COMMENTARY | COLUMNISTS | JIM SCHMIDT

Three positive June votes in San Diego

Two of three positive happenings in San Diego in June were great "yes" vote actions by the San Diego City Council and the other a 69 percent "no" vote on Prop H in Coronado where a "yes" vote would have supported the continuation of a plan to build a tunnel under Fourth Street.

The tunnel idea was to try to relieve traffic in Coronado. The vote was both a Coronado and a regional issue as most working commuters cannot afford to live in Coronado and drive to their jobs by using the San Diego Coronado Bridge. The concerns were that the $600 million tunnel would probably have to be funded by bridge tolls ($5 each way). Tolls would also be a negative for hotels, restaurants and small businesses as many people would not go to Coronado if they had to pay a high bridge toll. SANDAG made the Bridge "toll free"in June 2002.

One San Diego City Council "yes" vote at the council meeting was to approve a "quiet zone" on the train tracks in downtown San Diego to end terrible "train noise" that is now a problem with trains pushing their devices to "sound off" during night hours. The second City Council "yes" vote was unanimous to approve a study on the urgent, and important, need to increase the spending cap for the Centre City Development Corp. to help continue the additions of more and more downtown housing projects (including many affordable projects) and commercial projects. Also, another important possible matching funding from the cap increase could be for a new Chargers stadium next Petco Park, which did receive a lot of matching funds from CCDC.

The train noise problem is a big negative for many downtown San Diego residents and hotel visitors and convention attendees, many of whom will never return to our San Diego area. Many residents, business leaders, developers of downtown housing projects, civic leaders, the San Diego Chamber of Commerce and others came in support of the end of train noise. The noise has continually woken-up both residents and hotel guests during the night. A future plus will be more hotel guests, conventions and events which will result in continual increases in TOT and sales tax revenues for the city. The City Council gave its support. There will be a quick study done and some of the funding can be provided through CCDC.

The support of a study for the additional funding of CCDC so that they can continue and even increase the great work that CCDC has done to lead the way for San Diego to get the nickname "America's Finest City" was very, very strong. Many business leaders and civic organizations were there to urge the City Council to go forward and yes they did in their "yes" vote after the discussions. It was obvious that council members either personally remember or have been told over and over again how CCDC has been a major factor in having downtown San Diego shifted from being called a blighted area.

One underlying factor to more funding for CCDC is the need in our region for housing, particularly affordable housing. Our regional growth is continuing with an important fact that in 2010 people in our region over age 65 will increase 134 percent. The major impediment to new housing projects has been continual opposition in the city of San Diego and the county resulting in the delay, delay, delay processing of new projects that escalates home prices with housing shortages for both homes and apartments. The problems have been made worse by the big risks for new projects in process before selling homes from things like the recent sub-prime lending fiasco and the 18 percent home loan interest rates in the 1979-82 "tight money" period. CCDC has led the way in fast processing and their continued success needs not only to be continued but to be escalated as our region's housing needs will continue. To repeat, the downtown area is planned for a lot of affordable housing.

A real plus for a downtown stadium for the Chargers is their idea to have a roof on the stadium. It then can be used all year and tie into events at the Convention Center and hotels. Unlike the Padres ballpark, which is wide open, Chargers stadium seating will be close to the field. It can handle events like the NCAA Basketball Championship game, which was at our Sports Arena in 1975. The Orange and Green Line trolleys are next door. It will mean more and more TOT and sales taxes, a real bonanza for our city.

Coronado's "no" vote will now allow the city to work closely on other traffic solutions with the Navy, SANDAG, CalTrans District 11, Union leaders, the North Island Association, Coronado Chamber of Commerce, civic leaders and others as a team. There are a lot of ideas on the table.

Goal: Positive traffic solutions that will help relieve traffic problems without hurting commuters or businesses and will help the City Coronado and its residents. Thanks to the San Diego City Council and Coronado voters for the June pluses.


Schmidt is a retired banker and attorney who is active with the chamber of commerce and in civic affairs in transportation, housing and sports. He also serves on two public boards and was Gov. Reagan's appointee to three positions in state government.

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