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The politics of blight are upon us

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
April 29, 2005


For all general purposes it seems the fix is in and the funky beach community of Leucadia is about to get an extreme makeover, compliments of a crafty council, municipal mercenaries, and the disciples of development. With the politics of blight in full swing, legions of contractors, consultants, and corporate developers are eyeing laid-back Leucadia as a cash cow waiting to be exploited.

At an Encinitas City Council meeting last week, after the redevelopment consultant Ernie Glover was finished painting his pretty pictures, it was obvious economics forces have decided the Highway 101 commercial corridor through Leucadia needs to be deemed blighted in order to create a redeveloping agency that will finance the commercial redevelopment of a community whose only real problems are seasonal flooding, and a pack of predatory developers.

Make no mistake, a redevelopment agency will soon be established for the improvement of Leucadia. Once a redevelopment zone is declared the rules change, and a development feeding frenzy begins. Existing business owners will be living on borrowed time if they do not own the building in which they have set up shop. Most likely rents will increase if property is not sold out from under them to make room for newer, bigger, better. Newer, bigger, better, also comes with higher rents.

Owners of smaller parcels could be forced to sell under threat of eminent domain, to enable developers a freer hand in increasing density and potential tax revenue. As a redevelopment agency what is to prevent the city council from declaring certain properties blighted for political reasons. For more than a year Encinitas has been trying to close the F Street bookstore, this is one way they could do it.

It's clear many at Encinitas city hall have decided this to be the best course of action. They could be right. Leucadians would benefit from redevelopment funds being used to underground the Lo-San rail corridor at Leucadia Blvd, and the construction of pedestrian overpasses. Also clear, the Leucadia that drew so many people to its neighborhoods will cease to exist once developers have had their way with the sleepy hollow of San Diego County.

Once deemed blighted, the scope of the improvements will be limited only by the boundaries set by the redevelopment agency. With redevelopment we can expect more people, more traffic, and a call for more public services. With redevelopment will come the call for higher density. Promises will be made about smart-growth, affordable housing and mixed-use development. Promises will also be made about increased property values, and improved quality of life, to justify this higher density.

Residents can expect the "growth at any cost" crowd to spin fantastical tales of big ticket infrastructure "fixes." This, my friends, is just their way of creating diversions to distract people from the real intent behind the proposed Leucadia redevelopment zone. The real goal is finding a place to "redevelop" in a city nearing build-out. With the promise of 40% return on generated taxes, a Leucadia redevelopment zone will encourage Encinitas city officials to redevelop Leucadia beyond recognition.

One need only look to the cities of Oceanside and Vista to see that redevelopment means eminent domain, bulldozers, and shuttered businesses. Oceanside built a movie theatre complex in their redevelopment zone that has yet to prove profitable, with two restaurant spaces that have never been rented several years after construction. The city of Vista erased a community center, a ball field, a shopping center, an armory and more than 50 local business to make room for a multiplex, Starbucks, Jamba Juice and other national franchises.

Let's face it folks, redevelopment is just another word for development.

From here on in the architects and supporters of Leucadia redevelopment zone will now dedicate all communication to the verbal demolition of a community that has until now been able to escape the clutches of Ronald McDonald and other generic retailers. Listen closely how the redevelopment devotees finesse their spin to justify destroying the character of a community in order to save it from its lack of pretense.

I believe a Leucadia redevelopment Agency is now just a matter of when. If will not even be considered as consultants have already been hired and the planning begun. Now the moneychangers who seek to sell out Leucadia, have the task of convincing state agencies that Leucadia is blighted physically and economically.

The first task for the City of Encinitas is to decide how much of Leucadia is going to be thrown under the wheels of progress.

Flood of development anyone?

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