Eva Knott 2:42 p.m., May 21
Why Was Toni Atkins Consulting for Developers Vying for Redevelopment Dollars After She Was Elected to State Assembly?
Why was State Assembly Majority WHIP Toni Atkins working for LeSar Development Consulting firm as the Senior Principal of Housing Policy and Planning even after she was elected to State Assembly? Toni was consulting with developers and helping them lobby to get these redevelopment tax dollars for their projects. So how in the world can she vote objectively as a State Assembly member let alone State Majority WHIP to freeze this redevelopment money and return it to schools and other state resources when she has a definite financial stake in seeing that the money remain in the pockets of developers like her wife and their clients.
The website states this about Atkins “During her 15 years in municipal government she has been directly involved in numerous city projects, including … natural resources conservation, neighborhood revitalization, affordable housing and redevelopment. As senior principal of housing policy and planning, Ms. Atkins is primarily responsible for overall management of housing policy research and planning for clients of LeSar Development Consultants.”
During Atkins 8 years in office we lost some of the neighborhoods most valuable historic resources to sleazy developers under the guise of "affordable housing" like a rare art deco building that housed Gustafson’s Furniture Store on El Cajon and 30th Street as well as the Aztec Bowl. The area was developed as an affordable housing project by developers Tom Carter and Reese Jarrett. The new building is a banal and disastrous art deco imitation. It is a cheap reminder of what we lost. All that remains of the famous Aztec Bowl is the neon sign that hangs on 30th street in front of the banal apartments that took its place.
LeSar development website lists these private developers under their clients: http://www.lesardevelopment.com/clients/ Carter Reese and Associates The Corky McMillin Companies Swinerton Management and Consulting
The El Cajon Boulevard Business Improvement Association website conveniently called the "BIA" says this about Atkins at the "groundbreaking ceremony"
"On February 19th, 2004 a groundbreaking ceremony was held at the future site of The Renaissance. El Cajon Boulevard BIA president Jacquelyn O'Connor was on hand with Councilwoman Toni Atkins, developers Tom Carter and Reese Jarrett, a representative from the North Park PAC, Hank Cunningham from the Redevelopment Agency and Elizabeth Morris from the Housing Commission to participate in the grounbreaking. View the press release: http://www.sannet.gov/press/040219.shtml "
How is it that Atkins and her wife Jennifer LeSar are continually allowed to financially benefit from the affordable housing gravy train. Affordable housing is a multi million dollar issue with a multi million dollar bounty at stake to the most cunning and shrewd land developers and Atkins is voting on this issue despite her personal financial stake. LeSar served as a CCDC Board Member for years while Atkins simultaneously served on City Council and voted to approve millions in redevelopment funds.
This is a quote from LeSars development Consultant website explaining what developers can pay her to do:
"LeSar Development Consultants (“LDC”) provides a full range of consulting services primarily to local government agencies involved in redevelopment, community development, affordable housing, and homelessness. Services are grouped into three core areas: Affordable Housing Policy and Planning; Real Estate Technical Services; and Portfolio Management and Administration.
LeSar Development Consultants was founded in 2005 and is headed by Jennifer LeSar. Our staff works across the state of California and our senior staff people have more than 70 years of combined industry experience including service in many different private- and public-sector leadership capacities."
So while LeSar was not officially "paid" for her time on CCDC she made some extremely important and significant relationships that undoubtedly serve her well in her company showing private developers how they can get this financial bounty and negotiating on their behalf. Who needs a salary when you now have a million dollars worth of connections in the local governments?
LeSars website only reveals information about her development consulting agency, but if you look at their list of clients it includes many local governments. It shows the company provides affordable housing underwriting services as well as the creation of affordable housing lending systems.
Recently Atkins said this in the San Diego Union Tribune about her priorities as Assembly member....
"The gaping budget deficit is waiting, but so too are issues involving improving the small business climate, affordable housing and health care, Atkins said.
Q: Besides the budget, what are your top priorities?
A: I’m an affordable housing advocate, homeless issues, certainly. Health care will be on the radar. But clearly it’s all going to be secondary to jobs and the economy."
With all this debate about redevelopment in the news, Im sure we have not heard the end of this. I just hope they begin an investigation of Ms. Atkins and Ms. LeSar before the state loses even more money as Atkins will definitely vote to continue the redevelopment sham that is bleeding the state dry and making her very very rich.