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If you’ve paid attention to any development news in town (like, say, a massively expensive proposed Chargers stadium, to be paid for in part by the average San Diegan’s taxes), you’ve likely seen the acronym CEQA thrown around.
This is the California Environmental Quality Act, a state law that requires developers to examine the environmental impact of their proposed projects, as well as any alternative plans for the designated plots of land. We’ve reported before on what a hurdle this can be for businesses, and how some can even use it as a weapon to beat back the competition.
Now an L.A. developer is hoping it’s found a way to leapfrog CEQA all together. Maya Srikrishnan, one of our reporting interns this summer, takes a look at Caruso Affiliated’s plan for a 200-acre plot of land near Carlsbad’s coastal wetlands. Caruso is one of the country’s largest mall developers, and it’s the same group responsible for the lavish Grove and Americana shopping centers in L.A. and Glendale, respectively. It wants to turn about 15 percent of that Carlsbad land into a mall, leaving the rest for agriculture and trails.
Thanks to a state Supreme Court ruling, the signatures Caruso has gathered so far from Carlsbad registered voters might be enough to avoid putting a measure up for a full vote or undergoing a CEQA review. Caruso’s been burned before by CEQA – or, more accurately, by competitor Westfield Corporation, which also happens to own a mall in Carlsbad.
Caruso still needs to lobby the City Council for the three votes necessary to pass the measure in the next Council meeting on Aug. 25. But the project, of course, isn’t without its critics.
Words are neat, huh? It’s a gift to be able to artfully craft phrases to cover the hidden costs and consequences of any one proposal. And my, how Mayor Kevin Faulconer has mastered that gift with his report on the new stadium plan!
The mayor calls the proposal “an opportunity to get a better deal for taxpayers” than what we lose every year on Qualcomm Stadium. But, as Liam Dillon points out, he doesn’t say it would cost less than what we pay for the Q. In fact, if this plan goes through, we’ll pay more.
The proposal caps public contribution so there won’t be any budget surprises down the road. But the envisioned $200 million public contribution works out to be about $13 million a year for the next 30 years. Right now, we’re set to lose $12.8 million in operating and maintaining the Q. Add to that the $4.8 million we still have to pay each year through 2027 to cover the last Qualcomm Stadium renovation, and the $150 million from the county that could be going toward general services.
Faulconer and friends did build in a few provisions that protect taxpayers. The Chargers would be responsible for operating the new stadium and any construction cost overruns. “But make no mistake,” Dillon writes, “this plan is a major taxpayer investment – one larger than city and county taxpayers are already making on football now.”
• Councilman Todd Gloria’s office highlighted the “obvious improvements to the existing bad deal for taxpayers” in a statement Monday, urging San Diegans to “be cautious before embracing any deal that’s placed before them.” He also mentioned the work needed in “crumbling neighborhoods” around the city. Oh, right – those.
• In other Los Angeles sports news, the city’s getting close to an agreement with the U.S. Olympic Committee to be the country’s candidate to host the 2024 games. Early projections of cost to the city run between $4 and $4.5 billion dollars. (Los Angeles Times)
• A transportation funding plan by the coalition group Fix Our Roads would allocate more than $107 million to San Diego County, with just shy of $63 million going to the city of San Diego. Transportation funding will be at the top of legislators’ priority list when they return from recess on Monday. (Union-Tribune)
• “Jackass” star Steve-O is out on bail after an anti-SeaWorld stunt in Hollywood. This one was decidedly more involved than the “Sea World sucks” sign vandalism he pulled off this time last year. (Los Angeles Times)
• Bank robberies are down in San Diego (and around the country) and the FBI has no idea why. (Union-Tribune)
Catherine Green is deputy editor at Voice of San Diego. She handles daily operations while helping to plan new long-term projects. You can contact her directly firstname.lastname@example.org or 619.550.5668. Follow her on Twitter:@c_s_green.