Jeff Graham on the fourth-floor patio at Civic San Diego headquarters.
The San Diego City Council on October 23 unanimously approved the mayor's appointment of Jeff Graham as Civic San Diego's new president. Graham had been vice president of redevelopment at the disbanded Centre City Development Corporation.
In an interview with Graham at the downsized office suite at 401 B Street (where they are now subleasing unused offices), he responded to a question about criticism CCDC received for being too cozy with developers. He said that during his five years at CCDC and now Civic San Diego, “I would disagree that we have favored developers. Our track record on affordable housing is looked up to throughout the state….
“I've got a really challenging role here,” he said. “Our greatest funding source for affordable housing and neighborhood improvement has been taken away. So we have to see how we're going to fund these improvements.”
One new way, he explained, was through federal tax credits.
“We did apply for 'New Markets Tax Credits.'" That program, established by Congress in 2009, rewards investment in low-income areas with tax credits against federal income taxes.
“We applied for $65 million,” Graham added. “It can't be spent just on affordable housing. You have to demonstrate that you are creating permanent long-term jobs with it. So, the projects we applied for range from a new healthcare facility to a rec center in Southeast San Diego.” He stressed that Civic San Diego expects to work on areas besides downtown and the southeastern part of the city.
Graham's current salary is $138,000, but “his future salary as president has not yet been determined,” said Lisa Greeson, assistant VP of human resources. While budgeted at 32 people, the agency currently has 26 employees and is “actively recruiting for two project managers,” Greeson stated. “I’m not sure at this time if/when we will fill the remaining positions.”
Civic San Diego has taken over both CCDC and the Southeastern Economic Development Corporation. It will continue to administer the downtown San Diego parking district and manage the construction of parks and fire stations.
Graham was chosen from three candidates named by a nominating committee. The committee had one representative selected by the mayor, two representatives from the city council, and two representatives selected by Civic San Diego's board.