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Dozens of South Park and Golden Hill residents crammed inside the Golden Hill Youth Center for a meeting of the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation (GGHCDC), the group that administers the local maintenance assessment district.

It was the first meeting since a judge declared the district invalid on September 22. Councilmembers Todd Gloria and David Alvarez were also in attendance to answer questions and hear from the community.

The MAD has divided the community since its formation in 2007. Since, the two sides showed up at committee meetings and bickered about the need and legality of the maintenance assessment district. Residents in opposition were unhappy over inaccuracies in the engineer's report. They also objected to GGHCDC's handling of the MAD, saying it squandered revenues on overhead and mismanagement. Those residents in favor said the $75 they paid on their annual property tax bill was well worth it. They touted the accomplishments that the MAD has had the community, the 48,831 square feet of graffiti that MAD crews removed, the 13,415 bags of trash that were collected, and the 5,121 couches and other large items that were carted away from alleys.

Those positions were repeated on Thursday evening. More than 30 residents spoke both for and against the MAD. Some focused on past accomplishments. Others spoke to the shoddy engineers report.

But what started out as the same back and forth eventually evolved into a discussion about how the community should move forward.

Former MAD oversight committee chair David Skillman said the community should start a non-profit and use donations from the community to remove trash and graffiti. Others suggested that the City start looking into forming a Business Improvement District or even creating a new MAD.

That option, responded councilmember Gloria, would require $50,000 for a new engineers report and would take at least 18 months to get off the ground.

"MAD's are very, very valuable tools," Gloria said. "We are deficient in some of the base line city services, let alone higher level of services and a MAD is a vehicle to reach that higher level of services."

Gloria said that the City will hold a public hearing in the coming weeks to officially dissolve the assessment district. Neither he nor councilmember Alvarez knew when the residents may be reimbursed.

Juan Perez, manager of the County Auditor's Property Tax Division, says that because the county will not have the judge's final order then Golden Hill and South Park residents will need to pay the assessment on this years property tax bill. That money will then be transferred to the City to be reimbursed. As for refunds from previous years, Perez said that is the City's responsbility.

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Comments

nostalgic Oct. 21, 2011 @ 2:36 p.m.

The Appeals Court said "mischief" when it talked about the city's role in forming the Golden Hill MAD. Our city council members call it "a flawed Engineer's Report." And it's odd that Point Loma doesn't need a MAD, but the areas with lower income do. You would think it would be the other way around.

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TrueJustice Oct. 21, 2011 @ 7:55 p.m.

To put the GGH MAD in perspective: it's annual budget was $500,000+, that is the same amount the San Diego Schools need to keep an elementary school open for one year.

During its lifetime, the MAD was dominated by a small group of individuals with no qualifications in organizational management or community design. The result was tasteless clutter. Real community input was quashed.

Hopefully the death of the GGH MAD will inspire a new life into genuine, inclusive community spirit.

The court decision offers hope to residents who want to challenge oppressive MADs in their own neighborhoods.

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madhatter Oct. 21, 2011 @ 7:56 p.m.

Generally, there are "two sides" of an issue, so there always will be some pro and and some cons. However, it's not so clear there were two sides regarding MAD since it was "created " by fiat, not by a fair democratic process. So, from the very beginning MAD was illegal (therefore, it was not my view vs your view, it was illegal, period). And, as such, we got all the further problems derived from the mismanagement of such an illegal entity. There is no need of "healing" any community, since there was just one wrong and the Court had redressed it, so it was just a happy ending for all of us, that is , for our community as whole. And, we hope there will be no more MADs in our community, please!!! We just got rid of one and are we heading toward planning for another one? Ouch!

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MadAsHell Oct. 21, 2011 @ 8:13 p.m.

Thank goodness the ill-formed MAD is being dissolved. We never received one benefit from it on our block. If the businesses who benefited from it want to form their own association, go for it; and let us retired folks keep a few more dollars in our pocket.

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goldenhillhomeowner Oct. 23, 2011 @ 5:25 p.m.

It's worth pointing out at the meeting, those who cried the loudest over the loss of the maintenance assessment district were real estate agents and landlords.

At the meeting one real estate agent complained it would be more difficult to sell homes in Golden Hill without the maintenance assessment district. Tell that to anyone who tried to buy a house in Golden Hill in the bad old unmaintained days of the late 1990's, when homes in Goilden Hill were selling like hot cakes.

Golden Hill has been and always will be an older, slightly frumpy looking neighborhood, whose charm is precisely its older, slightly frumping looking, appearance. Golden Hill has always had, and will continue to have, Rebecca's Coffee House (on Juniper) and the Big Kitchen (on Grape). Anyone want to try to improve on those two class-act businesses using maintenance assessment funds?

The Golden Hill CDC recently started paying a two-man crew to operate a weed-whacker to cut back weeds in the space between the sidewalks and the street. They show up to whack, even if nothing has grown back since the last time they whacked. This irritating crew does not sweep up after themselves. Instead they aim their noisy gasoline-powered leaf blower at the homeowner's driveway. The homeowner comes home to find leaves and other debris -- things that weren't in the space between the sidwalk and the street to begin with -- covering his or her driveway. The homeowner is left to sweep up the mess made by the maintenance assessment district.

