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The Downtown San Diego Partnership is willing to spend any amount of money, taxpayer money that is, to cut down on panhandlers in downtown and to end homelessness.

The agency is looking for a person to fill a newly created $110,000 a year position as Director of Homeless Outreach for the Clean and Safe program, also known as the Downtown Property and Business Improvement District.

The new post will be the eighth salaried position for the Clean and Safe program. The other positions include the Executive Director, Director of Operations, Director of Finance, District Director, Human Resources Manager, Homeless Outreach Lead, and Executive Assistant. Some downtown residents say the number of employees is just another example of the Downtown Partnership running wild with taxpayer funds.

According to the PBID's annual budget for this current fiscal year, approximately 38 percent of revenues are spent on salaries. That 38 percent, or $1.53 million, is without the salary of the Director of Homeless Outreach.

In recent months board members and executives at the Downtown Partnership have shown their preference to hire as opposed to spending revenues from assessments on specific benefits.

In March of this year, board members for Downtown's Clean and Safe program stated that they aren't in "the business of taking care of public restrooms," thus rejecting a proposal to use $24,000 to pay for yearly maintenance for a Portland Loo in Downtown. The loos are considered a much needed and long-delayed amenity for downtown.

The board members, however, felt the $4 million in property-based assessments collected each year through the Downtown PBID should not be used to maintain restrooms.

A better way to address homelessness in downtown, said board members, was to use PBID money to create a new $110,000 per-year position called the Director of Homeless Outreach. The new position, according to documents passed out during a May 14 meeting, will be responsible for supervising the current Homeless Outreach Lead and oversee the Downtown San Diego Partnership's Movin' Home Strategy.

Over the past year, executives at the Downtown San Diego Partnership have done everything in their power to fill the void left after the dissolution of San Diego's Redevelopment Agency. In October of last year, those same executives spent $19,000 in PBID assessments on a consultant tasked with developing a business plan for the Downtown Partnership.

Kathy Casey has been a long-time critic of the Downtown San Diego Partnership's management strategy. In the past, Casey has objected to the use of assessments to pay for high-priced consultants, or for the agency's flashy website and logo.

"It's fine if the Partnership wants to hire another full time homeless outreach worker, just don't pay for it with with tax dollars," writes Casey in a May 18 email.

Casey's thinking seems to be in line with California's Property and Business Improvement District Law of 1994. The law is strictly meant to provide improvements and promote activities. The assessments benefit real property or businesses are not taxes for the general benefit of a city, but are assessments for the improvements and activities which confer special benefits upon the real property or businesses for which the improvements and activities are provided."

Non-profits in charge of managing Business Improvement Districts and other assessment districts have come under fire in recent years, locally and in cities throughout the state. Last year, residents in Golden Hill and South Park were successful in dissolving an illegally formed MAD in their community. In that case, a judge questioned the difference between general benefits versus actual benefits for those residents paying the tax. And, just last month a judge in Los Angeles dissolved a Business Improvement District for that same reason.

Local attorney and open-government advocate Cory Briggs says the same can be said for the management of the PBID by the Downtown San Diego Partnership. When asked about the decision to create a Director of Homeless Outreach, Briggs replied, "It is totally illegal."

Janelle Riella, spokesperson for the Downtown San Diego Partnership, did not respond to a request for comment.

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Comments

nostalgic May 28, 2013 @ 6:38 p.m.

These assessment districts always provide jobs for friends of friends. And if they are not hired directly, then the contracts go to a friend. Even the minimal contracting oversight provided by the city itself is lacking once the money flows to a community non-profit, who may or may not file IRS tax returns as required. Then a new board takes over, and all is forgiven by the city, and everything starts all over again.

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aardvark May 28, 2013 @ 11:46 p.m.

Sort of reminds me of the salaries that CCDC used to pay before they were eliminated (only to become Civic San Diego or whatever they call themselves now).

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FatCatSegat May 29, 2013 @ 7:38 a.m.

