Commentary by Louis Rodolico
San Diego has been collecting Development Impact fees (DIF’s) for the Regents Road Bridge for 60-70 years. City managers are uncertain of the exact amount, but it could exceed 100 million dollars. DIF’s are addictive to municipalities. For over half a century the city let the DIF collections ride while the neighbors fought it out. The city concurrently nurtured a litigious cottage industry that delayed construction in order to improve the property values of a vocal minority. The attached map shows three roads with bitterly disputed bridges in City Council District 1.
Staffs superiors are telling them to concede to the anti-bridge, Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) group. The Mayor and Council give staff cover by; putting a muzzle on public safety officials and installing a secretive Planning Group consisting exclusively of NIMBYs who could be trusted not to raise the public safety alarm. The Fire Chief and our ambulance provider AMR did not testify at the December 5th council meeting where the bridge was voted down, that is telling. The Fire Chief did testify at the Planning Commission Hearing (link below), which voted 6-0 to build the bridge.
City staff soils themselves when confronted by the anti-bridge NIMBY’s in University. I have witnessed anti bridge bullies screaming at city employees. NIMBY’s; 1) Forced the local UCCA paper not to publish articles favorable to the bridge, 2) Foul Nextdoor newsfeeds to get them shut down, 3) Recently sent angry letters ridiculing the Union Tribune for mentioning that a GoFundMe has been set up to finance legal fees to keep the bridge on the plan. Bulling has worked; the EIR that staff produced offers no information on the risk of poor ambulance outcomes, associated with not completing our roads and bridges. Staff is not afraid of the citizens who want the bridge since they stand for the general welfare, public safety, and are nonthreatening. There is allot of money driving this conflict and staffs jobs are on the line.
Follow the money. UTC Retailers on Genesee Avenue want the bridge off the plan so all traffic-customers are funneled up to them. They are putting public safety last. The 600 million dollar Westfield development is a hungry monster that needs cars and trains to feed it. This project was rejected by the local Planning Group in 2008. This started a process whereby the city installed a new planning group, stocking it with NIMBYs who would remain silent on the Westfield expansion if the bridge were not built. Westfield Mall paid the half million for the flawed EIR to remove the Regents Road Bridge. Westfield and other developers are entitled to a refund of about half of their DIFs payments, but the bridge must be removed from the plan before they can collect (See DIF Link). The balance of the DIF’s goes into the city general fund and can cover the city’s pension debt. If the bridge is removed from the plan staff will likely remove the bridge abutments, rezone, redevelop and or sell the land. After that there would be a cry to widen Genesee, Lobbyists will have found a new meal and we will hear anthems like: “widen Genesee so we can put public safety first”. Only then will Public safety officials be allowed to testify before a council vote. The Genesee widening will drive even more traffic up to the retailers, “again putting retailers first”. That’s the plan.
These three bridges should have been built during development. Neighbors fighting distract us away from what Westfield and staff are doing. When we disagree internally, others see the division and step in to help themselves. In support of common sense and public safety, we need to help the Citizens for the Regents Road Bridge with an on-line donation at: https://www.gofundme.com/cftrrb
American Medical Response (AMR) is our ambulance provider and they have not responded to my requests for information, but they do testify regularly in council chambers. Sherri Lightner did not have them testify about ambulance service times and the Regents Road Bridge. What was Lightner afraid of? Would AMR have wanted our road system completed? How would this relate to ambulance service times? Building the Regents Road Bridge removes traffic from Genesee, makes it safer for our students and also improves ambulance service times everywhere. Completing the Governor to Gillman connector will provide a direct route from the new UCSD fire station directly to UC. For our welfare and that of first responders we need to complete our planned road system ASAP.
The Fire Chief has stated that more roads equal more options in an emergency. University City South is a peninsula surrounded on three sides with canyons, with only one of its three main roads completed. Look at the recent hurricane Harvey disaster in Houston where Houston was criticized for letting development run wild. Are we really that superior? Here in San Diego, taxpayers paid to have planners work out all the roads, taxpayers paid to raise all the elevations to install the roads, taxpayers paid for all the bridge abutments for future bridges, then taxpayers paid for lawsuits so we could pay to remove the roads and abutments. How is the non-planning in Houston worse than the reverse planning in San Diego? Here in San Diego we are all susceptible to; conflagration, earthquakes and floods. If our turn comes, what will be said about our folly? Anti-bridge bullies taunt; BO-HOO that is not going to happen. Without a fortunate turn in the wind University and Clairemont would have burned in the 2003 Cedar fire, where were our exits from the community then? Completing our road system is akin to wearing a safety belt and responsible government makes that a requirement.
Our City Government has put their pensions, NIMBY property values and the profits of retailers ahead of public safety, shame on them!
Louis Rodolico has been a resident of University City since 2001
Planning Commission Oct 27th Audio Only, Fire Chief at 1:14:25
“The quicker we can get there the better off the patient will be”