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Sounding Board: Eminent Domain/Redevelopment

Daily Transcript Question: Should the cities in San Diego County use a combination of eminent domain and rezoning as public policy tools to achieve higher density development in their communities?

Eminent domain can be a benefit for redevelopment areas that have a purpose and some type of momentum. But every effort should be avoided to take someone's property, it is in some ways un-American.

Property owners should be given every right to be able to redevelop their property by redevelopment agencies and be given a piece of the action if the property is condemned for a bigger and better project.

--Perry Dealy

Executive Vice President, Manchester Resorts

Daily Transcript Question: Under the plan being considered by the City Council, the next mayor of San Diego will not play a role in the city's redevelopment process. What are the specific implications of removing the mayor as a participant in the redevelopment of San Diego?

Removal of the mayor from the redevelopment process, with the void the mayor's absence leaves no elected policy maker responsible for important redevelopment decisions affecting the city as a whole -- merely discloses one small part of the problems raised by recent changes in government structure.

Those changes were recommended by well-meaning citizens groups and adopted by the electorate, without in depth consideration of the form of municipal government as a whole. The concept that local government should imitate state and federal governments is seriously flawed in the first place. Together with the balkanization of political power caused by adoption of council election by district, removal of the mayor from the legislative branch; i.e., the City Council; leaves the void which now gives concern in the redevelopment process.

But that concern shouldn't stop there. It prevails as to all land use matters and to other important policy making considerations. One has to wonder why government on the local level should be organized to resemble state and federal governments, when local government's purpose and services are fundamentally unique from the other two. But that's a subject for further, more detailed, debate.

John W. Witt

Attorney, LFA&P. Former San Diego City Attorney

San Diego needs strong leadership. Our form of government works best when there is a strong leader that effectively communicates citywide and regional goals and marshals the political support to carry them out.

I would see very little impact to most local redevelopment as it is now implemented in the city of San Diego. The local councilor is really the driving force behind redevelopment in each district. As long as that representative is still in a position to be a decision maker and champion a project, then the process should move ahead.

That being said, there may be situations where citywide and regional planning issues should take precedence over local decisions. The need for a new football stadium, severe local "NIMBYism," airport relocation, base closures, and the lack of affordable housing are some examples. In these cases, it would be very helpful if the city had strong leadership, one voice and a coordinated citywide approach.

So, I guess I would not be in favor of taking the mayor's office completely out the redevelopment loop, but rather to better define the type of projects and issues that would trigger their involvement.

--Jim Darrish

Senior project manager for Property Development, SDSU Research Foundation

I cannot fathom a sensible public policy reason why we would want carve out this city's most senior elected leader from critical land use and redevelopment decisions. In my view, it is a counterproductive step toward reducing a publicly accountable official to a ceremonial role.

The next mayor should be given direct authority over the staff of the city's redevelopment efforts, with the same authority and responsibility that has been given to the mayor for land development and planning in the city generally. The strong mayoral form of government has the benefit of making one elected official, the mayor, directly accountable for the actions and efforts of city staff, with legislative oversight by the City Council. We need the same "strong executive" authority in place for our city's redevelopment staff.

Without the mayor's authority, it will not be clear who is in charge and responsible for day-to-day redevelopment agency staff actions. The proposal, in my view, is a recipe for poor land use planning and coordination.

-- Robert M. Howard

Partner and chair of Environment, Land & Resources Department, Latham & Watkins LLP

Under California law city councils decide land use and planning decisions. Since the mayor of San Diego will no longer sit as a council member he or she must find other means to influence the decisions made. There are formal ways to accomplish that -- Los Angeles has one model that seems to work -- but whether formal or not politics being politics it is unlikely any city council would choose to shut a mayor out from critical land use decisions.

--George Mitrovich

President, The City Club of San Diego

New Section: Sounding Board

Have Your Voice Heard!

The Daily Transcript introduces Sounding Board, a regular opinion page feature focusing on current issues. Send your responses to soundingboard@sddt.com.

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