Pieces of the plan such as funding for neighborhood branding and management of Normal Street Promenade raise questions.
The Hillcrest Business Association has shared with San Diego LGBT News more information about the portion of Hillcrest that has been the subject of fairly intense community debate, with a proposal present to carve Normal Street and the Hillcrest Pride Flag into an area called "The West End."
A group called New City America, Inc., headquartered in Downtown San Diego, has crafted a proposal to create a "Community Benefit District" (or "Maintenance Assessment District") that would include the following areas:
- El Cajon Blvd, from Texas Street on the east to Park Blvd. on the west
- Park Blvd. from Meade on the north to Robinson on the south
- University Avenue from Park Blvd. on the east to Richmond on the west
- Normal Street from Washington on the north to University Avenue on the south
The City of San Diego defines a Maintenance Assessment District as follows:
A Maintenance Assessment District is legal mechanism by which property owners can vote to assess themselves to pay and receive services above-and-beyond what the City of San Diego normally provides. This above-and-beyond service level is called a “special benefit.” What the City normally provides is called the “general benefit.”
Maintenance Assessment Districts may also be known as Landscape Maintenance Districts, Lighting and Landscape Maintenance Districts, Enhanced Maintenance Assessment Districts, or Community Benefit Districts. Because many districts include more than landscaping and lighting, the name was changed to better represent the nature of the districts.
New City America Inc's plan, however, has raised several questions from Hillcrest leaders after news was first shared of the potential of backroom deals developers have made with City Hall.
HBA has shared the following analysis and questions related to New City America's plan:
- Councilmember Chris Ward claims the neighborhood is not being carved up or re-named. Why would the district plan include an annual budget of between $120k and $150k for branding, signage, and logo development and "district identity" if this weren't the case?
- Ward claims there is no take-over of the Pride Plaza and Pride Flag. If that's the case, why does the plan include a line item for "Management of the planned Normal Street Promenade". The flag is the centerpiece of the Promenade.
- Ward claims this district isn't being proposed by “large developers on El Cajon Blvd." and to support this he provides a letter. Only three people on his letter are property owners, the other 75 property owners on Normal Street weren't even surveyed to see if they wanted to be part of the district. This is a violation of City Council Policy. According to the El Cajon Blvd. Association, property owners on El Cajon Blvd were surveyed about this district as far back as 2018.
- Ward claims the city isn't imposing a tax. Only a legislative body can impose a tax. While a weighted vote of owners will occur, the city council ultimately has to approve this new assessment. This proposal won't make it to city council without Wards' say so. He could put the breaks on this today and force the developers to negotiate with the community~ but he refuses to.
- The management plan states that there would be a new community organization created to administer the district. How is this not the start of a new neighborhood?
- The developer's lobbyist has told HBA leadership that he wants to get this plan approved by the end of the year and that the plans are complete. Not one property owner on Normal Street or University Ave. was surveyed for this process. This is a violation of the City MAD policy. It is likely that the lobbyist is rushing to get a survey printed after the fact and get it out to people on Normal Street in the next few weeks. The budget for the lobbyist to manage the district is between $120k and $150k annually.
- The developer's lobbyist was paid by H.G. Fenton to start this work. The representative from Fenton, Jon La Raia, confirmed it. New City America is the lobbyist and they have been investigated by the City and FBI for setting up fraudulent districts just like this. They can not be trusted at all.
Community members can check out New City America's plan here.
Benjamin Nicholls, executive director of HBA, told SDLGBTN that he only has the neighborhood's best interest at heart and wants to ensure that management of Pride Plaza, and Normal Street stays with the community.
"I have been open with all the information that I have about this effort," said Nicholls. "This isn't about me or any sort of control issue. I have fought for this neighborhood for years. I was there when we created the Pride Flag. I was there when SANDAG approved funding for the Promenade. All the documents we have about this proposal have come because I asked for them. The developers haven't released any documents or held any community meetings."
Community members who wish to sign a petition to express their disagreement with New City America, Inc.'s new management proposal may do so here.