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On Saturday, March 5, City Heights residents protested governor Jerry Brown’s plan to abolish redevelopment agencies. The rally, organized by the Fox Canyon Neighborhood Association, took place in Auburn Park, a site chosen for its relationship to the cause.

Ginger Hitzke, who acted as project manager of the Auburn Park project in its development stage three years ago, came down from Temecula to support the community.

“Because this was a redevelopment project, the public was able to have a little extra strength in the process,” Hitzke said. “I was able to see firsthand how the public has much more of a voice, particularly a poorer community. They’re able to exercise that strength through their public funds.... This [park] is really the outcome of what happens when you have a public-private partnership with the private developer, the redevelopment agency, and also with the community.”

Fox Canyon Neighborhood Association president Jose Lopez pointed to the creek behind the park and said, “We fought tooth and nail to be able to have this redevelopment right here.” Before the redevelopment of this area near 50th Street and University Avenue, the creek was full of “mattresses, stoves, appliances,” he said, “and now we have a park instead.”

Ricky Brown, manager of the 69-unit apartment complex adjacent to the park, said, “Auburn Park Apartments was built with redevelopment money, and it affords people who can’t afford expensive [housing] nice apartments.... If the money [isn’t there] where are the people going to go live?”

Jenny Davenport, manager of a similar apartment complex downtown, said, “We have 25 to 60 percent units that help low-income families afford housing, and they want to take that away.”

A drum-and-dance troupe dressed in hummingbird costumes donated their time to perform at the rally. A jewelry vendor and a cookie vendor set up tables to sell their products. Though the crowd fluctuated in numbers through the afternoon, at one point Lopez counted 68 people in attendance.

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BlueSouthPark March 9, 2011 @ 7:48 a.m.

Funny how some people just pop up everywhere. Hitzke leaves Temecula, often, ranging all over the county to follow the money: nothing wrong with that, but surprised she didn't brag on her track record as a DEVELOPER through her companies (Community Collective, Hitzke Development Corp., Affirmed Housing Group). She can proudly claim to be the local queen of infill.

She could have mentioned obtaining, for Community Collective, more than $30,500,000 in Redevelopment Agency financing, $122,000,000 in housing tax credits, $32,000,000 in tax-exempt bonds, and $11,000,000 in multiunit housing funds from the State of California. At Affirmed Housing Group, she arranged to get more than $238,000,000 in public funds, low-income housing tax credits, tax-exempt housing revenue bonds, low/ moderate redevelopment tax increment funds, and federal housing program funds.

The money to be made doing this is good, especially good when you and your company excel at sniffing out City-owned land and parking lots, and then getting the City to give your company entitlement to the land (or sell it to you very cheaply). Then you get the City to loan you the money to develop the plans to turn the lot into curb-to-curb stucco, metal, and concrete housing, packing in as many bodies side-to side and up as high as possible.

Usually you can get profit-making exemptions from the parking, height, density, and FAR restrictions, so that your masterpiece will loom over the neighborhood like a big (but oh-so retro and hip-looking) monster.

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BlueSouthPark March 9, 2011 @ 11:07 a.m.

Addendum: The one-half-acre Auburn Park mentioned in this article is largely landscaping on the entire 2-acre parcel with 69 rental units built by Hitzke. The landscaped area is privately owned, by Hitzke's development company. It's open to public access as long as they say so.

It had been hoped in the early 2000s that the entire 2-acre parcel, at that time a completely open plot on the SW corner of University and 52nd, would be used to build a Chollas Creek Visitor and Educational Center. Five other parcels along Auburn Creek, which runs through Fox Canyon from Euclid to University/52nd, would have been set aside as parkland/open space, about which the proposed visitor center would have educated the public. Some of those parcels, like the one discussed in this Reader article, have also been lost to developers.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 5:51 p.m.

wow!!! That is a brilliant comment BSP. I want to learn more about this....

No doubt these people were paid to protest.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 5:56 p.m.

You know i worked for a forensic architect for 7 years and we dealt w/ lawsuits against developers for poor construction and this was 1 of our cases. I cant remember why they are being sued but as usual in these sort of developments, the construction is very sloppy and these buildings are often toxic to their tenents. the worst part is most of the time they tear down perfectly good historic buildings to build this garbage.

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BlueSouthPark March 9, 2011 @ 6:06 p.m.

