Pond 20 - PCH Dinner Show is Best Alternative - Chance of a Lifetime could be lost to Out-of-town "Land Banking" Interests

PCH DInner Show Concept for Pond 20 - Aerial View
PCH DInner Show Concept for Pond 20 - Aerial View  Download PDF 

To: Letter to Editor – San Diego Union Tribune / IB Patch

From:          Roger Benham, P.E.

SUBJECT:    Pond 20 - PCH Dinner Show is Best Alternative – and why People of IB poised to be robbed by Land Bankers


This letter provides additional information about our Pond 20 proposal for the Pacific Coast Historical (PCH) Dinner Show submitted to the Port District on August 24th 2012. Please see new drawings at www.pchdinnershow.com.  

The Port District received seven (7) proposals for the use of Pond 20, see http://www.portofsandiego.org/pond-20/letters-of-interest.html.  Five of the proposals are for ”Land Banking” for wetlands restoration to offset development projects to the North of IB, one proposal is for a Gallic themed sports park, and one is our proposal for the PCH Dinner Show.

The goal of the PCH Dinner Show is to direct a portion of San Diego’s $8 billion annual tourism industry to the Palm Avenue Corridor. The PCH Dinner Show will also be known for its dedication towards enhancing the social and economic fabric of the South Bay communities of IB, Palm City, and Nestor.

In contrast, turning Pond 20 into another “land mitigation bank” would be an economic disaster for the area. It is evident from discussions with residents, business people, and the public meetings held by the Port District, that most people in our area do not understand the negative economic implications of “land mitigation banking”, or, that already about 90% of the 836 acre salt works land has been forever lost to land banking interests.

A disproportionate amount of South Bay “open space” has already been “banked”, including area of the Tijuana River Valley, without any vote, referendum, or public input. Only out-of-town businesses and “non-profits” have significantly benefitted from land banking.

One of the five land banking proposals received by the Port District is the “William Hall – Mitigation Stakeholders Team”, a coalition of local environmental groups such as SWIA and Wildcoast, and unnamed “ex-officio” city representatives.  This proposal claims to have “successfully and thoroughly interviewed members of the public”.  I have yet to meet anyone that has been interviewed. Did they interview you?

Under the Revenue Generation section, the William Hall Team proposal declares “Funds that normally would provide return on investment (ROI) to commercial investors will be used for community benefit in Imperial Beach and south San Diego”. This is a huge red flag that reeks of backroom partiality and outright despotism. What “funds” are this group to receive, and in what manner do they choose to distribute benefits to whom? If this is any example, the SWIA webpage advertises $30 million in land banking activity, yet our City can’t afford to raise $50K to keep the Sports Park afloat, or pay for security for Fireworks.

Ask yourself, in the last three decades of land banking have the local businesses benefited? Has the community benefited? Do we have more access to our “open space”? An honest examination of the land banking activity will show that the public has lost in all respects, and the land-banking proponents are preaching us into poverty, while they benefit financially and maintain exclusive access rights. 

The William Hall Team shows that SWIA and WIldcoast are in bed with Sunroad Enterprises, BAE Systems, and Hornblower Cruises.  All of these companies, and who knows who else, want to use Pond 20 to offset their ambitious development projects to the North. It is very disheartening that these local “nonprofits” are willing to sell out our last chance for a prestigious bay front opportunity and true tourism based revenue. It makes you wonder what kind of back-room deals may be taking place.

Free enterprise and ROI to investors are exactly what the IB Area needs, and it is exactly what the PCH Dinner Show offers. The wealth generated by the PCH Dinner Show will inspire more commercial activity along the Palm Corridor.  The PCH Dinner Show will provide tourism based year round revenue that will enhance our City both financially and socially.

In contrast, in an article published in the Union-Tribune entitled “Pond 20 Could be an Ecological Gem” dated January 9, 2012, the proponents of land-banking argue that “ample retail space along the Palm Avenue corridor sits empty, attracting neither proprietors nor customers.”  This comment raises a lot of questions about the sincerity the land-bankers have for the best interests of the community.

