SAN DIEGO NEWS

Monday, 15 December 2014 14:18

Coercive State Laws Create City Crisis

As a result of union power plays executed by the state Legislature, the city of San Diego now faces a dire threat to its finances and its future.

The crisis’ origins came in 2011, when San Diego politicians and business interests were gearing up for a ballot measure that would ban the city from requiring the use of union-friendly project labor agreements (PLAs) on city construction projects.

There is nothing unusual about California cities imposing such restrictions. It’s part of the long fight in the Golden State between those whose first priority is to try to keep government costs down and those who believe government should be manipulated to benefit powerful special interests.

But the Legislature’s response was extraordinary. First it passed SB 922, which banned state funds from being used on city projects that were to be built under city PLA restrictions. Then it passed SB 829, which banned cities with any PLA limits from getting any state construction funds.

Both bans extended to charter cities, which under the California Constitution have supreme authority over “municipal affairs.” That means that in some key areas of governance, charter city laws trump state laws — unless a court holds the state has a “paramount” interest in holding all cities to a statewide standard.

San Diego voters rejected this bullying and overwhelmingly backed the PLA restrictions in 2012. They were reassured by a provision in Proposition A that held the restrictions would be dropped if they resulted in a loss of state or federal funds.

But will the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown allow this provision to shield San Diego? Will it adopt a reasonable interpretation of the California Constitution’s language on charter cities?

Or will it accept SB 829 as definitive?

It’s not yet clear — and if Brown sides with unions, beginning in January, the city will face a series of painful hits, in particular the likely loss of $350 million to $400 million in state loans that are needed as part of an elaborate compromise to fund a comprehensive upgrade of the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Thankfully, local politicians understand the stakes and are working across party lines to help avoid a shutdown of state funds for city projects. On Wednesday, Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer and City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said they were working with Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, to head off disaster. On Friday, Atkins said she was “confident” a solution will be found.

Yet there is no guarantee that state courts will be satisfied with this solution — or the governor. Brown signed SB 922 and SB 829, after all.

We’ll see. But we do not believe that the state Constitution’s goal of giving significant autonomy to charter cities is served by these coercive laws.

San Diego Union Tribune

The board of Port Commissioners announced the selection of RIDA Development Corp. to enter negotiations to develop a destination resort and convention center on the Chula Vista Bayfront.

RIDA, with U.S. headquarters in Houston, was the successful respondent to the San Diego Unified Port District’s request for qualifications issued in June 2014 to build a planned hotel and convention center.

By STEVE ADAMEKWednesday, October 22, 2014

The board of Port Commissioners announced the selection of RIDA Development Corp. to enter negotiations to develop a destination resort and convention center on the Chula Vista Bayfront.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014 13:13

San Diego's frozen funding pipe

It's no secret that San Diego needs all the help it can get when it comes to repairing aging water pipes and sewer lines. With more than a billion dollars in unmet infrastructure needs, officials have been looking under every couch cushion to keep the disrepair to a minimum.

What might seem odd, however, is that the city has ostensibly given up access to tens of millions of dollars of infrastructure grants and loans provided routinely by the state. Despite warnings from Sacramento officials, in June 2012, San Diego voters passed a ballot measure, Proposition A, that's in direct conflict with state law.

Under Prop. A, the city is prohibited from requiring project labor agreements, or PLAs, on city-contracted construction jobs. The labor agreements are often used on long-term projects to set experience and wage requirements. The city has never required a PLA, but supporters of the ballot initiative argued that if one were ever used, it would be costly and unfairly favor unions. The campaign mirrored similar efforts by building-industry groups across the country.

Sure, lawsuits over California's main environmental quality law can force developers to put solar panels on their big-box stores or plant hundreds of trees to offset the greenhouse gasses their projects produce.

But that's not where the real outrage over the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, comes from. The real trigger: the use of the state's landmark environmental law as leverage on issues that seem to have nothing to do with the environment.

Here's what those cases look like: It's the CEQA lawsuit in San Jose filed by Andy's BP gas station to keep the Moe's Stop station across the street from adding three new pumps. It's the threat of a CEQA lawsuit against a proposed Convention Center expansion from San Diego's largest labor group, which is later dropped once the contractor agrees to a labor-friendly local hire deal. It's the CEQA lawsuits over developments in Kensington and Mission Bay spurred by arguments that the projects did lots of bad things, but direct harm to the environment wasn't one of them.

Developers looking for their next iconic project can focus their gaze on the South Bay, as the city of Chula Vista and Port of San Diego soon will release a request for qualifications for a convention center and resort hotel.

Starting June 23, those interested in designing and building the planned 415,000-square-foot convention center and 1,400- to 1,600-room hotel can submit their qualifications to the port.
"We are looking for developers that can demonstrate their skills and ability to finance, design and construct a large-scale, environmentally sustainable convention-oriented destination hotel and resort," said Tanya Castaneda, spokesperson with the Port of San Diego.

Development teams are asked to visit the port's bid solicitation website to register and download all documents and back­ground information related to the solicitation and qualifications submittal process.

A federal judge on May 28 ruled in favor of a developer and the U.S. Navy, saying their plans to redevelop a 14.7-acre, four-block waterfront site in downtown San Diego can proceed without further environmental review.

The California Coastal Commission had sued the Navy and Manchester Pacific Gateway over the defendants' intent to the redevelop the Navy Broadway Complex, also known as Pacific Gateway, a 3 million-square-foot, $1.3 billion project.

The case involved a redevelopment plan that began in the late 1980s, for which the Navy conducted an environmental impact assessment in 1990 that preceded a development agreement in 1992. Since then, plans were put on hold and a round of military base closures prompted the Navy to modify its plans and move to implement them, including choosing Manchester in 2006 as its redevelopment partner. In late 2006, however, the Coastal Commission told the Navy that it considered the changes to the redevelopment plan significant enough to require another environmental assessment.

CHULA VISTA — Progress continues on the Chula Vista bayfront, setting the table for future development, the city's port commissioner says.

During a presentation to City Council members last week on the Chula Vista Bayfront Master Plan, Ann Moore said the city is at "a really monumental point in the project."

"It's going to be a very exciting time where we're going to see what the market thinks about our project," she said.

In no other profession could the leadership of an organization survive throwing away $20 million with nothing to show for it except catastrophic defeats.

Yet this is exactly what local and statewide union bosses have managed to accomplish since 2006 in San Diego, culminating in the embarrassing defeat of David Alvarez two weeks ago in the race for San Diego mayor.

Despite dumping more than $4.2 million into the race and outspending Kevin Faulconer by $1 million, the union candidate lost by more than 5 percent in a city where only 28 percent of voters are Republicans.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013 12:40

A further drain on South Bay taxpayers

Shame on the Southwestern College Governing Board for kowtowing to labor and sticking it to taxpayers.

The board Thursday unanimously voted to require a union-friendly project labor agreement (PLA) on future construction projects financed by a 2008 bond measure approved by 71 percent of voters in the Southwestern Community College District. Proposition R gives the district $389 million to spruce up the aging 20,000-student campus, including the construction of at least 13 new buildings. It's been a bumpy road so far, with allegations of bid rigging, contractor suspensions and an investigation by the District Attorney's Office.

PLAs restrict bidding to contractors that use union workers, which tends to drive up the cost. Supporters argue that union workers are more highly skilled and thus work more efficiently, and that having a PLA reduces the likelihood of labor disputes. But Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment, estimates the PLA effectively reduces the value of the $389 million bond issue by about $50 million.

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