donna has been an outstanding advocate for the community of Linda Vista. Bayside and its present and former Executive Directors and Board members have been fighting for this community for decades. Insinuations, innuendo and libel don't raise the level of debate. I invite anyone reading this to take a stroll around the neighborhood. You will see with your own eyes that something needs to be done and what impact three decades of Skateworld had on the area. Here is hoping that the fierceness of the debate will subside and that Linda Vistans will work together as a community.

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sandiegojoey Sept. 2, 2010 @ 7:04 p.m.

Raffael, you say "Donna has been an outstanding advocate for the community of Linda Vista. Bayside and its present and former Executive Directors and Board members have been fighting for this community for decades.", then I would say they were simply buttering them up for the kill.

C'mon, are you really going to ignore the facts presented above? Your simply saying "they're good people" wont make the facts go away!

Lets say for the sake of argument that the area was run down like you insinuate, and that a new development would actually benefit the area. Then why wasn't this deal done in full view of the public and the residents of Linda Vista? Why weren't the people of Linda Vista brought in? Why not propose a development that included Skateworld, a piece of Americana, and the last skating rink in San Diego? And if Donna and our city council are so full of virtue, why are they selling this parcel for $1 when this city if flat broke!!

And as for your final statement "Here is hoping that the fierceness of the debate will subside and that Linda Vistans will work together as a community." Well, that's all Linda Vista wanted in the first place but they never got the chance!! Donna Frye and Bayside chose this path instead, they knew Linda Vistans DO work together and they're finding out just how committed they are....the hard way!

The fact is, they underestimated Linda Vistans when they thought they could sneak this by them. Well, now it's time for Bayside and this city council to face the music. Linda Vistans will boycott any and everything Bayside for a long long time. And if Donna Frye EVER seeks office in San Diego again we'll use every resource available to us to stop her from winning.

The whole issue is a microcosm of how this city works. If you want to defend the actions of Bayside and Frye, Raffael, then address the FACTS from the article above! You won't because you can't, they're all public record, these things really happened in the way they're portrayed, it isn't just "insinuation, innuendo, and libel" as you claim. Joe Deegan did a damn good job putting the facts together, and if they don't sit well with you then you should direct your disappointment with the people you serve, not the victims of this debacle!

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TomCleary Sept. 3, 2010 @ 7:44 a.m.

SDGIRL92123 is incorrect. USD has no intention of buying, leasing or otherwise using the Bayside Community Center property for housing or any other use. For many years, USD has provided its college students as volunteers, tutors and mentors in various programs conducted by Bayside. This relationship has been a productive and beneficial partnership, but USD is in no way involved with the Bayside/MRW proposal to the city’s Redevelopment Agency for the Skateworld site.

Elaine Elliott served on the Bayside board of directors for several years. Elaine is the former director of USD’s Center for Community Service-Learning, which provides hundreds of student volunteers to Bayside and other local nonprofit organizations each year. She recently retired from USD and is leaving the San Diego area. Dayanne Izmirian, Assistant Dean for Residential Life at USD, agreed to serve on the board of directors for Bayside as Elaine prepared to step down. Both Elaine and Dayanne have voluntarily served on the board of directors as private individuals and their service should not be confused as official representation by USD.

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Linda_J_Wilson Sept. 3, 2010 @ 11:10 a.m.

Thank you, Joe Deegan for continuing to shine a light on these dark dealings. I have noticed a pattern in the comments posted to many articles pertaining to redevelopment related abuses. Most are made by people who seem to be the average/real community members, then one or two that have the stink of an "insider". In other words, someone who makes sneaky deals (with the help of the redevelopment agency and elected officials)to greatly enrich themselves, then shoves the plan down community's throat. Check out Raffael Hoffmann, Director of Development at Bayside Community Center http://www.linkedin.com/in/raffaelhoffmann

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Rabid_Koala Sept. 3, 2010 @ 10:51 p.m.

Thank you for the excellent article. While I have never been to Skateworld, I have lived near the Linda Vista area in years past as well as traveling through the area frequently. While the property that Skateworld is located on is not the best in the city, it is certainly far from the worst. I am all for seeing Linda Vista move up in the world, as it is one of the most perfect locations in San Diego, this is not the way to do it. This is another example of how a power hungry and greedy city council will eventually kill another business, and one that produces revenue to the city.

They need to stop messing with Grantville, too.

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Fred Williams Sept. 4, 2010 @ 6:45 a.m.

San Diego's Redevelopment Plan:

  1. Find a neighborhood without organized residents.

  2. Declare the neighborhood "blighted".

  3. Shift the "redevelopment funds" to downtown insiders.

  4. Repeat.

The folks who have honest businesses, paying taxes and contributing to the community, end up losing what they've built. Insiders stuff their pockets, then scram, leaving the public to pay off the debts.

Let's stop this pattern in Grantville first, then Linda Vista. Brian Peterson and the Grantville Action Group have stood up and fought, and they have a great chance of winning in court next month.

Donate at:

www.GrantvilleActionGroup.com

Once Dr. Peterson and GAG wins their lawsuit, it's time to work on what's happening in Linda Vista.

Thanks, Joe, for a great article.

Best,

Fred

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Founder Sept. 4, 2010 @ 8:10 a.m.

Great article!

Remember, Good Redevelopment like Good Gov't. depends upon Good People who provide Good Leadership! The question is how do you insure you have "Good" Leadership instead of just "Good" Business relationships?

