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Downtown Briefs – February 2017

Posted: February 3rd, 2017 | Downtown Briefs, News, Opinion & News | No Comments

CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION RULED VALID

The city of San Diego’s plans for expanding its waterfront convention center have been ruled legally sound and fully compliant with the California Coastal Act and the California Environmental Quality Act.

Superior Court Judge Joel R. Wohlfeil presided over the case, San Diego Navy Broadway Complex Coalition v. Coastal Commission, ruling that it showed a strong validation of the planning processes of the three public agencies involved in the project: the California Coastal Commission, the Unified Port of San Diego and the city of San Diego.

“This is a resounding victory that supports our efforts to bring new jobs, visitors and revenues to San Diego,” City Attorney Mara W. Elliott said. “Just as importantly, this ruling protects coastal access and recreational opportunities on the waterfront while ensuring our region’s needs are met.”

The decision clears the way for an eventual expansion that was approved by the San Diego City Council and the Port Commission in 2012 and by a unanimous Coastal Commission in 2013.

“[The] strong ruling is tremendous news for San Diego’s economy and removes one of the biggest hurdles to expanding the convention center,” Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said. “This expansion is all about creating jobs and growing tourism as well as keeping and attracting large conventions like Comic-Con.”

The project would add exhibit space and meeting rooms needed to accommodate the nation’s largest conventions. The plans include an elevated 5-acre public park with panoramic views of San Diego Bay, improvements to an existing pier for use as a public recreational viewpoint, and the replacement of loading docks and other pedestrian-unfriendly uses with visitor-serving amenities that encourage use of the area.

CITY SEEKS STORM DAMAGE DATA

The city of San Diego urges residents to participate in a survey to assess damage done by the recent storms that hit the area. The city is teaming up with the County of San Diego to assess damage to see if renters and homeowners may have access to federal emergency funding through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

If so, the information collected will help determine if the region is eligible to receive emergency SBA funding. Renters and homeowners may borrow up to $40,000 to repair or replace clothing, furniture, cars or appliances damaged or destroyed in the storms. Homeowners may apply for up to $200,000 to repair or replace their primary residence to its pre-disaster condition.

Visit tinyurl.com/zmwd4m8 to fill out an initial damage survey.

OFFICE MARKET VACANCY HITS RECORD LOW

Fourth-quarter office vacancy in San Diego County fell to a record low and leasing activity was the highest ever in any single quarter, according to the latest CBRE research. Demand was particularly strong in Downtown where startups and co-working places have been drawn to the neighborhood’s newly renovated office spaces.

A total of 2.55 million square feet were leased in San Diego in the fourth quarter of 2016, making the fourth quarter the most active quarter in history — the top three submarkets were Downtown, UTC and Rancho Bernardo.

“Downtown San Diego led the county in 2016 in net absorption and leasing activity, and is currently at historic peak rents,” said Matt Carlson, senior vice president of CBRE in the San Diego region. “Downtown accounted for more than one-third of all the county’s absorption in 2016. The CBD is luring innovative startup companies because of the attractiveness of the live-work-play environment, and I believe we will continue to see an increase in leasing activity coupled with high rents.”

Downtown has continued to up its appeal as older buildings have been converted into creative office or retail spaces and towers have received upgrades. Among those companies that have been adding space in this part of town has been WeWork, which opened two of six leased floors at 600 B St., joining several smaller-scale co-working operators in the area. Another co-working operator, Level Office out of Chicago, purchased a building in the third quarter and will open upon the completion of renovations currently under way.

Also, Downtown had the highest year-to-date positive net absorption of 663,831 square feet; a large portion of that occurred in the fourth quarter when the city of San Diego leased about 305,000 square feet at the former Sempra Energy headquarters.

SHAVE-A-THON TO BENEFIT ST. BALDRICK’S FOUNDATION

This March, the St. Baldrick’s Foundation San Diego Chapter will once again team up with The Commons, located at 901 Fourth Ave. in the Gaslamp District, for the organization’s ninth annual nationwide Shave-A-Thon charity event.

Participants will converge at the Downtown hotspot at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 4 to shave their heads in the name of generating awareness, funding research for childhood cancer, and continuing to help survivors live long and healthy lives.

Since the Foundation’s inception 13 years ago, St. Baldrick’s events have raised over $200 million for childhood cancer research, with more than 530,379 shavees at over 11,423 events in 50 states and 27 countries. In 2016, thousands of fundraising events were held throughout the country, raising over $38 million all with one goal: to cure childhood cancer.

“The growing support behind the event’s first eight years demonstrates San Diego’s commitment to this very important cause,” said Jake Pescatello, founder of St. Baldrick’s San Diego chapter. “Over the past eight years, we’ve raised over $200,000 in total, and this year we hope to raise $50,000. We’ve expanded our efforts with promotional events leading up to the San Diego Shave-A-Thon this year, driving the momentum even further and reaching more individuals within the community.”

