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.