Monday, March 14, 2011

Redevelopment: the well-meaning program for fixing urban ills greatly abused

Click on title to see links in the original story:

Going to Money Town
Voice of San Diego
March 14,2011

One of the arguments for killing redevelopment: That the well-meaning program for fixing urban ills has since been greatly abused for all sorts of luxuries that stray far from its original intent. In between doling out a couple of sharp elbows to local California politicians and state Republicans, journalist Steven Greenhut delivers a little history in the Wall Street Journal on California's endangered redevelopment and abuses he's witnessed through his career.

· We've been following closely as San Diego and other municipalities around the state have tried to tie up billions of dollars in redevelopment cash before the governor cuts it off. While most places have just carved out the money, some have already begun borrowing it, sometimes at quite a cost. Redevelopment agencies across the state borrowed $700 million in the first two months and a week of the year, compared to $1 billion in all of 2010, the LA Times says.

· It's not San Diego, but it's instructive: NPR's Planet Money recently profiled one Pennsylvania city that sold a lake to help fix its problems, threw in the towel and then got help from a state squad that travels around helping distressed governments.

At this point, it looks like California could use one of those, too, although they might end up spending all their time in Sacramento. (It'd still be cheaper than these guys.)

Friday, March 04, 2011

Former CCDC board member gets $464,750 for "technical assistance" [??] on plan to end homelessness downtown

Feb 28, 2011
Former CCDC board member gets lucrative consulting contract
Providing "technical assistance" on plan to end homelessness Downtown pays $464,750
By Kelly Davis

Today, the San Diego City Council (sitting as the Redevelopment Agency) will be asked to approve an amendment to a contract with LeSar Development Consultants (LDC) that will pay a total of $464,750 for 15 months of work. The contract, which began in July 2010 and lasts through September 2011, is for "technical assistance" on a plan to end homelessness Downtown within five years. LCD's already been paid $235,000 for work between July and the end of 2010. Today's contract amendment adds $229,750, bringing the total to $464,750.

LDC's president, Jennifer LeSar, sat on the Centre City Development Corp.'s board directors from 2002 to 2009. According to the staff report, LDC was the only respondent to a request for consulting services put out in January 2010. On Jan. 12, 2010, LeSar sent a letter asking the city's Ethics Commission if any conflict-of-interest provisions prohibited her from being paid to provide consulting services to CCDC. She was told it was OK as long as she didn't participate in making the contract.

The contract is being paid with money from CCDC's low- and moderate-income housing fund.

LeSar's hourly rate, according to the scope of services, is $225; Matthew Doherty, who's worked for the San Diego Housing Commission and Corporation for Supportive Housing, has a listed hourly rate of $175. Rachel Ralston, whose resume includes four years as associate editor at the Gay and Lesbian Times before joining LeSar Development in February 2007, is listed at $90 an hour.

LeSar defended the cost and said that her company's per-hour rates are competitive. When I pointed out that Ralston's per-hour rate would come out to $187,200 annually if it were a full-time job, LeSar said I wasn't taking into account the built-in costs of running a business.

LeSar said that LDC's work will create an infrastructure that previously didn't exist for collaboration on homeless services between the San Diego Housing Commission and the county. "We are getting people housing because of this partnership," she said.

Under the contract, LDC was responsible for coordinating last September's "Registry Week," for which 30 teams of volunteers went throughout Downtown to count and survey the street population and create a database that will help get the most vulnerable people into housing, starting with 75 veterans, for whom the Veterans Administration is providing 75 housing vouchers, and 50 mentally ill individuals who will receive Section 8 vouchers and case management services from county mental-health providers.

LDC's role, according to the scope of services, is to coordinate with the San Diego Housing Commission and the county's Health and Human Services Agency to develop a "five-year work plan" for ending homelessness Downtown. The plan includes developing financing strategies, setting annual targets for creating supportive housing Downtown and working on state- and federal-level policy. LDC will also look at the feasibility of holding another Registry Week in 2012, handle PR and community education and outreach and provide recommendations for developing a data system to track and measure the program's progress.

You can download the staff report and supporting documents here.