COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | RON CARRICO

Let's build something!

What is it about this town that almost monthly there is another proposal for a building project we just must have. Sometimes with the logic San Diego cannot be a "world class city" unless we have (fill in the blank).

Apparently the proponents of a new library, city hall, convention center, airport, football stadium or whatever are not noticing the city is broke. They apparently don't see that the budget is in the red and the city is billions in debt to the municipal employees pension plans. Let's face it, San Diego is on the brink of bankruptcy.

Let's think about these dream projects.

A new library? That would be nice, but somehow the city needs to raise about $100 million to raise what is more of a edifice to offsetting the cost of infrastructure for the Padres ballpark. And putting a new library (and charter school) next to a baseball park has got to be one of the dumbest ideas because 81 days per year the library/school would be inacccessible during games.

A new city hall? What's wrong with the 1960s building we already have? Not fancy enough? Too bad. Too small? How about this idea, in these days of cutbacks -- cut every city councilperson's staff by two or three people.

Incidentally, if you have ever done business at city hall you will notice that no one is working very hard in that building. That city hall needs a fire sprinkler system does not seem an insurmountable problem. Finally, as suggested by a local cartoonist. The W Hotel would make a fine city hall and in this economy it might be purchased for taking over the payments.

An expanded convention center? Please, we cannot out build Las Vegas, or most other destination cities that eye the convention market. I have been to the San Diego Convention Center many times and I have never seen it completely in use. I notice the latest idea was that there would be a new hotel built which would provide enough Transient Occupancy Tax revenues to pay for the bonds to build the expansion. That is exactly the same muddled logic they used to sell the last expansion and then used the exact same numbers to sell the ballpark.

OK -- lets think a minute, just because you build a hotel room do customers automatically fill it? If you build it will they come?

Notice that all of these projects mainly serve the downtown? Just like the current convention center and Padres ballpark help downtown businesses particularly the Gas Lamp district. By the way, if the ballpark is responsible for all the building in East Village -- how do we explain the stunning rebuild and prosperity of Little Italy? The downtown people that want most of these big projects have well connected lobbyists that can be convincing to city council people who look to the next election.

A new airport? Well, the last idea of a multi-billion dollar project in the South Bay was thought to be stupid even by theSan Diego Union-Tribune. But there will always be someone who will have some self serving idea of how to solve an airport problem that doesn't exist. More plainly the airport is fine where it is; there is no where else to put it; the amount of airplanes in and out of Lindbergh has hardly risen in 30 years (larger airplanes) and the airlines will never make San Diego a hub due to our location.

While we are laying off teachers and closing libraries let us not speak of building new libraries, convention centers and a city hall.

But let us reflect for a minute why in this 21st century is San Diego such a nice place to live. I will argue it is because our forefathers failed to get the western terminus of the railroad in the 19th century. And the biggest port on the West Coast after the Balboa Park Exposition in 1915. How would a one-mile-square rail yard fit in downtown or 200 ships in the bay help our quality of life? San Diego would be more like Long Beach or Los Angeles.

San Diego is a nice place to live and we should not madly search for the next thing to build. In the first place, we don't need any of the items mentioned above. Secondly, we don't have the money.

If we are to build anything in these next few years let us think of building some common sense, our bank balance and realize that our last three big projects Chargers stadium, Padres ballpark and bigger convention center have had ruinous financial effects.


Carrico is a San Diego attorney and can be e-mailed at roncarrico@hotmail.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.

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