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Cites Conflict of Interest Concerns : Development Corp. President Won’t Seek Reelection

Times Staff Writer

For the last six years, Peter Q. Davis has been among the handful of people on the front lines of the effort to revitalize downtown San Diego, helping to craft policies that have transformed it from a place showing widespread signs of decay into one showing much evidence of renewed life.

And it is that new vitality, ironically, that has put Davis in a quandary. With the boom downtown has come more business for the Bank of Commerce, of which he is president. The problem is that Davis is also president of Centre City Development Corp., the nonprofit agency created by the City Council to guide downtown redevelopment, and as such, he may be faced with conflicts of interest.

That thought in mind, Davis announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection as CCDC president next month, and he hinted strongly that he may not finish his current board term, which expires in May, 1987.

Davis, who removed himself from discussions between CCDC and developers of a $36-million complex to be called City Plaza, said in a meeting with reporters that a “growing downtown” and a “growing bank” will inevitably lead to more conflicts. The project was scrapped earlier this month when the developer, Southwest Estate Group, defaulted on its agreement with CCDC.

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Davis also said that Shearn Platt, a San Diego lawyer who is promoting the idea of building a large hotel in the Marina redevelopment area, is a client of the bank.

The prospect of more such conflicts, Davis said, will place him in a position where he can’t adequately do his job either as a banker or as a public servant.

Davis, 45, has served the longest of anyone on the CCDC board, which was created in the mid ‘70s. He also said that he decided not to seek reelection as CCDC president--a figurehead position, though a highly visible one--so that others on the board can have a chance in the post. His most likely successor, Davis said, is Howard Busby, a construction contractor who is now the agency’s vice president.

The board is changing in the way it perceives its role in downtown development, Davis said. It has gone from a body comfortable to rubber-stamp its staff’s decisions to one that has become much more active in questioning the city’s redevelopment strategies, he said. Now, Davis said, the CCDC board is more inclined to look at developers almost as adversaries. When he first was appointed to the board, Davis said, “any building was looked on as an improvement.”

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There is a feeling among some of the newer board members, Davis said, that building downtown has rebounded to the extent that CCDC no longer has to beg developers to come there--that the agency is, in fact, now in a position to have considerable leverage over them.

Nevertheless, Davis said, there are still too many blighted areas, and special inducements are still needed to woo developers into those areas. “We haven’t got the snowball all the way up to the top of the hill,” he said.

One such place, Davis said, is the area east of the Gaslamp Quarter. Without the kind of changes that occurred west of the Gaslamp--for example, Horton Plaza--the Gaslamp will “never be a nice area.”

And before he leaves the board, Davis said, he would like to see the Marina urban design and zoning ordinance enacted. The proposal calls for creation of a mostly residential neighborhood from Horton Plaza to the waterfront. Davis said he hopes the proposal will be in its final form by the end of the year.

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As he talked about CCDC, Davis cautioned that it should not be thought of as a permanent agency. It was not intended as one, he said, and it probably should be phased out in 10 years or so, when it has completed what it was set up to accomplish.

“The agency shouldn’t get in the position where they run downtown,” he said.


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