Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants California to be like China


China has demonstrated the folly of failing to consider public input. Arnold Schwarzenegger (see story at bottom) now wants to bring this sort of thinking to California by eliminating environmental review.



Some Ships Can't Reach Shanghai's New Terminal
By Louisa Lim
All Things Considered
November 3, 2008

"As China's urban development proceeds at warp speed and with no public consultation, this type of anomaly is not unusual. Many smaller cities have built high-tech development zones that now stand half-empty. And this multimillion-dollar terminal now stands as a monument to a system where narrow, local interests often dominate over common sense."

In the Chinese port city of Shanghai, a glass building shaped like a water drop looks over the Huangpu River. It's a new terminal for cruise ships -- only some are unable to reach it.

"There's a little bit of a challenge, because one of our ships cannot fit under the bridge," says Karen Mann, director of international sales at the luxury cruise line, Crystal Cruises.

She is referring to the Yangpu Bridge, which is so low that many larger cruise ships can't fit under it to reach the terminal.

"If you're too high, you can't get through," Mann says, "so I think that could deter some of the cruise lines from getting to this terminal."

The Yangpu Bridge -- built in 1993 -- is just 165 feet above the water. That means almost one-third of the world's cruise ships can't fit under it, according to one estimate in industry magazine Seatrade Cruise Review. Even for those that can fit under -- those less than 87,000 tons -- it's not easy.

"One of our cruise liners sailed under the bridge -- a 76,000 ton ship," says Michael Goh of Star Cruises. "With that, you have to do a lot of preparation work, study of the tide -- to ensure that it is absolutely 100 percent safe to bring the ships in. With that, you have to spend a lot of resources -- a lot of money to do a lot of studies and things like that."

As the international cruising companies hold their first conference at the new cruise terminal, finished in August at a cost of $260 million, there's praise for the terminal's modernity and its environmental friendliness. But it is clear the bridge is a problem.

Today's trend is towards bigger and bigger super cruisers, so as time goes on, the problems caused by the low bridge will get worse. Two-thirds of cruise ships currently being built will be too big to get under the bridge. So how did this oversight happen?

"They started building this project without thinking it through carefully," says Liu Changshou, a retired engineer who has blogged about the botched decision. He says the city government should have known better, and he accuses the lower-level district government of ulterior motives in lobbying hard for the terminal.

"By building this center, they could attract cruise companies to develop the land," Liu says. "They're using the project to gain all kinds of municipal government support. So what they're doing is developing their own real estate."

At a signing ceremony at the new terminal, presided over by the chairman of Shanghai International Port Group, which oversees all of Shanghai's terminals, the chairman wasn't available for comment. But in an earlier interview with an industry magazine, he said cruise lines were unlikely to send bigger ships to Shanghai anyway, as that market is in its infancy.

But major international companies, like Royal Caribbean, are suffering. Senior Vice President Michael Bayley said that earlier this year one of its ships had to unload passengers at another terminal, farther out from central Shanghai.

"It's quite a problem for us," Bayley says. "We'd like the bridge lifted by about 50 feet if we could. The Chinese are capable of almost anything in construction and engineering. If they built the Three Gorges Dam, I'm sure they could lift a bridge, don't you think?"

But that isn't in the cards at the moment. As China's urban development proceeds at warp speed and with no public consultation, this type of anomaly is not unusual. Many smaller cities have built high-tech development zones that now stand half-empty. And this multimillion-dollar terminal now stands as a monument to a system where narrow, local interests often dominate over common sense.



STORY #2

Stimulus plan: Bypass environmental reviews
Governor proposes shortcuts on reports for public works
By Michael Gardner
U-T SACRAMENTO BUREAU
November 4, 2008

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's draft economic stimulus package proposes to skip preparing time-consuming environmental impact reports for transportation projects, a move the administration believes would speed up the creation of new jobs...

[Blogger's note: I warmly agree that we need public works projects. Our infrastructure is falling apart and unemployment is high. But let's make sure the projects are good projects.]

Some lawmakers may balk, given the history of disputes over environmental and economic issues during budget negotiations. Schwarzenegger is convinced that immediate investment in public works is necessary to create jobs, and environmental reviews could slow construction by months.

Schwarzenegger tomorrow is expected to order lawmakers, many of whom leave office at the end of the month, to return for a special session to address a staggering budget deficit of up to $10 billion in the current fiscal year...

Schwarzenegger's package will call for the early release of $700 million in state transportation money, including $102 million for projects to improve Interstates 5 and 805 in San Diego County.

Some of the $700 million also would be set aside for smaller local projects, from filling potholes to adding streetlights.

The administration estimates that spending $1 billion on transportation projects creates 22,000 new jobs.

“We have billions of dollars of infrastructure bond money available that has to be appropriated and pushed out so that people can get back to work,” Schwarzenegger said last week.

