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Council OKs Commercial-Residential Use : Unused Freeway Route to Be Developed

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Times Staff Writer

A controversial 33-acre corridor in Southeast San Diego--once targeted as part of a proposed freeway linking Interstates 5 and 805--will undergo commercial and residential redevelopment after sitting vacant for years, the City Council has decided.

Two decades after the California Department of Transportation bought the land and bulldozed 280 homes to make way for the freeway, the council Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize a team of three developers to negotiate with the Southeast Development Corp. (SEDC) and the community on details of the mixed-use development.

The team of Pacific Scene, Patrick Development and Virgil Gardener Building & Supply was chosen by the SEDC from a list of developers to build the project, expected to create more than 400 permanent jobs and 550 temporary construction jobs in the low-income area.

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“This was the culmination of many years of effort in trying to develop the corridor . . . I’m quite pleased with it,” said Councilman Wes Pratt, whose district encompasses the long-disputed area.

Pratt added that he hopes the homes will woo back some of the young professionals who have left the area.

The plan is expected to create 204 moderately priced single-family homes, a 72-unit senior citizens’ complex and more than 110,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space by the early 1990s.

These developments will occur on land that was the subject of a protracted controversy over the planned construction of a 1.2-mile, six-lane route--dubbed California 252. National City officials were the chief proponents of the freeway, which they hoped would alleviate street traffic that they claimed came from San Diego residents.

The battle was finally put to rest in October, 1986, when the city purchased the land, which runs along what was once Alpha Street, from the state and earmarked it for redevelopment.

The development team, chosen from 10 such groups after a 10-month selection process, now has 90 days to produce a fine-tuned plan for the area. The developers will pay the city $3.2 million for the land.

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The late-afternoon council vote followed about 40 minutes of discussion by community advocates and opponents. Among them was the Southeast Community Planning Group, which wanted the area to be devoted entirely to single-family residences, as it was in 1968.

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