Colin Parent Shows His True Colors as Sole Vote for Monster 950-Unit Complex in La Mesa With No Affordable Housing

by on May 15, 2023 · 1 comment

in San Diego

Last week the City of La Mesa City Council voted 4 to 1 against a monster apartment complex that would have included up to 950 units and 8 stories in the west section of the city.

Opponents criticized the size of the 4 building sprawling structure and its lack of affordable housing. The sole vote in favor was Colin Parent – the head of the controversial group Circulate San Diego.

Technically, the council vote rejected an appeal of a decision made last year by the planning commission, which also turned down the project.

The Alvarado Specific Plan was proposed for a 12 acre site, located at 7407 Alvarado Road, between Interstate 8 and a trolley line, currently hosting an RV park.

Councilmember Jack Shu was quoted in a U-T article:

“This sets a real bad precedent if something like this moves forward We’d really let developers have their way without providing the kind of amenities that the city needs.”

Blake Nelson, at the U-T, reported:

Seven members of the public spoke in opposition, repeatedly citing a lack of affordable housing as a concern.

A city consultant and a La Mesa staffer said the plans lacked key details and they faulted the developer for not doing more community outreach. While some changes had been made, other asks were ignored, said Director of Community Development Kerry Kusiak. “We’ve not had very much cooperation from the applicant, in terms of many of the things that we think were very reasonable requests,” Kusiak told the council.

Colin Parent, CEO of Circulate San Diego, member of La Mesa City Council

Nelson also added that Parent “tried unsuccessfully to give city staffers more time to negotiate design changes,” — negotiations between the city and the project developer started five years ago.

Parent also “raised the possibility that the developer may sue,” as his argument to allow the project to proceed. He and other proponents touted its proximity to mass transit and said the project could help address the region’s housing crisis.

These are familiar arguments for Parent, as CEO of Circulate SD, seen by many as a lobbying group for San Diego’s developer class.

Yet, in this one vote, Parent’s true colors are explicitly shown for all to see.

Bring it on, he said to his council colleagues and the La Mesa public. He didn’t care if it didn’t have any affordable housing within its gigantic 950-unit, 8-story footprint. It’s close to mass transit. He didn’t care that it would have been one of the largest  complexes in the city.

And, apparently, he didn’t care that the developer-owner hadn’t done community outreach or didn’t sufficiently respond to city staff. Bring it on. Luckily, his colleagues and members of the public who spoke disagreed.

Parent has been in the spotlight just lately. The U-T reported:

Since April 2018, the La Mesa Democrat has disclosed almost $700,000 in what are called behested payments — donations to charities by companies and individuals that are made at the suggestion, or behest, of an elected or appointed official. All of the contributions were directed to Circulate San Diego, which Parent has run for years.

The second-term council member, who announced last month that he is running for state Assembly, said there is nothing unusual about steering donations to his employer.

But political experts and good-government groups say the behested payments are questionable. For Parent as an elected official to ask donors for money to support an organization that he also manages raises the specter of conflicts of interest, they said.

The Rag and other observers of city politics have criticized Parent and Circulate these last couple of years — for good reason. Under the guise of being environmentally-friendly and a big proponent of bicycling and mass transit, Circulate has shown itself time and time again as being a shill for developers.

Two examples clear the way:

#1: Circulate SD has been one of the main forces for eliminating community planning boards and groups. Developers have been more than irked for being required to make presentations of their projects in front of them and be subject to planning area requirements — which the boards try to enforce. The city has listened to Circulate and has eliminated the volunteer boards in all practicality.

#2: When the Navy initially presented its options for the redevelopment of the NAVWAR properties, Circulate SD endorsed the very worst model, the one that envisioned huge high-rises, the one that was categorically rejected by the community and its response.

As San Diegans continue to wake up to how and why their neighborhoods and planning groups are under siege by the undemocratic and unreasonable housing policies being forced on them from above, those individuals and groups who’ve been behind these policies can be held accountable, individuals like Colin Parent and Circulate SD.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

chris schultz May 17, 2023 at 12:25 pm

Wish San Diego council had a backbone. Affordable housing can be addressed with proper planning and not as a underlying message to develop at all costs.


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