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Daily Business Report — June 4, 2012

2 Directors of Balboa Park Conservancy Resign
Over Board’s Support of Plaza de Panama Project

They accuse Mayor Sanders of applying political pressure to obtain the board’s approval

Two members of the Balboa Park Conservancy board have resigned in protest against the board’s 8-2 vote last week to support the controversial Plaza de Panama project, accusing Mayor Jerry Sanders, a principal backer of the project, of undermining the independence of the board and applying political pressure to ensure that the board acted in the project’s favor.

Board members Vicki Granowitz and Judy Swink submitted their resignations, saying in a statement that they no longer believe the Conservancy will be able to maintain the promised independence from elected officials and special interests. The board’s action, they said, “will reinforce public fears that the Conservancy will not, in fact, be independent of political considerations or the desires of individuals with power and means.”

The Conservancy is a nonprofit organization that raises funds and carries out capital improvement and maintenance projects in the park under an agreement with the city of San Diego.

The Plaza de Panama project was put forward by Qualcomm Inc. co-founder Irwin Jacobs and has been heavily promoted by Sanders, but it has generated considerable opposition from the Save Our Heritage Organisation and other groups, who claim it will run the historic character of Balboa Park. The Jacobs proposal is to free the Plaza de Panama area of vehicles and to build a bypass bridge at the Cabrillo Bridge that would lead to a multi-level parking garage in the park’s interior — all in time for the park’s centennial in 2015.

Granowitz and Swink said they were concerned last year when the mayor sought to be added to the Conservancy board of directors as a voting member. Although the board rejected the request, it later approved a proposal made by the mayor’s office to add two advisers to the board, the mayor’s and Council District 3. They said they felt this added to pressure they perceived as “part of an ongoing effort to lobby the Conservancy board to publicly support and advocate for the Jacobs proposal, in direct contravention of its (the board’s) stated purpose.”

Granowitz and Swink also complained that although the Conservancy board received a presentation by the Plaza de Panama team last year, it has not acted on a number of requests to hear from organizations or individuals suggesting alternatives to the Jacobs plan.

Housing Federation to Honor Retired Minister
With 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award

Richard Lawrence, a retired Methodist minister whose career spans nearly 50 years, has been selected to receive the San Diego Housing Federation’s 2012 Lifetime Achievement Award. The award will be presented at the Federation’s Ruby Awards on June 14. Lawrence, 75, has been involved in community development, affordable housing advocacy and public service. He came to San Diego in 1998 to retire and spend time with his three grandkids. Instead, he wound up launching the Affordable Housing Coalition and dozens of advocacy efforts in support of low-income households and their need for affordable and accessible homes.

PERSONNEL MOVES ____________________________________

San Diego — Anne Shen Smith has been elected president and CEO of Southern California Gas Co., a unit of Sempra Energy. Smith, who was chief operating officer of SoCalGas, succeeds Michael W. Allman, who has resigned from the position and will be leaving the company. Smith, who joined SoCalGas in 1977 as an operations research analyst, has served in a range of management roles during her 35-year career at the company. She had been chief operating officer since 2010. Previously, she was senior vice president of customer services for SoCalGas and SDG&E from 2004 to 2010.  From 1991 to 2004, she served in a variety of executive roles at SoCalGas.

SCORE San Diego Small Business Workshops

• June 5 – Financing Your Business – 9 a.m. to noon at SCORE Entrepreneur Center (550 West C St., #550, San Diego 92101; pre-paid registration $29, $39 at the door).

• June 6 – Hiring and Managing Employees – 9 a.m. to noon at SCORE Entrepreneur Center (550 West C. St., #550, San Diego 92101; pre-paid registration $49, $59 at the door).

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Voice Your Opinion

We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: