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For residents of Golden Hill and South Park the madness that was the Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District is nearly over, at least they thought it was.

It has been more than one month since Superior Court Judge Richard Whitney issued the final judgement to vacate the Maintenance Assessment District and invalidate the assessments yet the City has made little progress in actually dissolving the district.

In a March 12 letter, Beth Murray, Deputy Director for the Economic Development Division, informed the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation that the City would be terminating its contract on March 20 and requested that it transfer all remaining funds, data, records, and financial documents relating to the MAD.

"...The Court's judgement eliminated any value of performance under the Contract by invalidating the Contract's fundamental purpose and sole objective," read Murray's letter.

And while the letter was a sign that the City was acting on the court's decision to vacate the MAD, it may be a long time until residents receive any refunds.

A vote by the City Council is needed to end the MAD and stop assessing property owners once and for all, however, the council is not scheduled to discuss the item during next week's council meetings and will not have a chance to until they return from a two-week recess on April 9.

That's bad timing for residents. On the next day property taxes are due, which may leave them on the hook for another payment to a now-defunct and invalidated MAD.

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Comments

madhatter March 17, 2012 @ 3:15 p.m.

Once again, thank you Mr. Hargrove for keeping us, the members of this community informed. Indeed, we have been treated as if we were living in the Middle Ages, "ruled" by a bunch of "lords" (the lords in this case were no others than the people working for the MAD CO., who wanted to make quick money from the "serfs", that is us, property owners in Golden Hill and South Park).

That the City Council have delayed the vote to end MAD is certainly "bad timing" for us, the residents but, perhaps, it's a very good timing for the MAD.CO, so they can keep spending our money, no?

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angelsflight2 March 17, 2012 @ 3:22 p.m.

Will this boondogle ever be over? We voted no originally since the representation was weighted toward business owners, but the assessment was payed by homeowners (taxation without representation). In the last few years, we have seen about four trash receptacles and some scraggily flower pots, hardly the beautification of our neighborhood and hardly worth the money we were assessed. How many trash receptacles and flower pots would we have gotten if so much money hadn't been spent in court? Not only should they not assess us in our next tax bill, someone should investigate why this whole initiative was started and who ended up with the money.

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MadAsHell March 17, 2012 @ 3:35 p.m.

Many thanks for your coverage of our otherwise peaceful neighborhood. We will wait with baited breath to see if the City ever/finally ends this MADness. Please stop robbing us of more taxes and give us our money back!

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nostalgic March 17, 2012 @ 3:40 p.m.

This assessment district was declared invalid by the courts. The city knew they were facing giving money back. Instead, they just kept spending. To quote Todd Gloria, the City Council member for this area, “… residents may not see all their money returned because some of it has been spent …. We’re going to do what the law requires us to do. We will do everything that we are required. We will work to make sure that everything the court has ordered is done.” This is presented as though the city has a choice. They will do nothing to make it right unless it is under Court Order. The CITY could have placed the money in an escrow account after the assessment was ruled invalid by the Superior Court. They didn’t. They figured if they spent it all, they wouldn’t have to give it back. Not every community can go to court. Otherwise, San Diego would have to give up all of these assessments.

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dchand March 17, 2012 @ 6:14 p.m.

I have a saying--If you want something done,do it yourself, but don't ask the government to do it. I was not aware of the GH MADD. When I got my property tax bilL, I just paid it. When I was aware of it, I looked and I was billed $1,700.00 a year. I have a private trash company pick up the trash (Allied Waste). I hire a tree company to trim my trees. I pay some one to remove graffiti. There are no street lights on 22nd street, so I put up lights on my building to shine on the street and sidewalk, and I pay the electric bill. I have a gardener for the gardening and he sweeps the gutters. The city was ripping me off. I do not expect to get anything back, but I will be happy if I am not billed the $1,700.00 any more, for nothing. My thanks to Barbara and the people that told me about this and did something about it. dchand

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GHH March 17, 2012 @ 9:06 p.m.

