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Sacramento Report: Gonzalez Sets Sights on Civic San Diego

Gonzalez bill could put Atkins in a tough spot, taking stock of the latest round of political musical chairs and more in our weekly Sacramento roundup.

San Diego’s most attention-getting lawmaker is turning her attention to Civic San Diego.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez announced a bill Thursday that would give the City Council final say on decisions by Civic San Diego, a city-owned nonprofit that handles planning and permitting downtown.

AB 504 would limit the organization’s attempts to expand into neighborhoods like Encanto and City Heights — a priority of Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s — and weaken its role downtown.

The city lets Civic San Diego handle downtown land-use decisions. Civic San Diego also now competes for federal tax credits to fund projects in low-income areas.

Gonzalez’s office says the organization’s “potential authority to dramatically engineer the future of neighborhoods with little supervision or accountability presents a serious conflict of interest.”

She said Civic San Diego is currently operating in a legal gray area anyway.

“I think we’re protecting the city from itself,” she said. “The city won’t be happy, but we’re putting in place a way for Civic San Diego to continue to operate in a legal fashion.”

She’s right that the city isn’t happy.

Faulconer spokesman Charles Chamberlayne said the bill would undermine the city’s attempts to use Civic San Diego for economic development.

“This legislation is another example of state interference in local control and will cripple Civic San Diego in its work to invest in neighborhoods like Encanto and City Heights,” he said in a statement.

There’s already some discrepancy over how the bill would affect downtown development.

Chamberlayne said making the city sign off on all Civic San Diego decisions would mean development would take longer.

That might be the case if low-level approvals currently made by Civic San Diego could be appealed to the Council. Now, Civic San Diego can approve those projects as long as they’re consistent with the downtown community plan.

But Gonzalez said any project that conforms to a downtown-wide environmental review previously approved by the Council could still be approved by Civic San Diego.

Additional approval would only be required of projects that deviate from existing plans.

Regardless, Gonzalez shouldn’t have much problem getting the bill through the Committee on Local Government, where she’s vice chair and ranking Democrat on a majority-Dem committee.

This really is a San Diego-specific bill. There don’t appear to be any other former redevelopment agencies handling permitting decisions for their cities.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins will have an interesting decision, then, once the bill emerges from committee, given expected opposition from Faulconer and anyone else looking to maintain Civic San Diego’s role downtown.

Game on, 2016

An Assembly member is running for U.S. Senate. The Assembly speaker might run for state Senate – eventually. A state senator is thinking about the board of supes. Can’t keep San Diego’s never-ending game of political musical chairs straight? John Hrabe’s got you with this comprehensive guide to who’s running for what – plus the rules that bind each candidate’s moves.

It used to be that every politician was eyeing a move to higher office. That’s mostly changed, thanks to San Diego’s relatively young congressional delegation. Now, Hrabe writes, the game is mostly about staying in a safe seat for as long as possible.

Claire Trageser over at KPBS highlights some other potential 2016 moves, including a possible challenger to Democratic Rep. Scott Peters.

Jacquie Atkinson, a Republican Marine vet who’s openly gay, is considering a run. It’s good timing, as the California Republican Party voted to officially recognize a gay GOP group last weekend (but their platform still includes anti-gay positions). Democrats have already put Peters back on their list of endangered species.

Quick News Hits

Los Angeles held an election, and no one came. (L.A. Times)

State Sen. Ben Hueso wants to know why taxpayers are picking up the bill for the California Public Utilities Commission’s criminal lawyers. (U-T San Diego)

California Republicans, seizing on last year’s landmark Vergara ruling, this week “unveiled a legislative package to overhaul how the state evaluates, dismisses and grants tenure to educators.” (Sacramento Bee)

On Homemade Swimsuits and Dr. Seuss

#DearMe videos are the new #ItGetsBetter. Speaker Toni Atkins’ video, in which she gives advice to her younger self, is pretty heartwarming. In it, she talks about having to wear a homemade swimsuit as a young girl, because it was all her family could afford, and not realizing that other kids all around her were struggling with their own problems. She also borrows from Dr. Seuss: “There’s no one you-er than you. And that’s a wonderful thing.”

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