The Downtown San Diego Partnership, a nonprofit business-minded organization, is stepping up its defense of Civic San Diego, the private nonprofit in charge of permitting in select neighborhoods and handling redevelopment functions throughout the city.
According to an April 13 disclosure, executives from the Downtown San Diego Partnership are busy lobbying mayor Kevin Faulconer, council president Sherri Lightner, and newly elected council member Chris Cate to reject any proposal that would "create additional appeals processes or other layers of additional oversight for Civic San Diego decisions."
The partnership also wants the city to give Civic San Diego the authority to "create and administer their own community benefits policy." The policies are a new approach from Civic San Diego to adopt individual neighborhood development plans, as opposed to reviewing each on a project-by-project basis.
The city's agreement with Civic San Diego to handle permitting and redevelopment is unique. No other cities or counties have handed over similar duties to a private nonprofit group. Doing so has some elected officials as well as members of Civic San Diego's own board worried that granting Civic San Diego additional authority coupled with less oversight is a recipe for disaster.
Last month, as reported by San Diego CityBeat, assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez introduced a bill in the state legislature that would require city officials to sign off on any land-use decisions made by the private nonprofit.
According to a statement from Gonzalez’s office, the "goal of the bill was to clarify the ability of non-profit groups like Civic San Diego to perform permitting work for local governments, as it’s uncertain what legal authority in California law the organization has to approve building projects on behalf of the City of San Diego after redevelopment’s demise."
More doubt was cast on Civic San Diego on April 10, when one of its boardmembers, Murtaza Baxamusa, along with the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council, filed a lawsuit aimed at defining the role of Civic San Diego in order to avoid any abuses of power or conflict of interest.
"To date, the Board has approved millions of taxpayer dollars and New Market Tax Credits to fund downtown area projects with virtually no oversight from the City Council," reads an excerpt from the April 10 lawsuit.
"In essence, [Civic San Diego's] board operates without accountability to the City Council, and thus without accountability to the taxpayers whose dollars it spends. The fact the Board apportions taxpayer dollars should be enough to demand the City Council's oversight. Yet [Civic San Diego's] operations demand close watch for a multitude of reasons.
"In fact, the public has been silenced through the operation of [Civic San Diego]. Taxpayers cannot be heard by the City Council on appeal, and they cannot be heard at the ballot box. Thus, neither [Civic San Diego] nor the City Council have to account for the planning and permitting decisions of the [Civic San Diego] board. [Civic San Diego] does not have to answer to the City Council, and the City Council does not have to answer to its constituents."
Despite the lawsuit and upcoming Assembly bill, San Diego's mayor and business organizations such as the Downtown San Diego Partnership are standing by Civic San Diego.
In an April 10 U-T San Diego article, Faulconer, through a spokesperson, gave his support to the organization.
"...Mayor Faulconer remains a strong supporter of Civic San Diego and its mission to create more affordable housing opportunities and spur economic development in San Diego neighborhoods."
The lobbying efforts from Downtown Partnership also show that the business community supports more authority and less oversight.