Good intentions with absolutely no desire to accomplish the difficult task at hand correctly. Guess what smart people, you've got to put more public restrooms downtown! Tell you what, lets take a short walk around the civic center complex where yes, there is already a public restroom. That ain't dog poop in those plant beds or smeared butt level on the walls. The partnership has suggestions, even demands but cant afford to man a couple new restrooms? C'mon man! How about $60,000.00 a year position to get it done, and two $25,000.00 a year spots to man these restrooms. The partnership has got the funding, the know how,(maybe). This is America's finest city. We are the sixth largest city in the country. Can we simply stop with the small town mentality and start thinking big and towards the big picture? C'mon Man!

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BlueSouthPark May 29, 2013 @ 9:07 a.m.

It is laughable that DSDP picks and chooses among the illegal uses for the special assessment it collects. The board members seem to think that the more obvious and news-catchy issue of assessment money use on public bathrooms is a good illegal expenditure to avoid, but the dull issue of personnel and staff and salaries, no matter how illegal and beyond the mandate of the laws governing use of special assessments, is one that no one will fight or notice. The forgot about The Reader and dogged reporting by Mr. Hargrove. And hats off to Kathy Casey, for not giving up in the face of the powerful and rich downtown business interests.

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BlueSouthPark May 29, 2013 @ 3:02 p.m.

The DSDP's business plan is bigger than you might think. Since April 2, DSDP has held 18 "town hall" meetings, reaching out beyond downtown to expand their influence in communities from North County to South Bay. There's another one tonight in City Heights and five more to follow.

Why is DSDP promoting itself all over the county?? Their website presents their "planning" vision as if DSDP is an interlocutor for the City, although I'm sure you wouldn't want an organization with this board planning your future.

Nor is the presentation of the DSDP website as professional as an official government website. It is creepily amateurish, given the money they spend on staff. For example, on the Town Hall page, the opening paragraph reads

Over the next 40 years, the San Diego region is expected to grow exponentially. We’ll need to accommodate an additional 1.3 million residents, 400,000 housing units, and 500,000 jobs—and all of the basic services that come with a growing economy. To do this, we must focus on innovative solutions and an urban core that will allow us to accommodate this expected growth, and house and employ thousands of San Diegans. Because there are no more land tracks for which we can expand, we must go vertical. Our very own Downtown San Diego has the ability to do just that.

Oddly, two other links on the Town Hall page open with the identical paragraph. Is creating a variety of propaganda all that hard for an organization whose entire board consists of people who have become wealthy creating propaganda? And "no more land tracks for which we can expand??? Assuming they mean tracts and moving on, "we must go vertical"!!! And then we are told that "Our very own Downtown San Diego has the ability to do just that." That doesn't make a lot of sense, given that they are buzzing about the county selling the vertical solution.

So what are they doing in PB, OB, Point Loma, Rancho Bernardo, ... everywhere? You decide.

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tiibear May 29, 2013 @ 8:05 p.m.

Never seen more blatant corruption in my life!!! They're just like lizards...they get their arses cut off one way and they grow a new tail. Amazing how snakes can turn so many shades of gray!!! Pathetic!!!

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monaghan May 29, 2013 @ 8:27 p.m.

Great report, Dorian Hargrove. A growing (!) list of Downtown Partnership freeloaders? It is scandalous. Who's responsible for this? If it's illegal, as lawyer Briggs says, where's the City Council and the Mayor on this travesty?

Send the Downtown Partnership people en masse to Third and C Streets any Sunday to mingle in the throngs of filthy homeless men and women with carts and plastic bags and dogs and kids, lined up against the eastern wall there, just waiting for nightfall. It is beyond Dickensian.

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nostalgic June 4, 2013 @ 2:10 p.m.

Well, one good thing about Mayor Filner is that he does something instead of studying it to death. Take care of the seals - he said something like "I can go to Home Depot and get a piece of rope myself and it will be done." All this action makes people nervous I guess, who are used to another study as every solution.

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