Councilmen send open letter to businesses, mayor follows up with apology to city

OCEANSIDE — Councilmen Jerry Kern and Gary Felien sent an open letter to San Diego businesses on Jan. 14 urging them to consider relocating to Oceanside and emphasizing that Oceanside does not have a commercial linkage fee.

The letter opens with “San Diego is working hard to establish its reputation as an anti-business, anti-taxpayer city. Nothing demonstrates this better than the linkage fee.”

Felien said the letter was sent to publicize Oceanside and take advantage of businesses’ objection to the fee increase.

San Diego businesses that want to build or expand will pay a higher linkage fee or “jobs tax” to help support affordable housing for low-income workers.

The fee is also referred to as the Workforce Housing Offset and was last adjusted in 1996.

Felien said the increase to the fee raises costs 100 to 600 percent for some businesses.

The letter states the tax “attacks your business and the jobs you create.”

The letter goes on to ask businesses if they are “tired of the city of San Diego treating you like a target or cash cow to fund their special interest pet projects.”

“If businesses feel they are not being treated right they can take a look at Oceanside,” Felien said.

Felien added the letter has drawn attention to Oceanside.

“We have one (business that has responded) already. It looks pretty serious we’ll see where it goes.

“We’re not expecting instantaneous response. We’re hoping over time they’ll remember Oceanside and take a look.”

Mayor Jim Wood said he had no knowledge the letter had been written or sent when he was first contacted by media and asked for his response to it.

After reviewing the letter Wood said it is inappropriate.

He called the office of interim Mayor Todd Gloria to state an apology and assure the mayor the letter was not sent by the entire City Council.

Wood said he feels the letter went too far by openly criticizing San Diego’s policy.

“They’re blasting San Diego for not being business taxpayer-friendly,” Wood said.

“It’s poorly worded and not very nice.”

He added the letter might have an ill effect on city relations and trigger negative consequences when it comes to regional decisions like SANDAG votes, in which San Diego has 40 percent of the vote count.

“If they weren’t happy with the letter it could impact anything happening in Oceanside and North County traffic wise,” Wood said.

Wood said he does not object to the second half of the letter that informs businesses of state incentives Oceanside can assist them with, and includes a list of available sites and buildings.

He added that he wished the councilmen had asked the city attorney or manager to review the letter before they sent it.

In response to Wood’s concerns about the letter having a negative effect on city relations, Felien said it was written in fair competition for county businesses.

“Cities are competing all the time,” Felien said. “It’s an opportunity to point out they have a tax we don’t have and for them to defend it.”

Felien added the letter might cause San Diego to rethinking their linkage fee.

 

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