Spread the Wealth

In July 2009, members of the Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District (MAD) convinced a majority of city councilmembers to cut fiscal year 2010's assessment in half, preventing the collection of new assessments until existing rollover funds were spent.

The maintenance assessment district, approved by voters in 2007, provides services such as graffiti abatement and litter removal.

In June the city council will vote on a new year's budget for the Greater Golden Hill MAD, and once again the community is littered with objections. According to the website for Golden Hill Community Development, the organization that administers the MAD, the budget for fiscal year 2011 is at $732,746. The original amount approved by voters and included in the engineer's report is $488,590.

"The budget posted by the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation for the Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District is excessive," wrote a group of Golden Hill and South Park residents in a letter to the Greater Golden Hill CDC and the City. "The amount of $732,746 far exceeds the amount approved by the voters for annual expenditures. That amount is $488,590. Please discuss with the City of San Diego ways of reducing your expenses to that amount."

Some residents feel that if surpluses exist then they should be used toward that next year’s assessment, not stuffed into a bank account or used to expand the scope of services.

The residents cite state law to prove their case: Streets and Highways Code #22656 states, "If there is a surplus or a deficit in the improvement fund of an assessment district at the end of any fiscal year, the surplus or deficit shall be carried forward to the next annual assessment to be levied within such district and applied as a credit or debit, as the case may be, against such assessment."

"I think they should apply any excess over $488,890 to reduce the taxpayer's costs for next year," writes Golden Hill resident and opponent of the MAD, Barbara Houlton in an April 27 email. "This is not an original idea; the state law addresses it."

The Greater Golden Hill CDC approved the budget during an April meeting. City staff will review the draft budget before delivering it to the city council in June.

This correspondent contacted Pedro Anaya, the executive director for the Greater Golden Hill CDC and is awaiting his response.

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More from SDReader


MADs can be good or bad.

The problem in San Diego starts with the politicians and their desire to get and spend citizens money. If it sounds like more taxes, in this case, it is.

Neighborhoods beware!

When the elected Oversight Committee in Golden Hill was replaced by an appointed "Advisory Committee" (appointed by the Golden Hill CDC, the organization it is supposed to monitor), all attempts to meet the requirements of the ballot and the city contract fell by the wayside. The city and the GH CDC will raise the tax rate once all the surplus has been expended. Not this year, but next year! Get ready.

We moved into South Park 7 months ago and started learning about the assessment on our property tax bill. Our realtor promoted that it was a good thing but was vague and didn't explain what it was used for or that it wasn't a government tax. It turns out that it's a private tax! We were thinking that the tax went for something like a recreational facility or pool or tennis courts. Man, that sure wasn't true! We've since learned that the money goes partly to a private corporation and partly to the city. The city levys and collects the tax but gives it to a private corporation and keeps some of the money to cover the cost of doing this! The money that goes to pay administrative costs for the corporation and the city equals about half of the collected tax. The guy who works for the corporation who is the spokesperson, a man named Pedro, said it covers part of his office costs and phone bills and travel expenses and food and health insurance for him and all of the other corporation staff. Oh yeah, they put up banners with slogans and put ashtrays on the street..WTF? Why are we paying for this crunk?

The money that goes to pay administrative costs for the corporation and the city equals about half of the collected tax

50% goes to the actual purprose~That's a DEAL!

Most gov programs spend 80% of every dollar on admin costs.

A typical example is Unemplyment Insurance-for every dollar paid into the UE system 80 cents goes to the gov to run the program and only 20 cents actually makes it to the unemployed worker.

Nice article Dorian. Once again, thanks for calling out the unilateral corruption that continues to exist within the City and it's CDC puppet org. Guess the CDC is not only bypassing bylaws in Golden Hill but now both state codes and the recent legal ruling that went against them regarding the special MAD ripoff. It's amazing to me that they can simply do what they want and totally ignore the will of the people. But hey, I guess they're just mimicing the larger federal governmental macrocosm that is no longer "by the people or for the people" but is rampantly growing at the expense of the people and is basically ignoring and has lost sight of the entire democratic process and U.S. Constitution. Following the feds and in light of their basic bankrupt and overspent state, I guess the City's ultimate goal now is to make us all tax slaves to fund out of control and lopsided employee pensions as well as feel-good low income segment (guess who??) subsidization. I recall the slogans "Don't Tread on Me" and "No Taxation without Representation". I'm sure those slogans will be remembered when the next revolution begins. I wonder what Alexander Hamilton and John Adams would say.

Spreading the wealth is right. Or is it redistributing the wealth. They effectively removed public oversight and support from MAD spending and economics with eradification of the powerless MAD oversight committee. Of course in reality, the oversight committee never did have a legal say so the public never really was represented although that was touted in the beginning of this fiasco as one of the very cornerstones of the MAD process. What a joke!!!!