Some legislative leaders have expressed support for releasing bond money early. Without legislative intervention, for example, the $700 million could not go out until July 1 – and only if the Legislature adopts an on-time budget.

“This is certainly the time to prime the pump in as many ways as possible,” said incoming Senate Majority Leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento...




STORY #3
[Blogger's note: It seems to me that Schwarzenegger is prone to showing contempt for people.]


Obama may have 'skinny legs,' but can Schwarzenegger beat him in basketball?
Los Angeles Times
November 2, 2008


California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's fitness advice for Barack Obama -- squats for his "skinny legs" and biceps curls "to beef up those scrawny little arms" -- got the Democratic nominee's chief strategist wondering: How are the California governor's basketball skills?

Schwarzenegger might not know it, strategist David Axelrod said, but "Sen. Obama's pretty fit."

The governor poked fun at Obama's lean physique Friday as he campaigned for Republican nominee John McCain in Ohio, where Schwarzenegger's annual bodybuilding contest was being held. In fact, Obama has been adamant about working out 45 minutes a day during the presidential campaign. On Saturday morning in Las Vegas, he hit the fitness center at Caesar's Palace.

Obama also plays basketball, although games have been rare lately. It's an Obama tradition to play on election day...

Monday, July 14, 2008

Do Chip Owens' connections to a developer explain Carolyn Smith's big SEDC paychecks?

Deep Throat's advice seems to still be good 35 years later: Follow the money. Why would Carolyn Smith do what she did? Maybe she was doing what Artie Owen expected, in return for big paychecks.

Chairman Tied to Developer Sets SEDC President's Pay
By WILL CARLESS and ANDREW DONOHUE
July 11, 2008

The revelation this week that the chairman of a city of San Diego redevelopment department, Artie M. "Chip" Owen, is unilaterally in charge of setting the salary of a top city of San Diego redevelopment official has fueled further concerns regarding Owen's business ties to a developer and the potential conflicts it creates.

After a voiceofsandiego.org story Tuesday revealed a clandestine system of bonuses and extra compensation for the top officials at the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., Owen and SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith said in a memo that Owen alone, as board chairman, is responsible for setting Smith's compensation...

Artie M. "Chip" Owen, the chairman of the SEDC board, sets the salary of the agency's president.


At the same time he has controlled Smith's salary, Owen has had financial ties to a company that has won several development deals from SEDC and is currently embroiled in a struggle over Valencia Business Park, a troubled project spearheaded by the agency.

Monday, July 7, 2008

SEDC criticized by City Council for abuse of power

Donna Frye called the secret SEDC bonuses
"abusive."


Carolyn Y. Smith, president of SEDC and her top deputy Dante Dayacap paid themselves handsomely with money intended to redevelop blighted neighborhoods.

Will Carless wrote this story for Voice of San Diego:


"The additional pay for the government officials came to light following a voiceofsandiego.org review of SEDC's tax records, which revealed a complicated system of unsupervised payments for top SEDC officials that are not explained in its public budget.

"In total, between fiscal years 2003-2004 and 2006-2007, SEDC's top four officials collectively received about $256,000 through the various bonus and extra compensation programs...

"City Councilman Ben Hueso said the agency has refused to provide a breakdown of employee payments to the City Council, citing privacy issues.

"'When we ask them for those figures, they say it's privileged information," Hueso said.

"By contrast,... CCDC and its president, Nancy Graham, recently decided to end the practice of paying annual bonuses because the process had become "too controversial.'"

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

SEDC shenanigans get even worse


It looks like the SEDC was determined to give this development to PDP. Why?


Here's a story from Voice of San Diego:

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2008/07/02/news/01sedc070208.txt

"In March, SEDC's board of directors agreed to break ties with PDP and put the project back out to bid.

"Pacific Development Partners again won the bidding process. The decision to stick with the same developers passed through SEDC's board last week, with board members voting 4-3 to approve the staff's decision to award the project to PDP. (Artie M. "Chip" Owen, the board's chairman, had to recuse himself from the vote because of ongoing financial ties to the developer.)

"An SEDC staff memo about the decision to again choose PDP stated that the proposed purchase price for the land is $562,235, a drop of nearly $1 million from the previous plan..."

SEDC is playing games with public land and developers


SEDC president Carolyn Smith seems to think she doesn't need to think about the "little people" she fraudulently eliminated from a project. She is being sued by a family whose business she harmed by trickery.

http://www.voiceofsandiego.org/articles/2008/02/19/government/589immunity021808.txt

The land is owned by the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., the city of San Diego's redevelopment arm for some of its poorest neighborhoods. In 2001, SEDC handed the development rights for Valencia Business Park to a local businessman, James H. Smith, who...contracted with the Petrarcas to sell them one of those warehouses.