Are they are claiming that the economic development Pond 20, a 95 acre bay front parcel, has no significance for enhancing the economic prospects of our City?  Should not Pond 20 be viewed as a chance of a lifetime for our community to improve its economic base? How could anyone in their right mind deny the people of the IB Area an opportunity to reverse the long trend of deprivation, where neighboring cities have enjoyed great economic prosperity while ours has languished?   

The proponents of land banking argue that it is not economically feasible to “fill”, or raise the elevation, of Pond 20 for development. Don’t believe this, it is only their attempt to quickly shut out competing interests. The PCH Dinner Show concept cleverly addresses this concern by locating the main building on an area that has always been on dry land, and both the building and “multi-use” parking area are designed to accommodate the occasional 100 year flood as a normal cost of doing business.

The proponents of Land Banking carry on as if they represent the wants and needs of the citizens, but they do not. The people of IB, Palm City, and Nestor must be adequately informed of what they stand to lose if Pond 20 is used as another land bank. We need the leadership of our area to protect the best interest of the local community, or else, the people will be robbed blind by special interests.

Please support the PCH Dinner Show concept for Pond 20.  It has been specifically designed for our area by homegrown talent, to provide the greatest opportunity for prestige and economic prosperity for all.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Serge Dedina July 30, 2013 at 01:40 PM
Hi Roger: Thanks for your comments--I think you are confusing WILDCOAST with the Port of San Diego, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of San Diego, and the California Coastal Commission. We are a non-profit conservation organization dedicated to preserving coastal and marine ecosystems that worked with the community (no bullying tactics used) to advocate for the conservation of an area that is a designated coastal wetland. If you as a City of San Diego resident wants the Port of San Diego and the City of San Diego to give you public land that is a designated coastal wetland to run a for-profit business on it--then I strongly urge you to lobby the Port of San Diego and all of the agencies and elected officials involved. But we'd love to meet with you --and again since we've known each since high school and you were a generous WILDCOAST donor at one point who supported our mission--hopefully we can meet and chat soon. Cheers, Serge Dedina Executive Director WILDCOAST IB Resident since 1971
Roger Alan Benham July 31, 2013 at 06:15 PM
Dear Serge: Thank you for your reply. I am fully aware of your “non-profit” status, and there is no confusion with the other agencies. Your group, the “William Hall Mitigation Stakeholders Team” is directly competing for the control and financial benefits of using Pond 20 for Land Mitigation to offset development efforts to the North of IB by large corporations, including Sunroad, BAE, and others. Pond 20 was “set aside for development” by the Port District, who has clearly offered this option to the community through their outreach program. Given this fact, I respectfully disagree that Pond 20 is “a designated coastal wetland” (although I am weary of word-smithing and vernacular tricks used by those connected to the land banking business). Yes, I have been lobbying the best that I can to get through to all agencies, groups, and citizens, to make them aware that the IB Area has given too much to land banking, and we need an economic shot in the arm more than any other city in San Diego (look at our sales tax ranking – last). 90% has been land banked already, why can’t we have just 10% that Pond 20 offers us, land that many IB Area residents have always looked to for commercialized public access to the Bay? Yes, my family’s primary residence is in San Diego, however, we do have a home in IB that we do not rent, and it is my intention to grow old in IB, my hometown. Sincerely, Roger Alan Benham.
Aaron Hall October 11, 2013 at 02:26 AM
I have lived in IB for over 15 years and we need a PCH Dinner show
Aaron Hall October 11, 2013 at 02:27 AM
Roger i would love to see this show!!
Leon January 11, 2014 at 09:55 AM
The south bay communities of Chula Vista, South San Diego, Nestor, and Imperial Beach through their elected officials and Port District gave away 842 acres of south San Diego Bay to expand the airport at Lindberg Field. At that time they wisely set aside 95 acres for future public development at the corner of 13th street and Palm Avenue. Can we have a public park that grants access tidelands, that people can touch the water, that protects our environment and wetlands?


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