San Diego Business Journal

The mayor’s choice to lead Civic San Diego, the city’s primary project oversight agency, said he’s ready to take on community development priorities that go well beyond the downtown core.

San Diego native Reese Jarrett, a longtime banking and development executive, spent his early years in and around the city’s southeastern neighborhoods, like Encanto, long deemed in need of greater attention and investment from the public and private sectors.

Among his goals is creating a climate where neighborhoods underserved by national retailers can get away from their status as “food deserts” with few options for buying fresh produce, meats and other healthy food items.

“There are situations where people have to leave their community to spend their money on those kinds of things,” said Jarrett, who most recently was president of San Diego-based E. Smith & Co., a real estate investment, development and management company. “What we can do is have more things in those communities that create jobs, and also help to keep that spending in those neighborhoods.”

Mayor Kevin Faulconer chose Jarrett, 63, to succeed Jeff Graham as president of the nonprofit Civic San Diego, which oversees projects with elements of community redevelopment, often involving both the public and private sectors.

Graham left the job in March to take a position with commercial brokerage company JLL, and the San Diego City Council will likely be reviewing Jarrett’s appointment when it returns from its summer recess.

Looking at Needs Beyond Downtown

Civic San Diego is the successor agency to what was formerly Centre City Development Corp., a largely downtown-focused entity that was disbanded after the state of California abolished all community redevelopment agencies in 2012.

With downtown now enjoying a development renaissance featuring several commercial projects underway, city officials are looking to focus on the service and infrastructure needs of other neighborhoods.

Faulconer in April put forth a $2.97 billion city budget proposal for fiscal 2015, called “One San Diego,” directing more money toward streets, neighborhood services and public safety.

The plan calls for more than 50 percent of future general fund revenue growth to go toward infrastructure and neighborhood repair efforts. Among other elements, the plan extends public library hours, reallocates more funding toward homeless programs, boosts funding for police academy and police retention programs, and increases funds for certain fire and emergency response programs.

More recently, the mayor said his priority for Civic San Diego is to help neighborhoods like Encanto and City Heights, by fostering growth through new economic development projects. Civic San Diego will be tasked with helping the city identify partnerships and projects that will help those and other neighborhoods thrive.

“I appointed Reese Jarrett to this position because he has the credibility as both an economic development expert and someone who was born in district four to help transform San Diego’s urban neighborhoods into places with greater opportunities and jobs,” Faulconer said in an email.

Appointment Applauded

Jarrett is familiar with community finance issues after starting his career in the savings and loan industry, working as a commercial and construction real estate loan officer at Home Federal Savings and Loan Association and Great American Savings Bank.

In 1982, Jarrett became executive vice president and director of the Southeastern Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit agency that was folded into the current Civic San Diego as part of a 2012 reorganization by the city.

Later in the 1980s, he formed E. Smith & Co., subsequently becoming a general partner at Carter Reese & Associates, a San Diego-based development company specializing in “smart-growth” urban in-fill projects.

Jarrett’s appointment was applauded by civic leaders including San Diego City Councilmember Myrtle Cole, whose fourth district is among city regions intended to receive more attention under the new budgetary priorities.

“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again,” Cole said, on the day Faulconer made his Civic San Diego appointment. “There is a dire need for economic development and neighborhood revitalization in this district.”