A years-long political and legal dispute over control of development in downtown San Diego boils down to a bill sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, and its opponents, who want a veto, have hired one of Brown’s oldest friends.
The Downtown San Diego Partnership, an influential business group, has retained the Crane Group, a Washington lobbying firm headed by Lucie Gikovich, who has been an advisor, friend and occasional staffer of Brown’s dating to his first governorship four decades ago. The governor usually stays at her home when in Washington.
“Yes I am,” Gikovich replied when asked whether she would be seeking a veto of Assembly Bill 504, although adding, “I’m not the best lobbyist.”
Gikovich and the Crane Group are no strangers to Sacramento, however. The firm has numerous lobbying clients here.
AB 504 is the handiwork of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, and is aimed at reducing the authority of Civic San Diego, a nonprofit organization set up by the city, to manage planning and other development matters for the city’s downtown.
Prior to the abolition of redevelopment, the organization, under a different name, managed redevelopment’s activities as well. It’s an unusual arrangement; in most cities, planning and zoning duties are performed by public agencies. Supporters say that Civic San Diego fosters quick decisions on development matters that have brought prosperity to a once-blighted downtown.
The bill would allow Civic San Diego decisions to be appealed to the San Diego City Council. Its backers, local labor unions and liberal groups, contend that the organization is controlled by business interests that stiffle efforts by unions to obtain project labor agreements and organize hotel and other downtown workers.
Having the ability to appeal to the city council would enhance unionization efforts since many of its members are union allies. Gonzalez is a former labor official who has sponsored a variety of bills backed by unions.
The Crane Group’s retention was first reported Wednesday by San Diego CityBeat, an on-line news organization.