Moreover, the Golden Hill CDC uses maintenance assessment district funds not to maintain the neighborhood, but on projects that then require ongoing maintenance. They placed completely unnecessary very large pots with flowers on sidewalks (where did they get the permission to do that?), which require regular watering. They installed dog-poop plastic bag dispensers, which must be continually refilled, and which responsible dog owners don't need. They drilled holes through the cement sidewalks (where did they get permission to do that?) to install trash receptacles which must be regularly emptied, even though the city provides and maintains its own trash receptables. They installed cigarette butt receptables which must be continually emptied and which responsible smokers don't need.

The Golden Hill CDC used maintenance assessment district funds to engage in "beautification" projects, such as the placement of banners on utility poles (where did they get the permission to do that?), identifying the neighborhood, and drilling holes through the cement sidewalks (where did they get permission to do that?) to install uncomfortable metal benches which rarely get used.

If the truth be told, the Golden Hill maintenance assessment district is not about the neighborhood of Golden Hill. It's about the cash-strapped Golden Hill CDC, which will lose one of its revenue streams once the maintenance assessment district stops operations.

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sswvjt Oct. 23, 2011 @ 8:02 p.m.

"MAD's are very, very valuable tools," Gloria said." Valuable to whom, Councilman Gloria? Certainly not to me, as a homeowner and landlord. I haven't seen one benefit, outside being privileged to subsidize business owners and the City. If the City had behaved ethically at the start of this whole fiasco, MAD never would have gotten off the ground. It'll be interesting to see how long it takes to refund our money. Think I could get away with witholding the bogus business tax I have to pay every year for the privilege of renting (and maintaining) my duplex?

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goldenhillhomeowner Oct. 23, 2011 @ 9:05 p.m.

The Golden Hill maintenance assessment district never did pass the smell test.

It left the community fractured and divided. That's because the Golden Hill CDC, operating with a grant of approximately $45,000 from former District 8 representative Ben Hueso, shoved the maintenance assessment district down the community's throat without public debate.

The recipients of the seed money (the Golden Hill CDC) spent Hueso's money sending mailer after mailer to Golden Hill homeowners, touting the benefits of a maintenance assessment district, making promises as to how the district would be managed and how the funds would be spent.

It was pure propaganda. None of the seed money was shared with the opponents of the district, who couldn't match the firepower of a $45,000 budget.

Nor was the proposed maintenance assessment district debated in any public forums. There was exactly one public forum (at Brooklyn Elementary School, now the Einstein Academy), sponsored and controlled by Councilman Hueso, who permitted written questions from the audience, but no public comment. When audience members tried to speak to express their opposition, they were told to be quiet.

The official City voter guide to the ballot contained only arguments in favor of the maintenance assessment district, none against it.

The entire process bore an eery resemblance to Soviet-style government. One side got to speak. The other side got silenced.

This silencing continued after the maintenance assessment district took effect. Elections were conducted to select the advisory board. When the Golden HIll CDC didn't like the advice it was getting from this independently-elected board, the Golden Hill CDC disbanded the board, replacing elected members with appointed members. Once again, it bore a resemblance to the way Soviets did things, not how Americans do things. Complaints to Councilman Hueso went ignored.

Fortunately, when all the arguments were presented ot the California Court of Appeal, the court found the maintenance assessment district illegal, and ordered it disbanded. This is a fortunate resolution. The maintenance assessment district was a cancer on Golden Hill and on democratic principles. It needed to be gotten rid of. And hopefully soon it will be gone.

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nostalgic Oct. 24, 2011 @ 4:41 a.m.

To paraphrase a quote, "The GH MAD is a large body of money completely surrounded by people who want some."

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BlueSouthPark Oct. 24, 2011 @ 8:37 a.m.

Great comment. Perfectly describes what it WAS and is no more.

The most amazing thing Todd Gloria said at the meeting was that the City could possibly arrange "mediation."

Mediation??? Between which parties? Between the three justices in the appellate court, the Superior Court judge, and the CDC board members? I'd like to see how that goes!

The people who filed a suit, because the assessment was unconstitutional, won. The courts mediated for them.

Save the City's money, Todd.

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BlueSouthPark Oct. 24, 2011 @ 1:16 p.m.

Dorian, thanks for the last paragraph in your article. It's good to know how the City and the County Property Tax Division will handle the assessment on this year's tax bill.

Both the City and the County have the mailing addresses of all of the assessed property owners in the GGH district, so I hope the City takes the initiative to mail out refunds. It would be too cute by half if the City sets it up so that property owners have to apply for a refund.

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concerned Oct. 24, 2011 @ 1:41 p.m.

