The Star-News - Aug. 23, 2002

Healthy breakfast is good for the city


The customary bacon and eggs served by National City Chamber of Commerce at its monthly breakfast meeting at National City's Community Center has been replaced by a low-cholesterol buffet of blueberry muffins and croissants.

While this is a sad let down for a hungry journalist it seems somehow symbolic of the leaner, cleaner city described by Paul Desrochers and his staff who gave presentations at the breakfast this week. Desrochers is executive director of National City's Community Development Commission and he expressed his mission as increasing business opportunities in the community, enabling residents to educate themselves into better paying jobs, improving housing and tailoring redevelopment programs to suit the community. He also made a point of congratulating National City Police Department for signficantly reducing crime and therefore making National City more attractive to investors.

Another positive note is that National City is conveniently close to the metropolitan San Diego area without being too close to allow good access. A BNSF/Amtrak facility is projected and the Amtrak link will put National City on the map.

The population of National City, he said, temporarily doubles during each working day whereas the population of, say, Poway reduces by half. Given that National City is hemmed in on all sides by San Diego, Chula Vista and the ocean, the CDC has had to come up with smart ways to develop what are known as brownfield sites, contaminated locations, many of which housed manufacturing plants. A good example of brownfield redevelopment is the projected Education Village at Eighth and Roosevelt from which eight to 15 truck loads of contaminated soil are being removed each day. The demolition phase of Education Village is 93 percent completed. And the finished complex will include garage parking for 453 cars.

Another example is the new marina slated for the Pepper Park area where removal of contaminated soil is already underway. And dredging for the marina is expected to begin the end of this year. Last Tuesday the council approved extending an enterprise zone for 17.7 acres along Marina Parkway.

The CDC makes extensive use of the Polanco Redevelopment Act which empowers redevelopment agencies to clean up properties within their jurisdictions.

The state requires the CDC to use 20 percent of its tax increment for housing. And the CDC is canny enough to use that money to raise still more money for housing. "We always want a deficit because we get our tax revenue in advance through bond sales," Desrochers said.

The CDC has rehabilitated 1,000 homes in National City. Fifty new homes have been built by the organizations Christmas in July and Habitat for Humanity. Just like the healthier breakfast served up by National City Chamber of Commerce, the CDC approach looks like it's going to promote growth in the right direction.