In a deal that helps the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation at Euclid and Market, San Diego County is buying some of the center’s excess acreage to the east, with plans to tear down the Harriet Tubman-Cesar Chavez Community Center and build a $74 million Live Well Center on that site and four adjacent parcels.
On Tuesday, the county board of supervisors voted 5-0 that their project would have no net impact on the neighborhood, which would wrap up the environmental effects study but for one complication: some of the neighbors have retained attorney Michael Aguirre to challenge the environmental impact report in what may be the start of a fight.
Though Aguirre’s letter has a technical, environmental perspective, arguing car trips and green house gases, Aguirre sounds a different battle cry in a phone interview.
“To tear down a symbol of two people who were instruments of unity in this community is thoughtless and insensitive,” Aguirre says. “To use taxpayer dollars to bail out a nonprofit set up by an affluent foundation is really questionable.”
The county also committed Tuesday to paying $1.7 million for the five parcels held by a limited liability corporation, West Side Creek. The limited liability corporation’s head is Reginald Jones, who also heads the Jacobs center. When the Jacobs family set up the foundation that was recognized by the IRS in 1989, they bought 60 acres of land near the intersection of Market and Euclid streets. The foundation promised to turn the land over to the community. About 40 acres of that land remain with the foundation.
The Jacobs foundation planned to fund the establishment of well-functioning community groups and the things neighborhood centers bring. But the foundation always had an exit planned. Meanwhile, the Market Street center is deeply in debt and has had internal shake-ups as a result.
The county is buying four of those acres for its Live Well Center, which will house the county’s health and human services offices for behavioral health, the family resource center, public health nurses and the county’s probation services.
County officials say that the new center will include a large community space — larger than the Tubman-Chavez center — in the building they plan to put in. They will consolidate other probation offices including one from Bay Boulevard in Chula Vista, a juvenile office and some personnel from the downtown office into the four-story, 80,000 square-foot building. The probation department supervises people with misdemeanor and felony convictions.
Of the 80,000 clients nearby, most receive at least one of the services that will be offered there, county officials say. Many of the probation department clients live within two miles of the proposed offices, officials say. It’s close to a trolley stop. They are predicting that around 600 people will come to the building each day, and of those, 50 will be people coming to the probation offices.
But people in the neighborhood worry that moving services for parolees and probationers will simply anchor the community to poverty and crime.
“It’s not the kind of place that attracts development and other employers, and the jobs that do come with it are not for people from the neighborhood,” Aguirre says.