I did not support the MAD because I read about the formation guidelines of MADs and it was clear the the GGH-CDC and the City were not within the legal boundaries. Like a respondent above, I attended the Einstein Academy meeting. Property owners who had an opposing view were NOT permitted to speak. It was a stunning rebuke to democracy. And in its wake, caused a coalition of property owners who fought against it. Both court decisions found what most owners knew from the beginning; too bad so much time and money were spent to make it clear to the few who couldn't read and comprehend the law. I say enough already. Sell the material purchased with MAD funds, add that to the taxes collected, refund the total and let's get on with our lives.

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GHH Oct. 24, 2011 @ 1:53 p.m.

Councilmember Todd Gloria said, himself, of the city: "We are deficient in some of the base line city services, let alone higher level of services..." So, Councilman, fix the organizational problems and the ever-growing bloat within the city. That is your job!
Don't ask Golden Hill property owners to pony up more good money for you to throw after bad. With our property taxes, we are already paying for basic maintenance work to be done throughout Golden Hill. Instead of simply doing the work that the city was paid to, it kept part of the MAD funds - just because it could - and created yet another unnecessary layer of bloat by bringing the CDC on board - an obvious "jobs for the boys" sop to someone's pals.
The CDC's mismanagement of the MAD funds is well known and documented - spending large amounts of the funding on their own marketing, including nearly $5,000 for producing a kicky logo, and even more on flyers and billboards promoting themselves. None of that benefitted Golden Hill in the least, and it was NOT the use intended for those funds!
The CDC arbitrarily hiked the amount to be collected, in direct contradiction of the budget approved in the Engineer’s Report. They brazenly ousted the Golden Hill property owners who were ELECTED by the community to serve on the MAD Oversight Committee, and replaced them with their own APPOINTED committee, which, of course, didn’t hold them accountable for anything - a classic "bait and switch" maneuver!
And, to ensure their own perpetual job security, they splurged on unwanted, unnecessary, and frivolous beautification gestures which created yet further on-going maintenance that they could charge for in perpetuity. The CDC is the proverbial self-licking ice cream cone! Finally, the Golden Hill MAD's unethical attachment to our property tax bills further shows it for what it is: a naked end-run around Proposition 13 and the law. Get your own house in order, and get to work - efficiently and effectively. Don't even think of starting up a new MAD - Golden Hill is well aware of this boondoggle. We didn't stand for it the first time, and we certainly won't again!

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 25, 2011 @ 6:14 a.m.

We Need Your Help - COURTS VACATED - GGHCDC MAD - illegally established by the City of San Diego

California Superior and Appellate Courts Ruled 3-0: Greater Golden Hills Community Development Corporation’s Maintenance Assessment District (GGHCDC MAD) was illegally established by the City of San Diego; ordering a Writ of mandate, vacating the City’s Resolution establishing the District (thus it never legally existed), and invalidating all assessments. The City of San Diego also was found to have illegally Gerrymandered Balboa Park, the City Golf Course, and several other city lands/properties into the YES VOTE to purposely and greatly skew the vote into the City’s favor to establish its own MAD. The citizens NO Vote would have clearly and in large numbers won if it was not for this and other acts of corruption and malfeasance by the City of San Diego and its employees.

The City’s Bureaucrats and City’s Attorneys are again playing Games and bad faith. The City has no intent to comply with and/or accept the intent, spirit, and letter of their Rulings [writ of mandate vacating the City's Resolution forming the District and invalidating the assessments], nor returning the invalidated assessments to property owners.

The city’s contempt for the COURTS and CITIZENS is exhibited by the city’s assertions to the public of not accepting the court’s ability to vacate, but will instead resend the GGHCDC MAD District effective at some later date (after spending all the money & CYA)? That after Judge Whitney’s ruling the City in fact increased the assessments and allocations to District, assisted their agents to disband the voted oversight committee, and eased spending restrictions.

The city’s contempt for the COURTS and CITIZENS is further exhibited when after the APPELLATE ruling the City’s responsible executive Beth Murray, Deputy Director Economic Development Division, directed the vacated District to spend the invalidated assessments. Neither Beth Murray nor the City Attorney has yet to inform the County Tax Collector of the Courts Rulings, this to stop the mandatory collections of these assessments and to issue corrected tax bills (since both courts were very clear as to city’s criminality and malfeasance).

Because of the City’s continuing Bad faith, to specifically ask to retain judicial oversight, order the city to return all funds, and to immediately order the city to notify in writing the property owners of their rulings and how and when the monies will be returned.

ACTION TODAY CITIZENS NEED TO WRITE THESE JUDGES (Referencing D057004)

The Honorable, Richard S. Whitney, Judge; Superior Court of San Diego County; Post Office Box 120128; San Diego, CA 92112-0128

The Honorable, Joan K. Irion, Associate Justice ; Patricia D. Benke, Associate Justice; Gilbert Nares, Associate Justice; 4th District Court of Appeal, Div 1; 750 B Street, Suite 300; San Diego, CA 92101

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 25, 2011 @ 10:39 a.m.

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 27, 2011 @ 8:10 a.m.

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