The Star-News - Feb. 14, 2003

Mid-Bayfront may be Padilla’s legacy


Development plans for Chula Vista’s Mid-Bayfront are a little bit like buses. If you missed one, there’s bound to be another one along soon.

But Mayor Steve Padilla isn’t content to let this quaint South County tradition continue. “I am determined, as your mayor, before my time is out, to see a project in the Mid-Bayfront,” he said to an audience composed mostly of local business leaders at the monthly breakfast held at the San Diego Country Club last Friday. “And I need your help.”

The way Padilla tells it, Mid-Bayfront development proposals tend to be shot down by a well-organized group of zealots who turn up to speak at public forums. “Those who organize best are heard loudest.” But the Mid-Bayfront should represent the entire community. So the voice of South County business needs to speak up a little. It just needs to be organized sufficiently to expose some of the double talk.

We need to be reminded that the Mid-Bayfront is not a 180-acre project, it’s a 400-acre project of which 180 acres were set aside for development. The tree huggers already got their 220-acre conservation area. Why should they be allowed to come again to the bargaining table and demand the rest?

“We will be met at every corner by those who say that all change and any change is bad,” he said. “And they are wrong.”

The reason they are wrong is that an acceptable development of the Mid-Bayfront is an essential economic catalyst for the Broadway corridor. It’s essential because Chula Vista has to brace itself for the massive impact of Gov. Gray Davis‚ botched budget proposal and the withdrawal of $10 million in “backfill” that would replace lost Vehicle License Fees. And it would be disastrous to run out of money before backbone infrastructure is put in place to cater for the rapid development in the eastern city.

When speaking of the city’s population having recently reached the 200,000 mark, Padilla likes to say, “Chula Vista is on the doorstep of its own coming of age.” And that’s not an entirely mixed metaphor. Coming of age used to involve being given a key to the front door.

So it’s time to grow up and give the Montgomery neighborhood the signs and sidewalks it was promised 20 years ago. It’s time to fight Sacramento in defense of our own financial priorities. And Padilla even wants reconstitute the University of California Chula Vista taskforce to bring “a university of some sort” to Chula Vista.

It was a little disconcerting to hear him paraphrase a line from Pericles’ funeral speech for the Athenian war dead, circa 430 B.C: “We do not imitate but we are a model for others.” But the same version was spoken by a newly elected JFK in 1961.

When Chula Vista does come of age, will others see our model as Athens or Camelot?