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DeMaio announces commitment to open spaces

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With City Heights’ Swan Canyon as a backdrop, San Diego City Councilman and mayoral candidate Carl DeMaio announced Monday his commitment to preserving over 10,000 acres of canyons.

The announcement by DeMaio piggy backs on a bill sponsored by Christine Kehoe, SB 1169, which would allow San Diego to dedicate the open spaces through state statute and protect the land from development, sale or exchange unless residents approve of such moves by a two-thirds majority.

DeMaio said he’ll send a signed a letter, along with Eric Bowlby, executive director of San Diego Canyonlands, to Gov. Jerry Brown asking him to sign Kehoe’s legislation. He also pledged to make the legislation a priority in the first week of his administration if it isn’t enacted by the end of the year.

“If it falls in my lap, I’ll make sure we won’t let it lapse,” he said.

The foundation of an illegally-constructed building sat in the canyon space behind DeMaio’s press conference. San Diego Canyonlands had hoped to receive redevelopment funding to remove the remaining structure and restore the habitat, but now would need to compete for grant funding to take care of it.

DeMaio said once the canyon acreage is dedicated, the city can work with nonprofits to secure the necessary funding. A central tenant of DeMaio's mayoral campaign is increasing the city's cooperative efforts with nonprofits to restore services lost to budget cuts.

“Getting the space dedicated puts it into a ‘green lock-box,’” DeMaio said.

Bowlby said his organization’s goal, by restoring habitat and building a connected series of bike and walking paths through various canyons, was to connect the open space with the city’s urban landscape to give the city a new amenity.

For DeMaio, the public show of interest in preserving open spaces was yet another movement toward issues that hadn’t been part of his primary campaign, which was focused on “pensions and potholes,” as he says.

There’s nothing contradictory about DeMaio’s interest on preserving open spaces, but it does reflect his campaign’s efforts to appeal more to the ideological center now that he’s facing Democratic Congressman Bob Filner in November.

In the primary, he was carried by voters who identified with his plan to overhaul the city’s pension system and his promises to put saved funds towards repairing the city’s neglected roads.

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