But four years later, James Smith’s deal with SEDC fell apart... SEDC President Carolyn Y. Smith offered a settlement agreement promising the Petrarcas a warehouse in Valencia Business Park...

So when SEDC’s attorneys called on the Petrarcas to remove their claim on the land, the couple obliged, freeing the way, they thought, for their warehouse to finally be built...

Instead, PDP changed its plans for the land and designed the Petrarcas out of the deal altogether with Carolyn Smith and SEDC's consent...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Corky McMillin, CVESD and Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz

Too many people are terrified of being sued. Being sued is really not so bad. I should know; I'm being sued for defamation by Stutz, Artiano, Shinoff & Holtz.

What is terrible is when people are silent about wrongdoing for fear of being sued. It seems to me that people like the partners at Stutz law firm are trying to turn every neighborhood into the kind where criminals rule the roost and witnesses are afraid to testify.

Elly Dotseth wrote a letter to Voice of San Diego on April 16, 2008 saying:

"...people in our supposedly free country have begun to keep quiet from fear of being sued or blackballed in some other way. I have recently spoken out in criticism of the way the NTC Foundation is handling leases with nonprofit arts groups, and despite the reply from the director, I stand by my criticism. If he were to sue me, though, that would really be horrific."


Here is my response to Elly:

Kudos for standing up to the McMillin/NTC Foundation, and please be assured that it is not so bad getting sued when you have nothing to hide and the big guys that are suing you have plenty to hide. You simply file an answer, then go down to the courthouse and get a deposition subpoena that has been signed by the Clerk of the Court. Make some copies, fill them out, and serve them on the people who are suing you. They filed the lawsuit, so they had better be prepared to testify under oath and produce documents. If they fail to do so, you file a motion to compel that looks something like THIS.

Interestingly enough, Developer Corky McMillin, who must have done some fancy behind-the-scenes work to get the City of San Diego to turn over NTC to him, is a great friend of Patrick Judd, Pamela Smith, Larry Cunningham and the rest of the Chula Vista Elementary School District board. Of course, a lot of developers are good friends with these board members--but they don't all get a school named after them. Corky did. Stutz Artiano Shinoff & Holtz law firm represents CVESD board members, and it also got a big office at NTC. (They call it Liberty Station.) Something tells me that Stutz law firm got a very good deal.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

It may be time to score one for the little guy

Flower Hill expansion plans are bad for the community
By Robert K. Vicino

Plans are wilting at Flower Hill Mall.

It may be time to score one for the little guy.

Since the large development firm that owns Flower Hill Promenade signaled its plan for a massive expansion of this neighborhood shopping center three years ago, the state of California has now signaled its support for the neighborhood’s concern over this aberration.

On May 30, 2007 the California Coastal Commission sent a follow-up letter to the city of San Diego advising that the commission has jurisdiction over Flower Hill Mall’s recent new additions: a significant lot split, and the proposed massive expansion that would more than double the size, bulk, mass, and height of the center.
The commission asserted its claim to jurisdiction over all coastal development permits at Flower Hill, including the Paradise Grille restaurant and patio expansions, and the pending redevelopment. The city of San Diego has ignored previous notices from the commission and may continue to do so this time around.
Why would the city so adamantly want to have autonomous oversight over such a controversial project?

Just follow the money.

This outpost abutting Del Mar and Solana Beach has little physical impact on San Diego itself. But it may have tremendous financial benefit in added property, and sales tax revenues, if allowed to expand by more than 250 percent.

The development team, headed by La Jolla resident Jeffrey Essakow, is planning to expand the center from its current 108,000-square-feet to over 250,000-square-feet and has even threatened to scale it up to 450,000-square-feet (the size of a regional mall).

If expanded, this overly-commercialized project will have tremendous impact on the surrounding communities in terms of traffic snarl, noise, crime, massive sewage and water use, not to mention the air pollution from hundreds of cars traveling in and out of its multi-story parking structure.

Our group, Citizens Against Flower Hill’s Excessive Expansion (www.stopflowerhill.com) has led the way, on behalf of more than 150 neighbors in Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe, and numerous other groups, to oppose this gross ""super sizing"" of a community retail center that is not in keeping with our coastal neighborhood.

We have repeatedly encouraged the owners to redevelop this tired center that suffers from years of deferred maintenance, citing The Del Mar Plaza as an excellent architectural example. Additionally, we have encouraged the developer to limit the expansion to a reasonable 150,000-square-feet, providing for a nearly 40 percent growth.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Essakow told our neighborhood group, ""That does not work for me and my investors.""

Since 2004, Flower Hill has floated a number of sketchy plans and representations, along with many verified misrepresentations, to the community. Construction was to begin in 2005, later changed to 2006, and now it’s threatened for 2007, and beyond.
But, what really has the developer accomplished?