Thanks HM. You know, when companies earn all of their company money by taking public money, the public record docs are out there on the Internet and everyone can read all about it. Which I do. This project does house low-income people. Good. But,... and this is a big BUT: Fox Canyon Neighborhood Association president Jose Lopez did NOT fight tooth and nail to get the 69 units into development: the City of San Diego fell all over itself to hand over an exclusive negotiating right to Community Collective (Hitzke)and lots of Redevelopment money and open space land. Nor is it likely that Mr. Lopez wrote this (note the boldface email address at the bottom of the page): http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/Fox_Canyon/pages/308229

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BlueSouthPark March 12, 2011 @ 11:45 a.m.

I need to correct my error: the "exclusive negotiating right" was to Affirmed Housing Group, which Hitzke worked for. Community Collective LLC is another of her companies, registered in Oregon (currently inactive)and sometimes incorrectly referred to as a "nonprofit." It is not registered as a nonprofit, as far as I can find.

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SurfPuppy619 March 9, 2011 @ 6:37 p.m.

These redevelopment agency's are flat out scams.

I have told this story before, but when I was brokering commercial real etsate deals back in the 90's smart business people/developers were buying REO apartments from the banks for $10K-$20K per door, putting in $1K-$10K in rehab-averaging about $5K per unit in rehab- and then renting them out at market for strong cash flows.

Now, while the private sector were selling apartments for $10K-$30K in total costs AFTER they were rehabed the gov was BUILDING NEW "low income" apartments, just like the Auburn Park Apartments in this story, for (now get this) $150K per unit. It was just ridiculous how much money the gov was spending so a very FEW connected low income residents could get subsidized by the taxpayers-while the gov paper pushers and yahoos who built these so called "low income" apartments were becoming mutli millionaires. Barone-Galasso Associates were pulling this scam big time.

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Founder March 10, 2011 @ 7:45 a.m.

Not all ReDev. is a scam, North Park is an example of how ReDev. money can be used without building Ball Parks... If more folks got involved and our Leaders started to think more about voters than their wealthy friends then ReDev. could be a great tool for making San Diego a much better place to live.

That said, I've seen many ReDev projects get bloated because of City Mandated costs that seem to benefit only the City, but that will be small potatoes compared to the Mayor now having veto and or Project change control over the entire list of ReDev. Projects now thanks to the Cooperation Agreement between the City of San Diego and the ReDev. Agency. The City Council will have to approve any changes the Mayor makes but there are several Councilmembers on the City Council that will play ball with the Mayor so that is not really a problem. Expect to see much more money pour into Downtown and much more DENSITY-BLIGHT pour into Mid-City.

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Founder March 10, 2011 @ 7:37 a.m.

Christine Kehoe and Toni Atkins (and friends) have surfed the ReDev. money wave all the way to Sacramento and are still smiling...

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BlueSouthPark March 10, 2011 @ 10:38 a.m.

Addendum #2: It's getting even more interesting.

Not only is Auburn "Park" not a park, but rather part of the landscaping of a private, developer-owned Redevelopment Agency 69-unit project on what Chollas Creek neighbors hoped would be a park and open space and an education center, but Mr. Fox Canyon Neighborhood Lopez has been an employee of Ginger Hitzke on another of her many Redeveloment Agency-funded projects: "Community Collective hired relocation specialist Joseph Lopez to help the site's former residents find new homes"... http://www.allbusiness.com/society-social/social-welfare-housing-low/12220579-1.html

Full disclosure, everyone?

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joepoovey June 3, 2014 @ 9:03 p.m.

I can't thank you enough for your input on the article. I knew Jose Lopez had a hidden agenda, but I could never figure out why the push for more low-income housing in Fox Canyon. That explains it all.

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BlueSouthPark March 10, 2011 @ 2:35 p.m.

Addendum #3: Turns out that Mr Lopez has also been employed by Affirmed Housing Group, the for-profit developer that owns Auburn Park and the 69 apartments. People in Poway will recall being interviewed by Mr. Lopez for purposes of their "relocation" when Affirmed got the existing Poway land/buildings to redevelop. His company, Prince Business Management Systems, hired by Affirmed HG, operated out of a house near Auburn Park Apartments.

Not wise to do PR for yourself or your cause and not fully disclose your personal interests and involvement. We all need less unaffordable housing (more affordable), but we need it without it being a never-ending cash cow for a few very well-connected and wealthy companies and their circle of local recruits who represent themselves only as "just the neighbors."

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Founder March 10, 2011 @ 6:37 p.m.

Well Said...

I'd also add many of these "Just Neighbors" show up at Planning Meeting and push for less parking for Low & Low Mod. housing to make them less expensive to build but more BLIGHTING on the surrounding neighborhoods...

The City should require anyone doing business with the City or the ReDev. Agency to disclose their connection at all meetings...

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BlueSouthPark March 11, 2011 @ 10:08 a.m.

