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State budget stall projects in North County cities

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The cities and towns of San Diego's North County have taken strongly to the idea of redevelopment, with dozens of affordable housing, infrastructure and beautification projects underway.

As with the rest of the county, and indeed all of California, however, the future of these projects is in doubt.

"We'll have our ransom papers on August first," is how Jenny Peterson, communications officer for the city of San Marcos, put it. Peterson was referring to the day the state was scheduled to let municipalities know how much redevelopment funding Sacramento planned to claim and redistribute to plug its own budget gaps. Cities and towns will then spend the rest of the summer and into the fall deciding which projects it can still afford to fund, and which will need to be scaled back or cancelled.

Redevelopment is a program in which a municipality can take tax revenue from a certain district or neighborhood, and designate it to go into rebuilding that same area. It's designed to encourage private investment in underdeveloped or blighted areas by spending public money on infrastructure, and occasionally investing in projects themselves, especially if they include affordable housing.

In San Marcos, current projects underway are largely to foster the creation of a real downtown, which the bedroom community lacks. There is the Creek District project, which would improve the infrastructure on 214 acres, reducing flooding and laying the groundwork for 2,300 dwelling units and more than 1 million square feet of retail space.

Then, near California State University, San Marcos, there is the University District. This is a separate plan that would connect 194 acres near the college and create a walkable green mixed-use district.

"These are two projects that community is very supportive of," Peterson said." Residents are very excited to see them come forward, but like I said they’re at stake."

San Marcos, along with other communities, did indeed get their "ransom papers" on August first and found it owes $17.5 million. This number, as with all the figures the state released, are subject to appeal, and could even be turned over by a lawsuit, but most municipalities are accepting them.

There is plenty at stake in Poway as well, where the city is using redevelopment to attract business with millions of dollars of infrastructure improvements like lighting, drainage sidewalks and improved park space. The city is also helping to fund affordable housing.

Some of the bigger housing projects under construction or in the design stages in Poway include The Meadows, a project designed to create 30 low to moderate income housing units, especially designed for first time buyers; a 77 town home project called Brighton; a 60 unit senior housing development called Town Center; a 65 unit apartment complex called Monte Vista; a 52 unit multi-family housing development called Oak Knolls Villa; and a similar sized project called Orange Gardens.

Poway has been told the state needs $10.2 million out of its redevelopment funds.

There are nearly 30 redevelopment-funded projects underway on the waterfront in Oceanside. Some of the biggest include an 110 room Holiday Inn hotel, currently under construction; a Hyatt Place condo hotel; a 2,000- -square-foot, mixed-use project called Trade Winds; the massive Beach Resort Hotel, which includes a 289 room hotel, a 47 room boutique hotel and 48 time shares; and the City Mark mixed use project, which includes 231 condos, a 124 room hotel and a 48,000-square-foot commercial center.

Oceanside was given a bill of $2.8 million.

Carlsbad is redeveloping its waterfront as well with a beachfront hotel project. In January, developers broke ground on a $75 million resort will feature 215 guest rooms, a 5,900-square-foot restaurant, a 5,000-square-foot day spa and 15,000 square feet of meeting space just steps from South Carlsbad State Beach, made possible by the South Carlsbad Coastal Redevelopment Area. The resort is scheduled for completion in 2012.

In addition to the beachfront, Carlsbad has plans for about a dozen other redevelopment projects. Some of the biggest include a 12,719-square-foot, mixed-use project containing 1,913 square feet of retail space and six condominium units on Lincoln Street; a three-story, mixed-use project with 1,150 square feet of commercial and retail space and nine condominium units on State Street; a three-story, 23,000-square-foot, mixed-use building on Carlsbad Village Drive; and a mixed-use hotel on Ocean Street that would include 39 hotel rooms, 10 condos, two affordable apartments, a rooftop restaurant and two levels of underground parking.

Carlsbad's bill was $1.3 million.

The city of Escondido is no different from the rest of North County, and has managed to already complete a significant number of projects before the state came after redevelopment funding. The city still has plans though, including: Juniper Senior Village; a 47 unit housing complex for moderate to very low income tenants; Via Roble, which will displace some very low income units and contain about 46 moderate to low income units; and the Las Ventanas project, which is designed for 20 moderate to low income units, and 60 very low income units.

Escondido is also using redevelopment dollars to rehabilitate some existing housing developments. Although, the state has asked the city for $9.4 million to be returned.

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