Why isn't the City Council scheduled to discuss the Golden Hill MAD during next week's council meetings? It's not as though they've had no notice of this issue. The legal case to overthrow this corrupt scheme has been going on for more than three years, and the Superior Court ruled that the MAD no longer exists, as a matter of law, on February 9th - more than five weeks ago.
This is further evidence, along with its crooked court appeals, that the City has no intention of discontinuing its collection of MAD funds from Golden Hill residents. It is simply more of the City's deliberate delaying tactics, to ensure that they get one final cash injection from our April property tax payments. Note that the City has given the CDC 30 days from their March 20th contract termination date to return all (unspent) funds. I smell a City-sanctioned spending spree coming on!
Todd Gloria, the MAD's Schemer in Chief, already announced confidently and publically that we're not likely to see all of our money returned because some of it has been spent, and he clearly has no interest in ensuring that more of our good money isn't thrown at the CDC after the bad. The Golden Hill MAD was dual taxation, crony capitalism, gross government waste, fraud, and a naked end run around Proposition 13 - all rolled into one. The City Councilors who illegally imposed this scam on Golden Hill residents should be unceremoniously unseated, prosecuted, sanctioned to personally refund all funds - spent or not - and barred from ever holding public office again. At what point, following their election to represent us, did they feel that it was OK to rule us, and spread our wealth, instead? San Diegans and Californians beware - there are many more MADs throughout the San Diego County, and throughout California. If they were truly for the good of our communities, they wouldn't be attached to our property tax bills, preventing us from protesting them without risking the loss of our homes. If anyone tries to form a MAD within your community - fight it like the cancer that it is, and kill it dead!

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madhatter March 18, 2012 @ 5:53 a.m.

GHH, you couldn't have said it better! When we'll have to vote remember whom to choose as our representatives.

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goldenhillhomeowner March 18, 2012 @ 10:56 a.m.

In any discussion of the soon-to-be-defunct Golden Hill maintenance assessment district, it's important to include a reference to the Greater Golden Hill CDC (Community Development Corporation)("GGHCDC") and the process by which the maintenance assessment district was approved by homeowners.

The "GGHCDC" is the entity that came up with the idea of a Golden Hill maintenance assessment district. To further its agenda, the "GGHCDC" received a $40,000 "grant" from City Councilman Ben Hueso to pay for one-sided mailers which were sent to Golden Hill homeowners to persuade homeowners to vote in favor of creating the maintenance assesment district. Homeowners received numerous one-sided mailers for a period of approximately six months. Homeowners were told over and over again why they should in favor of creating a maintenance assessment district.

A key feature of the ballot measure was the option it gave homeowners to designate the "GGHCDC" (rather than the city) as the agency to manage to day to day operations of the maintenance assessment district. The mailers sent to homeowners presented this option as advantageous because it assured homeowners "local neighborhood control" over the maintenance assessment district.

The official, taxpayer-funded, ballot material sent to Golden Hill homeowners by the City of San Diego contained only arguments in favor of establishing the maintenance assessment district, and none against.

Homeowners who opposed the maintenance assessment district were not given even a small portion of -- much less an equal share of -- the $40,000 "grant" from Councilman Hueso and were effectively silenced. They had no resources with which to warn fellow-homeowners why they should vote against the ballot measure and why they should vote against placing day to day control of the maintenance assessment district with the "GGHCDC".

For these reasons, the vote to establish the Golden Hill maintenance assessment district, and to designate the "GGHCDC" to have day to day control over the operations of the maintenance assessment district, was conducted like one of those one-sided elections in third-world dictatorships where only one party's candidates appear on the ballot.

Once the maintenance assessment district was approved (by a very narrow margin), for the next four years, the "GGHCDC" had control of the maintenance assessment district's budget (which came to approximately two million dollars over four years, at $450,000 a year in revenues), as well as its day-to-day operations. That four-year history remains to be told and merits further investigative reporting by The Reader.

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goodlead March 18, 2012 @ 11:38 a.m.

