San Diego City Council chambers. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

The San Diego City Council Thursday scrutinized the proposed budget of Civic San Diego for the fiscal year that begins July 1, amid growing concerns over the scope of the agency’s powers.

Civic San Diego, which was created after the state abolished redevelopment, proposes to spend $7.4 million in the 2015-16 fiscal year, a 10 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Most of the hike for the agency that handles design and permitting of major projects in downtown, City Heights and Southeast San Diego stems from hiring five full-time staff and merit-based salary increases, according to staff.

The agency also helps the city wind-down the redevelopment process and runs the downtown parking meter system.

Questions have recently been raised about the scope of Civic San Diego’s powers and whether the agency receives appropriate oversight from the city.

On Wednesday, a bill designed to strengthen the supervision of such organizations was passed by the Assembly’s Local Government Committee. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, said her bill would create more oversight by local governments that rely on the planning, zoning or permitting expertise of nonprofit organizations or private individuals.

Mayor Kevin Faulconer and area business leaders said they would work to defeat the measure as it winds through the Legislature. They contend the bill, if passed, would add unnecessary hurdles to projects in neighborhoods that need development and would discourage investors.

The City Council’s Public Safety and Livable Neighborhoods Committee recently held a hearing on the issue.

Thursday, Councilwoman Myrtle Cole said the panel’s Economic Development and Intergovernmental Relations Committee, which she chairs, plans to hold a June 4 hearing on Civic San Diego’s bylaws and consulting agreement with the city, along with potential amendments.

“Some changes are needed to address concerns about transparency and accountability, and also to align with best practices,” Cole said.

She said she wants to hold regular hearings on the agency’s activities.

The City Council is in the midst of five days of hearings to vet Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposed $3.2 billion spending plan. The council plans to hold an evening meeting on Monday at 6 p.m. to take public comment.

—City News Service

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