San Diego's Centre City Development Corp., the agency responsible for downtown redevelopment, went on the offensive Thursday in an attempt to beat back criticism that it is not pushing hard enough for new housing--a pillar in the strategy underlying downtown's renewal.
"There's some confusion about our commitment to housing," CCDC President Howard Busby said at a press conference called specifically to rebut charges by some city officials, downtown residents and at least one CCDC board member who have questioned that commitment.
"Different people have different degrees of patience," Busby said, noting "we're proud of what we've done in housing."
It wasn't by mere coincidence, for example, that the late afternoon press conference was followed less than an hour later by the official ground-breaking of two new CCDC-assisted apartment: the 192-unit Market Street Square, which faces Horton Plaza on G Street, and the Marina Palms, a 180-unit development also on G Street across from the high-rise Meridian condominiums.
Both apartment projects are being developed by private companies, who received help and subsidies from CCDC, primarily to acquire the necessary property.
As part of its offensive, CCDC officials said the agency has set aside $20.5 million in next year's budget to subsidize seven new residential projects that are expected to produce a combination of about 500 new living units in apartments, condominiums and single-room occupancy hotels. Exact project locations have not yet been determined, although all are south of G Street.
CCDC also announced that during the next 60 days it will seek proposals from developers for construction of a 24-unit, privately owned apartment project at the southeast corner of Third Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way, across from the Horton House and Lions Manor senior citizens housing complex.
The property is owned by the city and had been earmarked for an apartment building until the developer, Ribant Development Co., abandoned the project.
And in yet another jab at its critics, CCDC introduced a final schedule setting up discussion and approval of the controversial urban design guidelines for the Marina Redevelopment area, where the bulk of new downtown housing is slated to be built.
Janay Kruger, a CCDC board member, has been critical of the CCDC staff and the agency's top executive, Gerald Trimble, for what she called a deliberate stall in approving the proposed guidelines, which, among other things, set building height limitations and restrict commercial and hotel development.
According to the schedule presented by Busby, Trimble and CCDC board member Jan Richard Anton, discussion of the guidelines is set for June 27, followed by tentative approval on July 18 and adoption on Nov. 7.
Last week, Kruger said she was going to present her own Marina urban design guideline ordinance at the June 27 meeting. Efforts to contact her late Thursday afternoon were not successful.
The $20.5 million that CCDC has budgeted for housing projects is the most the agency has set aside for housing since it was established in 1975, according to Busby. The sum represents 55% of the agency's total budget. The money is to be used for a variety things, including buying land, demolition, upgrading streets and water, sewer and utility lines and for administrative costs, according to Trimble.
So far, including housing projects already completed, under construction or committed for development, the agency has helped subsidize--directly or indirectly--the development of 1,454 housing units downtown, according to CCDC officials.
"It's been a hard sell . . . but it's coming around," Busby said of the uphill struggle to attract residential developers to downtown.