Yes, they do show up. And yes, everyone making public comments at the planning committee meetings should disclose. That's not too much to ask.

Also, I agree with your previous feelings that not all of what has been done using RA money is bad. But affordable housing alone is a good enough goal, and the RA middle-man must go. The RA-selected developers, the nonprofits and for-profit LPs, LLCs, etc., have acquired enormous wealth tapping the RA gravy train. It's amazing how many of these LPs and LLCs and Associations all come back to a few key players, with scores of their entities listed at a single obscure address. Affirmed HG and associates, for example...in California, Oregon, ...have extensively tapped public money and have huge inventories of land holdings, largely acquired at little or no cost. It's just way too many tax dollars benefiting too few. Also, most of the huge tax-benefit contracts that go to the RA developer state that the developer is required only to rent the units as low-income units for 50 years. After that? They own all the land and the buildings and can do what they want with it?

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Founder March 11, 2011 @ 8:13 p.m.

... And do not forget the MASSIVE tax benefits along the way, which I bet multiply the profits several magnitudes!

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Fred Williams March 12, 2011 @ 12:19 a.m.

Fox Canyon...rang a bell...something to do with Jim Madaffer and redevelopment scandal:

A quick search and, bingo!

http://www.neighborhoodlink.com/Fox_Canyon/topics/190721

and

http://www.signonsandiego.com/uniontrib/20061028/news_7m28fox.html

Blue and History, please keep digging. There's more...

Best,

Fred

1

BlueSouthPark March 12, 2011 @ 11:31 a.m.

Ah yes, I do remember that story. Thanks, Fred.

Small world of people circling and swirling around those pots of gold, filled with Redevelopment dollars. And it's all about to get sucked down the drain, out of reach to them. They are deeply offended!

They do work really hard to get the Redevelopment money and tax breaks, I'll have to admit. But by now, they know the ropes and all of the giveaway agencies and people completely...Now they scout cities looking for city-owned lots that are empty or offer beach parking (those horrible, anti-green car lovers) and entice the pro-Redevelopment bureaucrats to give them exclusive negotiating agreements for the parcel, at low or no cost, then ask for Redevelopment "loans" to cover the cost of creating plans for infill.

In Redevelopment Areas that are clearly NOT blighted, such as Solana Beach (check it out yourself: it's happening in SB, with a reverse twist on the old Joni Mitchell song, "They Paved Paradise"), their mixed-use plans include a token minimal number of "affordable" units in an otherwise high-end-unit and high-end-retail package. Mayors and councilpeople now desperately trying to tie up the Redevelopment funds are eager to accommodate.

Once in a while, some people attending such Council hearings comment skeptically on the unseemliness of placing low-income units over high-end retail. But hey, maybe the low-income people allowed in could be the "workforce-in-place." That's one of the fave developer terms for placing low-income tenants into an infill site without adequate parking. The low-income WiP needn't travel far, by bus if necessary, to work as cooks, maids, valets, etc., in the lovely high-end developments. Perfect! It may be a nice deal for a few low-income renters, but it's really a hugely profitable deal for the redevelopers, and they do pop the champagne corks when they pull it off.

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Fred Williams March 14, 2011 @ 10:24 p.m.

I've had a look at Ms. Salaam's other stories at the Reader, and she seems to be a steady producer of work, less editorial than other writers for the Reader...and I won't impugn her.

Yet with this article, it seems she reported at face-value what was actually a Potemkin protest. She didn't report the self-interest of the organizers and participants, or inquire as to how many were legitimately from the neighborhood.

Somehow I suspect the crowd was padded with some CCDC employees, lobbyists, and other downtowners out to grow some astroturf.

It's truly sad how this works in San Diego. Usually the Reader sees through the charade. In this case, the writer could have added a sprinkle of scepticism to this article.

At the least, a few minutes online searching would have revealed some names and details of past goings on at this location. This information deserved to be included in the story.

Perhaps Ms. Salaam would also cover how Grantville has been treated by the redevelopment czars downtown...that would make a good counterweight to this flawed effort.

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gingerhitzke April 28, 2011 @ 7:34 a.m.

Hi. This is Ginger Hitzke. I must say, it was quite strange to read your comments about me and my intentions as a real estate developer. I'm really proud of the work that I do. I have also been really fortunate to meet a lot of good people along the way.

If any of you would be interested in talking with me about redevelopment or any of the projects I have worked on, I would be more than happy to talk to you on the phone or meet with you in person. I am frequently in San Diego and would be happy to meet you for coffee. I'm pretty sure you know how to find my contact information so feel free to drop me a line :)

  • Ginger -
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