He has managed to outrage most of the community with his most recently revealed plan to build a six-story parking/office complex, adjacent to the freeway, along with a six-plex theater, and a significant number of new, national chain stores. A number of long-term tenants already have left while many more are very concerned that they, too, will have their rents doubled, or lose their leases to bigger ""category killer"" competitors.

Mr. Essakow published the results of a 2004 traffic study that admitted, ""there will be cumulative significant impacts on Via De La Valle between the shopping center and El Camino Real."" Essakow enthusiastically supports the widening of both roadways, which the city of San Diego Planning Department mandated as a prerequisite to ""any expansion of Flower Hill.""

But when San Diego Mayor Sanders commissioned The River Valley Task Force to investigate the widening through what will become one of California’s most scenic, and natural, parks, this group was against it. And virtually every local environmental and community planning group supports them. They agree our precious river valley should remain a beautiful resource for the entire region to enjoy, not to be circumnavigated with a massive traffic jam to help line the pockets of a developer and his investors.

At risk here is in the investment in our homes, our lifestyles, and the country-coastal character of our community.

At everyone else’s expense, San Diego could rubber stamp Flower Hill’s plans to double, or even triple, the size of this boutique shopping center, pleasing what appears to be some of the developer’s friends downtown. His lead government consultant, Scott Tillson, was conveniently appointed to the Carmel Valley Planning Group, which has endorsed past expansion at the mall.

Without the Coastal Commission’s intervention, there is little, if any, chance the people’s voice will be heard. Flower Hill has a pattern of getting caught without valid building permits, then pleading ignorance and forgiveness.

The recent Coastal Commission letter has put the city of San Diego, the developer, his investors, and lenders on notice that all of the recent mall construction is ""invalid"" and permits must be applied for and fully evaluated by the commission.
We welcome, and are extremely grateful for, the Coastal Commission’s intervention on the jurisdiction of this controversial expansion. Without them, this neighborhood could be one step closer to an inner city, urbanized, overly-commercialized, and traffic-congested change that will negatively affect the value of our homes.
Jeffery Essakow has never disclosed his plans in an open, and comprehensive, manner. At this stage, most professional developers would have a plethora of site plans three-dimensional renderings of the center in its entirety and even a detailed scale model. Instead, bits and pieces are spoon fed to certain groups in private, telling them, or worse yet ""selling them,"" on what they want to hear —— more shops, more restaurants, more parking. All the while retailers come and go, while the over-scaled buildings and the overwhelming traffic remain forever.

We respectfully encourage every member of this community to join us in voicing opposition to any Flower Hill expansion greater than an overall 150,000-square-feet, with building heights under the customary coastal area height limit of 30 feet.
Save our neighborhood from excessive urbanization.

http://92067freepress.com/viewpoints.html

Jeffrey Essakow and Flower Hill Mall

from StopFlowerHill.com

Disinformation?

Jeffrey Essakow, President of Protea Holdings, the owner of Flower Hill Mall, would like the public to believe that this website - StopFlowerHill.com is providing misinformation. All of the information provided herein has been derived and compiled directly from site plans, facts and information disclosed and promoted by Flower Hill and its representatives.

In a recent article in "The Coast News", Rose Jabin, the property manager for The Flower Hill Promenade, said:
"We want all the residents to get the same information so that rumors and misinformation does not occur".

It appears, she meant, that they only want the disinformation that Flower Hill Promenade disseminates to occur!

Following are a few of the misrepresentations and issues made by Flower Hill Promenade on their website and in their media kit distributed at the recent Carmel Valley Planning Board meeting in September 2005.
StopFlowerHill.com is providing misinformation. All of the information provided herein has been derived and compiled directly from site plans, facts and information disclosed and promoted by Flower Hill and its representatives.

In a recent article in "The Coast News", Rose Jabin, the property manager for The Flower Hill Promenade, said:
"We want all the residents to get the same information so that rumors and misinformation does not occur".

It appears, she meant, that they only want the disinformation that Flower Hill Promenade disseminates to occur!

Following are a few of the misrepresentations and issues made by Flower Hill Promenade on their website and in their media kit distributed at the recent Carmel Valley Planning Board meeting in September 2005.
StopFlowerHill.com is providing misinformation. All of the information provided herein has been derived and compiled directly from site plans, facts and information disclosed and promoted by Flower Hill and its representatives.

In a recent article in "The Coast News", Rose Jabin, the property manager for The Flower Hill Promenade, said:
"We want all the residents to get the same information so that rumors and misinformation does not occur".

It appears, she meant, that they only want the disinformation that Flower Hill Promenade disseminates to occur!

Following are a few of the misrepresentations and issues made by Flower Hill Promenade on their website and in their media kit distributed at the recent Carmel Valley Planning Board meeting in September 2005.