Continuing thier debauchery against the recent legal ruling is most audacious and disturbing and speaks to the City's desperation and obvious need to funnel general services moneythat we already pay for through our taxes down to the lower income parts of District 8 down by the border. Never figured out how that one worked?? Shades (Shady actually) of Hueso!! Or is the City now in the business of playing Robin Hood. Maybe they should start running around in green tights with feathers in thier caps and change Golden Hill to Sherwood Forest.

I live in Golden Hill. The MAD has done nothing for me but raise my property taxes. That's bad enough. But some of the money is being illegally spent. That's worse. We should repeal this thing.


Good point, phineas. This happens to be one of the BAD MADs. It could ONLY be bad because it was created illegally, which required cheating and deception at each step. And participation between Hueso, Atkins, Atkins' spouse Jennifer LeSar at CCDC, the planning department heads and deputy directors, and their buddies at the Golden Hill Development Corporation, former and current, in a "let's create an assessment district" scam. And the infamous Marco Li Mandri was part of the plan from years back. See Bauder's great articles on Li Mandri.

What I see happening in San Diego is that even the good MADs, the ones that are formed by requiring real engineers and real capital projects that real community members really desire to pay for and maintain, are being subverted. LoMedico, head of Park and Recreation - look and stop it while you can: Over in Kensington the "KMAD" meetings discuss using residential owner property taxes for creating newletters, powerwashing business strip sidewalks, cleaning and decorating...etc. That has been ruled invalid, illegal, unconstitutional. Go ahead, Kensington...join the city in their screwing of the system and disdain for the law. Why not? In SD, everyone can join in. Why be left out by being honest?

And SurfPuppy, point taken. Unfortunately, in Golden Hill, the other 50% is wasted:

On junk and meaningless gestures, such as having some tree company show up in force with ten huge trucks and power equipment and mulchers, to find two cuttable trees on a street, and then cut at a tree that was just trimmed by SDGE, or whack some tiny frond off of a 3-foot tall sapling.

Or wasted on "decorating" using $1000 trash cans adjacent to sad-looking old buildings along cracked up sidewalks and pot-holed streets - sorta like the mentality of hanging flashing christmas lights on a hovel in some third-world country or wearing the gaudiest wal-mart polyester clothes, trying to look fancy.

These aren't a special benefit! They're a stupid act benefitting no one. These private corporations collecting taxes are worse than any real government. They aren't subject to the public records act. They are invisible and subject to no oversight by the city. Zero. Zip.

By moving what the money is being spent for away from the ballot projects, the city is opening itself up to yet another lawsuit. I understand that Mike Davis, the MacArthur Award winning writer on Urban topics, is a resident of Golden Hill. I wonder if he is following all this, and what he would think of it.

Dear Surfpuppy619,

You are actually pathetic to say that 50 percent of what we pay to this MAD going to administrative costs is "good."

Not one penny of this should go to administrative cost because all money collected by law needs to go to "direct benefit" of the particular property owner. The fact that we are already paying for Pedro's salary and now we have to pay even more directly out of my pocketbook to pay Pedro directly, well, not happy and not good and most of all... not legal!

Here is an example of how my MAD money is spent:

A few months ago the MAD decided that putting river rocks in the tree wells along Broadway would be a good thing because it would "stop the trash, stop the dog poop/pee," keep it cleaner. Well since they have put the river rock in the very small tree well in front of my house (we paid thousands to brick the walkway in) I have had trash and cigarette butts caught up in the rocks, the dogs pee on the rocks and as well I now have an ant problem because the ants like the moisture under the rocks and they are currently building a nest that I will have to pay to exterminate. Beyond even all this, I have the same river rocks in my backyard that I am getting rid of and you all made me pay for the "privilege" of having you put cheap rocks in front of my house that I had to remove?

The GGHCDC MAD is nothing more than a Robin Hood tactic to make me pay double. Period.

area51: You have authority and control over the public right of way in front of your property, if you are the owner. Only you and the city can do things to any part of that area. If the city wants to plant a tree in front of your PROW, for example, they will contact you and work out a contractual agreement. If anyone else messes with your property's PROW, you can run them off and you can remove or undo anything they install.

You are right about the ill-thought-out river rock projects, which you and all of us paid for, without anyone asking permission. I saw a bunch of torn pieces of black paper laying in some tree wells, for weeks, with weeds and trash collecting in and around the paper. I finally realized that that was what was below the rocks I saw heaped up around other trees. Not only does that paper make great ant hideouts and nests, but it stops normal penetration of what little rain we get. Also, because it is installed in parts and pieces with many breaches, and isn't perfectly sealed along the well edges, bermuda grass and weeds will grow just fine in every opening, up through the rocks. It's a formula for UGLY, and impossible to maintain, without spending a fortune on tedious labor, weeding by hand. Oh. I get it. That's the goal.

What a bunch of morons at the CDC! I would love to be a fly on the wall when they are brainstorming on ways to waste our tax money. I can't imagine what ideas get rejected. None?

The official election material put out by the City stated that 100 percent (not 80, 50, or anything in between) of collected funds would go to about 10 direct services. Now that's been proved a lie, but as long as the City is making money off the deal, no one cares. Try to get a response from Gloria and Hueso and watch them wiggle out of it.