The question now becomes whether the city will hinder or faciliate the process of returning five years of assessments to property owners. In a similar case involving downtown property owners, Council Member Todd Gloria tried to weasel out of it by claiming the city didn't have enough money. We'll be watching, Todd.

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BlueSouthPark March 18, 2012 @ 2:04 p.m.

Another question is whether the city will demonstrate that it has decided to become lawful, instead of lawless. They have behaved like a mafia so far.

Every current councilmember who is presented with a new unconstitutional scheme to assess residential property owners and hand the money over to a business group should heed the warning letter sent in May of 2007 to councilmembers Hueso, Atkins, Peters, et al.:

"Municipal Code Section 65.0202, as amended in 2003 [MAD code changes, on recommendation of former City Attorney Casey Gwinn, based on PBID laws as proposed by Marco LiMandri, New City America], includes provisions which on their face violate Article XIIID, Section (2)(1), of the California Constitution."

Both Superior and Appellate courts found exactly that.

Todd Gloria, on Mar 2 2012, recommended to the Independent Budget Analyst, Andrea Tevlin,that the FY2013 City budget "should fund an adequate level of resources to assist individual neighborhoods in the formation of special assessment districts." Tevlin included that goal in her recommendations to the Council on March 9 2012.

Marti Emerald, on Jan 24 2012, issued a memo to councilmembers that a priority of her committee, Public Safety & Neighborhood Services, is "A complete overhaul of the City's Maintenance Assessment District policy."

Let's hope they are recommending honest assessments and overhauls, and abandon their lies and deceits. Changing municipal code doesn't provide a legal loophole. No matter what a lawless City Attorney says. It does not.

Bob Dylan said, "To live outside the law you must be honest." Get some honesty, council. You aren't held legally accountable for your actions, and so feel you live outside the law, but try being honest for a change.

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InOmbra March 18, 2012 @ 4 p.m.

Absolutely correct that municipal law and state law can't circumvent or supersede the Cali constitution (Art XIIID). If the SD council is desperate to get $$, as they always claim when getting behind the special assessment scams, "because the city is broke," then they should focus on supporting revision of Prop 13 by constitutional amendment. General fund dollars are needed for real things: streets and highways and sidewalks and parks and trees...assessment dollars are wasted on propping up and paying business groups' rent, their phone bills, their parking tab when they go to meetings, their boards and directors, and on their banners, promotions, fancy street items in front of their businesses. Most of the business owners involved in the illegal MADs don't own the property they are in and so don't pay assessments. But the SD council is their big friend, giving it all away to them at property owners' expense.

LA mayor Villagairosa says in the LA Times, 3-12-2012: "At issue is a provision in the constitutional amendment that prevents sharp increases in property taxes ... intended to provide homeowners with financial security, but businesses have used legal maneuvering to avoid costly reassessments. As a result, homeowners have paid an increasing share of property taxes, according to a recent report from the California Tax Reform Assn., a Sacramento-based advocacy group."

"What was conceived of as a measure to relieve the tax burden on homeowners has had the effect of benefiting commercial property owners at the expense of homeowners."

So HEY, council, Sanders, Goldsmith, and all of you business groups, community development corporations, realtors, and developers, get behind revising Prop 13, wontcha??? Why don't you hire a consultant to do that????

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concerned March 19, 2012 @ 10 a.m.

I agree and support all the previous comments. I share the views that the MAD was illegally formed, collected and spent approximately $2 million and while I've paid my "share" of the assessment, I have received NO benefit. The City of San Diego owes me and my neighbors a complete refund. The City Council needs to resolve this matter immediately.

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GHH March 20, 2012 @ 10:36 a.m.

Why aren't the city councilors held legally accountable for their actions? I'm certainly held accountable for my actions on the job - both by those who elected to employ me, and by the laws of this state and country. I'm forced to undergo annual ethics training in my work, and there are certainly legal consequences for my not behaving ethically on the job. The US military has it right with its rules for demanding conduct becoming of an officer, because of the public trust that officers hold. It insists that its officers must not only commit no impropriety in their duties, they must not even create an appearance of impropriety, with the latter being grounds enough for dismissal. These city councilors, who have taken an oath to uphold the public trust, would not pass either test of military conduct. They smell as fishy as old bait, and they reek of ulterior motives - to increase their power, influence, wealth, and job security in the little fiefdom where they rule residents, rather than representing them - JUST LIKE A MAFIA!

