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.
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.
At a cost of $620 million, San Diego's planned Superior Court complex downtown should be the best money can buy. The 22-story high-rise is the most expensive of the 41 courthouse projects included in a $5 billion master plan approved by the Legislature in 2008.
When it opens in 2016, the 704,000-square-foot courthouse will contain 71 courtrooms, plus offices.
But one thing it won't have is an underground tunnel to transport prisoners from the central jail across the street, as originally planned. And a promise to tear down the old courthouse, a drab low-rise taking up three city blocks just off Broadway, also will be broken.
SACRAMENTO — California judicial officials quietly brokered a union-friendly pact to govern construction of a new $586 million courthouse in downtown San Diego, marking the first time the state has turned to a "project-labor agreement" at the onset of building a major court facility.
The deal is between contractor Rudolph and Sletten Inc. and the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California.
"I requested that the contractor enter into a PLA with the Trades Council to ensure certainty and timeliness as well as reduce variables in a construction project of this magnitude," state courts director Steven Jahr wrote in an email obtained by U-T Watchdog. "This will be the first state courthouse project on which a PLA is signed."
The San Diego City Attorney's Office has released a project labor agreement tied to the planned $520 million expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, after a local coalition supporting nonunion contractors filed a lawsuit to make details public.
Eric Christen, a spokesman for the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, said the group is reviewing the document to determine whether it violates terms of a city proposition passed last year, banning the city from requiring project labor agreements in public projects.
San Diego officials have said the city did not require and was not involved in negotiations related to the pact reached in November between the convention center project's general contractor, a joint venture of Clark Construction and Hunt Construction, and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council AFL-CIO, which includes labor unions.