A San Bernardino councilmember apologized to the public Wednesday, April 5, for the lack of transparency surrounding the latest attempt to redevelop Carousel Mall.
In response to a top state official alleging the city violated four state laws in setting out to revitalize the 43-acre downtown site, Councilmember Kimberly Calvin revealed she and two of her peers on a special committee were “locked out of negotiations, mediation, for 18 months” while the master developer and city officials discussed how to transform the shuttered shopping center.
As a result, Calvin added, city leaders did not know two affordable housing developers had emailed city administrators in 2021 to express interest in the mall property.
“Whether it’s an omission or mistake,” Calvin continued, “we in the city of San Bernardino seem to have this ability to continue to create errors that last for decades in this city. That is not what I signed up for. I did not walk as many steps and ask the people of this community to support my campaign in order to get to this dais and fail them by not being able to be accountable for what it is the city has done.
“I personally feel that since June 2021 … I have not been told the full truth as to what was before us.”
A March 16 letter penned by David Zisser, assistant deputy director for the state Department of Housing and Community Development, alleges San Bernardino skirted state law four times over in planning the Carousel Mall’s reincarnation.
Chiefly, city officials failed to prioritize affordable housing, Zisser wrote.
While not at City Hall when the alleged violations occurred, Nathan Freeman, director of Community, Housing and Economic Development, told the City Council Wednesday that past city officials did their part in negotiating with the affordable housing firms that conveyed interested in the project.
Where his predecessors erred, Freeman said, was not including those conversations in documents submitted to the state.
Calvin contended she and her peers on a committee tasked with overseeing the goings-on at Carousel Mall were never told, publicly or privately, two such companies showed interest.
“I am totally disappointed,” she said.
A workshop for the City Council to discuss next steps ahead of the state’s May 15 deadline to cure all violations is being planned.
“I’m grateful for the community organizations that are out there to hold us accountable,” Calvin said. “What I don’t like is to spend two years of my life thinking I’m working hard and pushing forward to obtain something that the city has been trying to achieve for a decade or so and it never happening, just to end up in a position where we have to stand before you and apologize for something we were never told about.
“But that’s what leaders do,” Calvin continued. “I am apologizing. Now what we have to do is figure out in which way are we able to right this wrong and set ourselves on a path to giving the city of San Bernardino what we all want and desire in a vibrant, thriving downtown.”