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montabriant March 31, 2012 @ 1 p.m.

I have lived in South Park since 1997 and have participated in many efforts to clean it up. As a homeowner, I voted for the MAD and was thrilled when it passed. To those who say that it was only paid for by the homeowners, you are mistaken. The business owners paid a much higher annual assesment than the homeowners did-- and rightly so, because most of the trash is generated in the business corridors and lessens as one moves further away from those areas.

And for those of you who say you have not benefitted-- I hope you enjoy seeing the trash pile up on our streets now that the trash cans will not be emptied. In fact, the trash cans are now slated to all be removed by the city, because the city will not emptly them. You folks won't realize what you had until it's gone...

For the years the MAD has been in operation, I have been thrilled to see them often emptying cans, sweeping streets, and dragging couches and old tires out of our canyons and hauling them away. I live off the beaten track, over on 32nd street, and I have seen them working around here fairly regularly. Once I had a tree branch that needed trimming. I called them up and they were there WITHIN THE HOUR pruning the branch.

A couple of years after the MAD passed, I opened a business in South Park. Now you will see many of us business owners emptying these cans until they are removed. Those of us who live and work in South Park are proud of our neighbhorhood and like to keep it looking nice, but I don't know how well a few little shop owners like me (who generate no street trash) can keep up with trash generated by all the groceries, liquor stores, and food vendors around, who generate drink containers, cigarette butts, candy wrappers, etc.

Anyone who's lived in this neighborhood 15 years or more and been involved with trying to improve it knows how far we have come-- this is a really sad situation. : (

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nostalgic March 31, 2012 @ 8:58 p.m.

Well, to set the record straight here, the vast majority of the assessments are paid by homeowners to benefit businesses. Please contact the sanitation department if your block is overflowing with trash. We have a city to deal with these things.

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BlueSouthPark April 1, 2012 @ 3:37 p.m.

Monta, You say "The business owners paid a much higher annual assesment than the homeowners did"...You are quite wrong. I assume you mean "commercial property owners." Business owners do not pay property-based assessments. Only if you own the property do you pay. You do not own the property housing your business, so the commercial property owner from whom you lease is the one who paid. You may have paid indirectly by higher rent, and I hope so. I'm sure your landlord would just as soon not pay (and voted "no," by the way") and would rather you incur the cost of enhancing your storefront. You want expensive, decorative, redundant trashcans, located right near the city trash can, to ornament your business? Then buy them yourself and empty them yourself. You want a colorful banner outside your business? Buy it. Pay for the permits and take care of it all. You want a bench? Buy it. You want to pick up the phone and have private tree care? Hire someone. There are plenty of people looking for work. All of the people on 32nd Street have gardeners or do their own gardening in the easement in front of their property. You said "Once I had a tree branch that needed trimming. I called them up and they were there WITHIN THE HOUR pruning the branch." Really? It better not have been in your yard, because that would have been clearly illegal. MAD work is legal only in the PROW. And this MAD wasn't legal at all, period.

The vast majority of assessed properties were residential, and on residential streets there are no trash cans, benches, planters, banners, etc. That means there is no special and proportional benefit to each residential property, which is what the law requires. Those PROW commercial-benefiting items cost residential property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars, but went only to benefit you and other business owners, who, again, need to remember that you did not get assessed for them as business owners. Very few of the area business owners own any property in GGH. They live elsewhere.

I'm really tired of hearing all of the complaints from business people, who benefited greatly at the expense of others. You all conveniently forget that the reason the court ended this was because it was fraudulent and in violation of law. Does that not matter to you???? There's something really wrong with this casual attitude to law, process, justice, fairness. I would say it's a selfish, dangerous way to think.

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