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Who is watching the watchers: Developer Police Thyself.

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
September 30, 1999


Just when you think the City Of Oceanside can not top itself in absolute cluelessness they do. I am beginning to think city staff and the city council go out of their way to alienate the voting public. First it's back room dealings with Manchester, the Mayor's investment scandal, then it targets military personal, and now, a week later, city officials announce they are considering doing away with supervision of private development.

The Oceanside Economic Development Commission is currently discussing a proposal that would allow commercial developers to forego city inspections in regards to drainage, paving, parking lots, curbs and landscaping. This is seen as a way of removing the city from the position of "staff playing police officer on construction sites." Correct me if I am wrong, but isn't this why they are there. It could be they see their job as being one of project approval, and nothing more.

Economic Development Director Jane McVey has said that eliminating city review and inspection in the postgrading stages of development is being done "in the spirit of partnership with the development community." Under this proposed policy, developers would be responsible for keeping themselves honest. And if that is not an endeavor doomed to failure I don't know what is.

Obviously the EDC folks have not heard about the earthquake just outside of Istanbul where unenforced building standards are being blamed for the high death toll. It seems builders were cutting corners to save money. Also in the last two weeks we have seen the damage done by earthquakes in Greece and Taiwan. With much stricter building regulations in place fewer people lost their lives once the dust settled. There‘s a clue here, ripe for the getting.

Currently this proposal does not include improvements made by homeowners. So if a resident wants to put in a new driveway they can expect to deal with city inspectors as usual. So not only is the "no inspection, no review" policy insanely short sighted, it is also completely unfair. This Robin Hood in reverse mentality will force the operating costs onto the backs of tax-paying citizens, and for what?

Let me be perfectly honest for those of you who have not already seen through the sweetheart deal. This proposed policy is all about saving developers money. The very same developers, who are constantly whining that development fees are too high, and that environmental regulation to costly. Could someone please explain to me why it is that developers believe that their industry should be favored over others, and subsidized when all others are not.

Case in point. The Oceanside City Council was recently swayed by lobbyists for the Building Industry Association and voted, with Terry Johnson dissenting, to give developers a two-year grace period, 2 years and 120 days to be exact, before increasing water and sewer buy-in fees. According to Lou Bales, former member of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Water and Wastewater, this decision will profit developers to the tune of 15 million dollars, while forcing city rate payers fork out at least $16,924,000. This revenue will go towards capital improvements necessitated by continued development.

It's not like Oceanside is becoming a ghost town, hell the city council is turning away business in the name of redundancy. What this all boils down to is city leaders pandering to development interests as a way of protecting their positions at the top of civic food chain. The proponents of economic growth care very little for existing residents, the only economic well-being they are concerned about is their own.

Streamlining process is the way the Oceanside plans to keep up with it's neighbor to the south. City councils county-wide are competing to see who can attract the most development, as if open space and natural resources were infinite. When roads get too congested, councils approve more, and widen the rest, then apologize for the lack of open space. Justify their field of dreams SANDAG predicts millions more will come, and the growth machine rolls on.

Personally I want to see new home prices soar as a deterrent to the exponential growth being experienced here in North County. I realize it is a politically incorrect thing to say, but we do not need anymore people in the area. Freeways are clogged, the ocean is a giant septic tank, native animals are being pushed to extinction, and we can't keep up with our landfill needs. The only ones who will profit from adding more people to the chaos, are the people building it.

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