Six San Diego City Council members Monday scheduled a special meeting to give final approval to five large development projects, prompting charges from another council member that the hastily planned session is an attempt to help developers circumvent slow-growth initiatives on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Council members Gloria McColl, Ron Roberts, Wes Pratt, Ed Struiksma, Bruce Henderson and Judy McCarty invoked a little-used section of the Municipal Code allowing them to call a council meeting. It is scheduled for Wednesday.
The purpose of the meeting is to vote a second time on five large development projects, totaling 8,270 new homes in coming years, that the council initially approved Sept. 20 in return for promises that developers will build parks, roads, schools and other public facilities.
Under the City Charter, the council must approve ordinances twice, with the second vote coming at least 12 days after the first. Ordinances take effect 30 days after the second approval. Development agreements must be approved by a council-passed ordinance.
Race Against the Clock?
With this week’s council meeting canceled because most council members are out of town, the routine “second reading” would normally be held at the next regularly scheduled council meetings of Oct. 10 and 11. As a result, the development agreements would become effective after the election.
Councilman Bob Filner, one of the council’s staunchest slow-growth advocates, charged that the special meeting was scheduled so that the ordinance approving the development agreements would take effect before the Nov. 8 vote on the two growth-cap plans, allowing the developers of the projects to claim in any subsequent lawsuit that they are exempt from the terms of either plan.
Proposition H, sponsored by the City Council, would cap home building citywide at 7,590 homes annually for at least the next three years. Proposition J, placed on the ballot by Citizens for Limited Growth, would limit residential construction to as few as 4,000 homes annually by 1991.
“I’m incensed,” Filner said in a telephone call from Montreal, where four council members are attending a conference on public transit. “There is no reason to have a special meeting when most of us are away, except for the fact that they want the law to take effect before the election.
“They are operating as paid agents for the developers,” Filner added. “The only difference between this Wednesday and Monday is that crucial 30 days.”
McColl Aide Denies Charge
Marla Marshall, an aide to Deputy Mayor Gloria McColl who organized the drive to gather council members’ signatures for the meeting, denied Filner’s charge.
“I would not think (McColl) would do this on behalf of developers,” Marshall said. “Her sentiment was that, as soon as the quorum could be found, they would go ahead.”
McColl, who is also in Montreal, sent O’Connor a memo Monday saying that “on Wednesday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m., there will be enough members of the council available to constitute a quorum,” allowing the council to schedule a special meeting to “clean up some unfinished business of the people,” since five council members will be returning from out of town.
Aides to O’Connor and two attorneys who represent developers contended that Filner’s suspicions are unfounded because the five developers were forced to sign agreements requiring them to abide by the results of the Nov. 8 vote on the two slow-growth plans.
But Filner said that quick passage of the ordinance would give “the developers another weapon in the suit against us.”
Paul Downey, O’Connor’s press secretary, said the mayor tried to schedule the special hearing after the Sept. 20 vote, but she could not put together the quorum of five council members required.
O’Connor was particularly vexed earlier that Councilman Ed Struiksma, whose district contains three of the five projects, would not change his plans for trips to London and Montreal to return for the vote.
“Now, suddenly, after two weeks of our office trying to get a meeting, they’re (other council members) suddenly able to find a quorum,” said Downey.
Downey said O’Connor has not decided whether to juggle her plans in order to attend Wednesday’s meeting.