It's my understanding that a group of property owners filed a lawsuit against the City saying the MAD was in part(s) illegal. The ruling by the court was in favor of the property owners. The City is appealing. I wonder why the MAD assessments aren't put on hold and the "services" ended until the legal matter is settled? Seems the City is asking for more problems down the road trying to refund assessments when the appeal is also ruled in favor of the property owners.

Didn't the City recently lose a court battle over the "fee" they had the audacity to charge to process business taxes on landlords? I'm thinking that the 4% that Economic Development takes out of our phony commercial MAD assessment, for the supposed onerous task of processing all of the Golden Hill Corporation's reimbursement requests, may constitute a legally challengeable fee. The City does NOT take any part of the BIDs' collected business taxes in the business improvement districts. Why not? Why do they take part of our money?

Another thought: the City owns over 90 parcels in the GGH assessment district; the way the City has set up the creation of MADs, they get to vote in the ballot to create the assessment district. The value that THEY determined for each assessment for each City parcel that THEY owned in GGH was over three times what it should have been. Yep. It was that blatantly rigged. The "yes" vote win is determined by the dollar amount of the "yes"-voting assessments. (That was part of the complaint in the lawsuit). And the way the City set it up some years ago, by Muni Ordinance, was that the City votes "yes" automatically. Oh.

So, they supposedly transfer the inflated-assessment City money to the GGH MAD account, then take 4% of the GGH MAD account for admin costs. What a joke.

concerned: You are correct. The residents won, with their scraped-together donations from many local property owners to cover costs, and with the kindness and generosity of a wonderful East County lawyer, doing pro bono work. Hats off, too, to a hero. a wonderful long-time resident of the area, who led the way and did much of the legwork despite struggling with a serious, serious health problem. We love our neighborhood, but we also love honest, democratic processes and feel disgusted by the divisiveness and ugliness and phoniness that the Golden Hill Corporation and the City, including Hueso, Atkins,and now Gloria, and the voting block of Republican sycophants in the City Council, have foist upon us. We just couldn't turn our backs on this retched little scam and ignore it. It would have been easier to do so, and we would have rather spent our time over the past 2 years doing much happier and productive things. But a City of liars, propagandists, and grifters is too much to ignore. Grifters. They really are that bad. And they have hired desperate, defective, "front" people to further their cause. It is hateful and understandably boring to outsiders, but we are fighting hard for what is right, and we will not stop. The City has filed an appeal in the 4th appellate, and it will drag out for months and years, but we will win.

"The amount approved by the voters for annual expenditures is $488,590. City staff will review the draft budget (of $732,746) before delivering it to the city council in June."

Why is the City considering this budget at all, when the official, approved expenditure is being flagrantly exceeded? Surely the City has a basic duty to its taxpayers to serve as a watchdog, and to enforce city contracts honestly and ethically. Moreover, the City certainly SHOULD NOT PARTICIPATE in taxpayers being wilfully defrauded and stolen from. Why else would the City need to review a budget before presenting it to the city council, except to verify that it is legal, fair, and appropriate?

Shame on the City of San Diego - it's making Chicago look like a city of choirboys! Corruption has taken over every level of our government, and the public officials who are running the city of San Diego are the types that we must vote out of our lives for good, along with this vile MAD!!!

Dear Surfpuppy619,

You are actually pathetic to say that 50 percent of what we pay to this MAD going to administrative costs is "good."

Not one penny of this should go to administrative cost because all money collected by law needs to go to "direct benefit" of the particular property owner. The fact that we are already paying for Pedro's salary and now we have to pay even more directly out of my pocketbook to pay Pedro directly, well, not happy and not good and most of all... not legal!

Thank you for your support.

Now go back and read my post. It says that 50% of the funds going to the purpose they are supposed to go for- in the government- is a tremendous deal, CONSIDERING that most government agencies spend 80% of program money on admin costs (see the context here oh wise one, a/k/a area51).

That's why they call them MAD!

I suggest you folks look at Little Italy's District and then you will see what a private Company can do when these MAD's are self managed!

Here is some more info: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/financial-crime-politics/2010/jul/10/little-italy-association-recommended-for-parking-c/#c66333

Regarding #15 Your comments you are Right On!

These City managed MAD's were sold to the folks because a larger percentage of voters had to approve them if they were to be "self" managed (by a private Company under the direction of a Local non paid Board) instead of City managed and if this Board is "picked" by the Council office then it is even less responsive! The best way to select the Controlling Board is by District, and elections NOT appointments by local Groups.

North Parks MAD now has a huge balance and is doing very little (sidewalk repair fee matching, tree planting and light installation) except helping the Business District look better, which is a great deal for them but a lousy deal for all the property Owners that paid into it! They have even set aside $50,000 for their next re-balloting having failed the last time around to get the required votes necessary to change their mandate; Oh and they have no cap on how much their Board can raise the Annual assessment... That's scary :-0

Go South Park!

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