Golden Hill’s 25th Street Nightmare Gives the Lie to Faulconer’s Infrastructure Fantasy

by on March 2, 2015 · 3 comments

in Culture, Economy, Environment, History, Politics, San Diego

IMG_0452By Jim Miller

A little over a week ago I was amused to see the Turko Files run a couple of segments “exposing” a disastrous Golden Hill renovation project on 25th Street that I had covered nearly six months earlier in late August of 2014. The KUSI angle was, appropriately, how bad the endless construction has been for local small businesses who have suffered through the scatter-shot planning and surreal whack-a-mole approach to getting the job done more“efficiently.”

Neighborhood residents might recall how Mayor Kevin Faulconer claimed his administration would change the game back in April of 2014 when he opined, “It’s a mindset that’s changing, and it says do it all at once. It’s taken awhile and it’s been frustrating for us, it takes more planning. So now, we do all of the projects at once – pipes, streets – so you don’t have to come back six months, two years later.”

What he didn’t consider was whether the residents of Golden Hill would dig it any better if his “efficient” new mindset of “doing it all at once” just meant that the work would keep going with no end in sight for the foreseeable future. Indeed, as bad as it is to live through the interminable disaster that is 25th Street, the political ironies are rich beyond words. As I noted back in August 2014:

“There is no such thing as a Democratic or Republican pothole.”

Remember that pat line that Kevin Faulconer used ad nauseam during the mayor’s race?

Well out here in the real world after the election, neither variety of potholes is getting fixed very quickly, and Faulconer’s fine words about efficiency and commitment to infrastructure are long forgotten once the press conferences are over.

A case in point is my Golden Hill neighborhood, where residents recently posted angry signs before they cleared several cone-blocked streets and dozens of “no parking” signs on their own after four months and counting of inaction in the wake of a Faulconer press conference where he promised big things.

As the San Diego Reader reported back in April:

Faulconer said the city has been rightfully criticized in the past for poorly coordinating infrastructure projects. For instance, the city would pave a street and then tear it up a couple months later for a sewer or water project. This project would be different, he said. The area would soon be due for a water-main replacement, so that project was consolidated with the other planned improvements.

As I write this in late August, nothing has been delivered for over four months but more potholes, bad water pressure, occasional geysers erupting from broken above-ground pipes, constant foul-ups, car accidents caused by obstructed views, perpetually unfinished sidewalks complete with dangerous uncovered holes, and a Waiting for Godot action plan.

Then - Graphic With Aug 2014 Article

Then – Graphic With Aug 2014 Article

And it has gotten so bad in the months since last summer when this was first published that most of my neighbors have just given up on even getting any coherent communication from the city no less any effective action. It seems we are stuck in some purgatorial netherworld where the clusterfunk low-bid construction company digs a hole for a day, covers it up again, goes away for a week or so, and then comes back to put a metal plate over the hole, move some dirt, and then drag a big dumpster from one end of the block to the other for no apparent reason.

The bottom line here is that there is no rational planning, adequate communication with residents, or even vaguely competent execution going on. Deadlines come and go, streets get dug up, repaved, and dug up again. But in Kevin Faulconer’s San Diego, no one is ever accountable.

Sucks to be you, Golden Hill.

Streetside March 1, 2015

NOW – Streetside March 1, 2015

This absurd comedy is occasionally interrupted by multiple car accidents, like the one where a man drove his truck into a stack of pipes in the middle of the construction site scattering light blue shrapnel up and down the street and all over my yard. Since no one offered to clean up the mess, my eleven year old collected a nice pile that we kept on our porch to remember that magic moment.

Aside from the damage to local businesses and car wrecks, there is the regular obscene waste in the midst of our historic drought as they test the pipes and pump rivers of water down the gutters of the neighborhood, the poor old folks tripping and falling on the street, the random crazy fun of people jumping in the open dumpsters on weekends to bang the walls and make big noise, and the joy of the Social Darwinist parking competition between residents and worried-looking yoga patrons.

IMG_0944But if one picked up UT-San Diego yesterday, you’d never know about any of this as their latest puff piece on Faulconer notes that, “The mayor has also focused on infrastructure, devoting half of all new revenue to repairing and rebuilding roads, sidewalks, recreation centers and other city facilities.

He also plans to streamline how infrastructure money is spent, blaming inefficiencies for much of the backlog.”

In the same piece the mayor himself pontificates once again on his mastery of all things infrastructural, “`It’s not about throwing money at the problem,’ he said. `I don’t believe the city’s been spending the money efficiently and wisely.’”

Well thank God he’s on it, otherwise things wouldn’t be going so well on 25th Street.

It truly is a new day in Golden Hill. The song of jackhammers in the morning sounds like victory—the victory of the very “reform” and outsourcing policies that KUSI News and Manchester’s UT-SD relentlessly sold us as manna from heaven. Amazingly, the KUSI coverage of 25th Street opens with Turko making the same old tired jokes about “government work” without any admission that this rotten deal is the pure product of the what the local right and their allies in the media have been promoting as the road to our civic redemption.

As Peter Brownell of the Center on Policy Initiatives put it when I asked him for his take on the 25th Street nightmare: “This project really suggests that the City cannot assume that contracting out to the private sector is more efficient. To the contrary, contracting effectively requires close City supervision and management.”

But that uncomfortable truth is just better left unsaid in most local media quarters.

That’s right, dear readers, instead of the magic of the marketplace delivering better services for less money, taxpayers have been treated to the worst kind of incompetent low-bid labor. So, like that neighbor you know who thought he got a great deal on his home renovation only to be stuck with a hopeless boondoggle, San Diego is getting what it paid for in projects like the one here in my storied neighborhood.

But in Kevin Faulconer’s San Diego, fantasy rhetoric about how much more “efficient” his approach is will always trump such awkward realities.


San Diego is getting what it paid for in projects like the one here in my storied neighborhood.


{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Amy March 2, 2015 at 10:29 am

Wow. Thank you for writing this.


La Playa Heritage March 2, 2015 at 10:40 am

The FY-2014 CAFR approved this week on Tuesday February 24, 2015 as Item 330, has lots more information on over $1 Billion in Fund Balances that can be used for Infrastructure CIP, along with Transfers From, Transfers To, Deferred Inflow of Resources, Deferred Outflow of Resources, etc.. This cash siting in the Bank along with the Successor Agency and Low Moderate Income Housing Asset Fund (LMIHAF) is the money former Mayor Filner was going to use for Neighborhood Infrastructure. It seems now that Mayor Kevin Faulconer and the City Council are finally going to look into the important CIP Infrastructure financing aissues.

IBA Report 15-05 for the Mid-Year Budget Monitoring Report give the upcoming timeline to analyze the Fund Balances in the FY-2014 CAFR Pages 170-171, to be used for CIP projects during the current FY-2015, before approval of the upcoming FY-2016 Budget.

“4. Authorization for the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) to transfer available budget out of technically completed CIP projects to either fund balance or another CIP project or annual allocation of the same asset type. Our office has specific recommendations related to the Mayor’s requests 1 through 3 above, which are discussed at the end of this report, while item 4 has since been removed from the staff report. When the Mid-Year Report was presented to the Budget and Government Efficiency Committee on February 25, 2015, the Committee voted to move the report to Council without request 4 above, which would authorize the CFO to transfer available budget out of technically completed CIP projects. This request for authority will be brought forward to the Infrastructure Committee on March 11, 2015 as part of a larger discussion on Engineering & Capital Projects streamlining efforts, CIP capacity, and CIP cash management processes. It will also be heard at the Budget and Government Efficiency Committee on March 18, 2015 as part of a discussion on excess TransNet funds. Our office will provide a review of this requested authority, as well as other CIP cash management processes that are presented at that time, ahead of the proposed authority’s inclusion in the FY 2016 Appropriations Ordinance.”

No news organization has done a story on all the great info in the FY-2014 CAFR. Before Donna Frye and Carl DeMaio use to read the CAFR, now no City Council person understand the value of the great information that is still not complete. Todd Gloria stated that Donna Frye would never approved the CAFR reports due to missing and incomplete information that is needed to sell Bonds.


Geoff Page March 2, 2015 at 1:04 pm

“As Peter Brownell of the Center on Policy Initiatives put it when I asked him for his take on the 25th Street nightmare: “This project really suggests that the City cannot assume that contracting out to the private sector is more efficient. To the contrary, contracting effectively requires close City supervision and management.”

Is it just me or was this comment from the Master of the Obvious? Of course City projects require “close City supervision and management,” that is true whether we are talking about City crews or private company crews. All of the crap I read here should be laid at the feet of the City’s project manager who should be managing the contractor on the project. Keep in mind that the people who work for the City do not like the idea of contracting out work they think they should be doing. Anything they can do to make that effort look bad, they will do if they can and not get caught. If this were a private contractor performing private work in the public streets, you can believe me when I say none of this would be tolerated. I was involved for years in placing fiber optic lines in City streets and I can say for certain there is a double standard for private versus public work. I think I’ll take a drive up to 25th St…


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