I wrote back in July*: -- Call Foul --

"Build and they will come" quotes, all our Big Biz, and they will keep coming, our bills that is...

making BIG profit at the expense of our Great City, forgetting about the Public's Good, that's a real pity.

If all the voters really did care, Developers would just move else where!

and while those Developers made giant bucks, The voters got stuck with huge bills, and that sucks!

It's all those Big Business deals, "What do you really expect", how about a bigger cut for the City, what the heck?

Doing the old, "Switch-A-Rou", ripping US all, me and you!

When they decide to do it again, it will be just another Win - Win,

but not for the City budget for that, it will be a fudge-it!

BTW: For too many years, the City Council has helped themselves, (sitting as The Redevelopment Agency), by taking all the City's Public Works money (and much more) out of the City''s own budget and then given it as The Redevelopment Agency to the same Developers that have supported our Elected Officials in a big way!

Same Officials + same supporters + two separate budgets equals one HUGE amount of San Diego debt!

A Win - Win, but only for all of them!

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JoeDeegan Sept. 5, 2010 @ 3:52 p.m.

To RaffaelHoffmann: I agree that Bayside makes great contributions to the Linda Vista community. And the San Diego Reader recognizes it as well. On December 30, 2009, our writer Tom Larson wrote a story about the financial challenges of non-profit organizations. In the article, Larson speaks with great of appreciation of Bayside and its director Jorge Riquelme.

But the overall perspective I came away with after visiting Linda Vista over the last several years was dismay at the win/lose approach the City takes toward two great enterprises, one a non-profit service orgaanization and the other a private business, but both making recreational and social contributions to the community. Doesn't it seem a shame that to help one the City must drive out the other? And that is why I ask at the end of my story if greater imagination couldn't create a redevelopment project that would allow both to continue doing their good work.

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RaffaelHoffmann Sept. 6, 2010 @ 8:36 a.m.

Dear JoeDeegan, Even though your comment is a fitting end for this commentary thread, I'd like to respond. First, I want to thank you for writing about this topic. Linda Vista is too often ignored. Second, I think you noticed that your mix of article and editorial has either confused people so much that they feel the urge to write hateful comments or they use it to support their preconceived opinions. Third, on a personal note and to respond to comment #9: I have left Bayside a year ago and I'm not affiliated in any way but the feeling of friendship for the wonderful people working there and an appreciation for the cause they serve. I don't stand to benefit from aforementioned project in any way and was not involved in it at any time. Fourth, don't we all wish that San Diego would really be "America's Finest City"? Here's hoping that the friction of this conflict causes enough positive energy to provide Linda Vista, the heart of the city, with a better future.

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SurfPuppy619 Sept. 6, 2010 @ 2:55 p.m.

I used to live in Linda Vista-on Goodwin, and it was at the end of the street and overlooked the entire USD campus as well as the ocean-best place I ever lived.

I also liked the area b/c it was so centrally located-to everything.

Enjoyed living there.

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kearnykomet71 Sept. 8, 2010 @ 10:27 a.m.

I grew up on Goodstone when those houses were newly built. Anybody remember the Linda movie theatre, the slot car track where you could bring your own racer and Bill's Burger Stop? Anyway the neighbor hood on Goodstone, Crandell, Flushing sts etc. has sure changed, maybe not for good. In the late 60's and 70's our house has been broken into several times and after I left home, my mom sold the house and moved to Chula Vista. I currently live in Seattle and continue to experience my hometown of S.D. through the Reader.

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kearnykomet71 Sept. 8, 2010 @ 12:34 p.m.

I bet Skateworld's favorite background music is Melenie's "Brand New Key"

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doughardy Sept. 15, 2010 @ 8:49 p.m.

Thank you for writing about the last place to skate in San Diego. I skated there when I was a teenager. Now my kids skate there. It would be a shame to lose it.

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sandiegojoey Sept. 21, 2010 @ 6:12 a.m.

Raffael,

I'm having a difficult time trying to figure you out. On one hand you seem like a nice guy, and on the other you seem like a very smug and assuming man. You said;

"Second, I think you noticed that your mix of article and editorial has either confused people so much that they feel the urge to write hateful comments or they use it to support their preconceived opinions."

That statement speaks volumes about your view of Linda Vistans because it assumes that Linda Vistans don't know the facts and are easily confused by the Reader article. Did it ever dawn on you that these people have had first hand knowledge of the details and villains involved in this scandalous event? The Reader simply confirmed, in a public way, what they already knew! The Reader provided a voice for a community that, as you state, is "too often ignored". Joe Deegan did something that very few in this city are willing to do because of the players involved, and that is to expose the way money and power come together to corrupt, even community centers such as Bayside.

The solution is to re-enter into negotiations with Gary from Skateworld, come up with something that everyone can support, and work together to provide a service to all members of Linda Vista the way Bayside used to back when they were on Morley Street. I remember the old Bayside well and have nothing but good memories of the way they helped everyone. Talk to anyone in Linda Vista today and they'll tell you it's become the Linda Vista hispanic center. When I went to Bayside it was mix of black, white, hispanic, Vietnamese. What happened between 1978 and today?

Bayside has an opportunity to repair their tarnished reputation and regain the trust of Linda Vista, but they must do so by including Skateworld and the non-hispanic members of the community.

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