A $10 donation at the door provides admission to the event and a $20 donation at the door includes admission to the event, T-shirt and raffle ticket. All of the proceeds will go to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Visit tinyurl.com/gv7fp9g for more details.

TODD GLORIA NAMED ASSEMBLY’S ASSISTANT MAJORITY WHIP

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has appointed Assemblymember Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) to serve as the Assistant Majority Whip.

“I am honored to have this opportunity and I am truly humbled by the faith Speaker Rendon has placed in me to take a leadership role in the Legislature,” Gloria said. “When I was sworn in as a state Assemblymember, I pledged to champion housing affordability and to improve our state’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. This new role gives me more opportunities to advance these priorities and others that will ultimately move California forward.”

The Assistant Majority Whip is an officer of the California State Assembly that helps lead the majority caucus and works to advance the broader, progressive agenda of the Democratic caucus.

Gloria represents the 78th Assembly District of California and is a former San Diego City Councilmember, City Council president and interim mayor.

GONZALEZ FLETCHER MOVES TO MAKE POSTAGE FREE FOR MAIL-IN BALLOTS

As California’s elections become more dependent on mail-ballot voting, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has introduced Assembly Bill 216 to make it easier for voters to cast their ballot through the mail by paying the postage for returned mail ballots in statewide elections.

Since 2012, more than 50 percent of all ballots in the state have been cast by mail, with more than 57 percent of the voters who participated in the November 2016 election having used a mail ballot to vote. Currently, one or more postage stamps are required by the U.S. Postal Service to have a voter’s ballot delivered to a county elections office to be counted.

AB 216 would provide simple relief for voters as the use of mail ballots is expected to increase even more in the coming decade. A 2016 state law (Senate Bill 450) authorizes the state to begin to allow counties to conduct their elections through a process that includes the distribution of a mail ballot to every single registered voter. While the new law, which will become effective in some parts of the state beginning in 2018, allows voters to either walk their ballot to a drop-off location or vote in-person, it’s expected that many more voters will opt to return their completed ballot through the mail.

The increased use of mail ballots means including postage will become, at the very least, a nuisance for voters who rarely have stamps on hand because they’ve turned to email and the internet to pay their bills instead of by mail.

“While some states have recently gone to great lengths to keep people from voting, we want to show that California is committed to taking away every barrier preventing people from casting a vote,” Gonzalez Fletcher said.

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher serves as chair of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, vice chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, and chair of the Assembly Select Committee on Women in the Workplace. She represents the 80th Assembly District, which includes Chula Vista, National City and the San Diego neighborhoods of City Heights, Barrio Logan, Paradise Hills, San Ysidro and Otay Mesa.

CITY SETS RECYCLING DATES

San Diego’s Environmental Services Department, Household Hazardous Waste Program has set the dates for recycling events aimed at taking used oil, oil filters, batteries, antifreeze and CFL bulbs/tubes off the streets and out of storm drains, and keeping these hazardous materials out of the Miramar Landfill.

  • Feb. 25 at Mission Bay South Shores Park at Sea World Drive and Shores Parkway in the boat launch parking lot.
  • March 18 at Public Utilities Operations Center, 5571 Kearny Villa Road at Topaz Way.
  • April 22 at Montgomery High School, 3250 Palm Ave. at Hawaii Avenue.
  • May 13 at Mira Mesa High School, 10510 Marauder Way in the south parking lot.

The lots will be open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. For more information, call the Environmental Services Department at 858-694-7000.

COMMUNITY COLLEGE DISTRICT TO SUPPORT STUDENTS REGARDLESS OF IMMIGRATION STATUS, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS

The San Diego Community College District (SDCCD) joined a growing number of colleges and universities around the country when its Board of Trustees approved a resolution reaffirming support of its students.

The resolution, passed unanimously, urges President Trump to continue the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allows undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children to work and study in the country without fear of being deported. President Obama launched the policy in 2012.

“The board resolution reflects the values of the district’s faculty, administrators, staff and student leaders,” SDCCD Chancellor Constance M. Carroll said. “The campus presidents and I have sent a message to students, sharing the board resolution and assuring them that we will do everything in our power to support their educational opportunities despite the challenges that may be on the horizon.”

The resolution affirms the district’s support for its diverse student population, including those who may lack legal authorization to be in this country; commits to not cooperating with any federal effort aimed at creating a registry of individuals based religion, national origin, race, or sexual orientation; precludes immigration officials from being on campus absent legal authority; and pledges to avoid acting on behalf of federal agencies enforcing immigration laws.

“Our goal in passing this resolution is simple and straightforward,” board President Maria Nieto Senour said. “We value each and every one of our students, so our priority is to provide high-quality educational opportunities for all students, regardless of race, ethnicity, heritage, national origin, religion, immigration status, gender identity or medical condition.”

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