A second critical necessity is to rethink and readdress our dealings with the Navy and the Santa Fe Railroad, both soon to become major players in downtown development. The Navy sits on some of the city's most valuable bayfront land, and since the city cannot by law condemn that property, it must persuade the Navy to develop it in ways that are compatible with the rest of downtown. The Navy is too important to San Diego and occupies land too important for the city to ignore its desires, or worse, allow an adversary relationship to develop.
The city's relationship with the Santa Fe Railroad has sometimes been a difficult one. In the middle of the 19th Century, Alonzo Horton provided Santa Fe free land in exchange for the company's promise to make San Diego a major destination point of the railroad. Santa Fe took the land, but did not keep the promise.
Several years ago, the city and Santa Fe struck a 25-year agreement that allowed the company the opportunity to develop its property west of the Columbia area into a large commercial complex. In exchange for the agreement, which basically removed the City Council's ability to use eminent domain on this property, Santa Fe agreed to clean up a badly blighted area, which it has.
But as part of that agreement, Santa Fe acknowledged CCDC's desire to place 600 residential units per block on four blocks the railroad owns between Pacific Highway and Kettner Boulevard. Santa Fe's recollection of this particular commitment proved vague, however, and it has insisted on constructing a hotel on the property without agreeing to build as many housing units as CCDC wants.
Dealing with Santa Fe, which is the largest private landholder downtown, presents a major challenge. It has a lot to offer, including underutilized rights-of-way that provide an excellent path for trolley service into the downtown area and through the new convention center complex. The company's cooperation along the west side of our city, particularly in concert with the Navy, will be the final test for the successful development of that side of downtown.
The third major concern is the future of CCDC itself. A decade ago, when Mayor Pete Wilson was leading the charge for downtown revitalization, CCDC was the lead city agency in that effort. I would hate to see that role diminished and the still-incomplete redevelopment mission become diffused as various city departments and agencies get stronger voices.
Finally, as the city enters the next phase of redevelopment, it needs to seek and listen to the many resources that are available, including those from out of town. The Urban Land Institute panel that will study San Diego is an excellent example. While all may not agree with its recommendations, none should fault its independence, qualifications or good intentions.
Our city's success in the past, as satisfying as it has been, could have been better. Our renaissance has not yet produced a commercial building of such architectural quality as to stand out. Cities are identified with their skylines and by the individuality that each building in the skyline creates. Our buildings are, for the most part, glass cubes and from a distance seem to be of similar heights, giving the appearance of a city with a Marine Corps recruit's haircut.
We can improve on yesterday. But we must be willing to listen to good advice and to deviate from the safe course in the hope of achieving an even more vital and aesthetically interesting downtown.