The need for defining a regional vision is vital in light of a recession that has eliminated thousands of jobs that aren’t likely to return and has forever altered the local economy, says Duane Roth, who leads Connect, a business support group for entrepreneurs.
Last week, The San Diego Foundation took a big step toward defining that vision when the nonprofit launched “Our Greater San Diego Vision,” an online survey of residents regarding the major issues that affect everyone and asking what they think the region should look like 50 years from now.
The foundation is requesting residents take a few minutes to weigh in at Show
YourLoveSD.org. The survey will end in mid-January.
“The fact is that our economy has gone through a tremendous transition,” said Roth, who has been involved in the vision project since it started about two and a half years ago. “That’s caused us to reflect on how we are going to compete in this new environment.”
Mary Ball, vice president of The San Diego Foundation, said the project is costing $2.4 million, with most of the support coming from private sector sponsors, community leaders and nonprofits.
The project leaders already have a good feeling for what the priorities are. Ball said a survey of about 1,200 people last year found that the No. 1 issue is — no surprise — job creation, and the No. 2 issue is affordability.
Outreach Project Draws Attention
An outreach project that began earlier this year held six community workshops that drew some 600 attendees and engaged 170 community partners, businesses and other groups that support the effort.
There have been similar opinion surveys on various issues affecting the region in the past, but this one is different, Ball and other San Diego Vision committee members say.
“What makes this one different is that it’s really fueled by the participation of the public,” she said. “It’s what they would like to see this region become in the decades to come.”
Another major differentiator is what happens after all the responses are collected. The data won’t simply be published and presented in a glossy binder only to be shelved.
Organizers have established a Center for Civic Engagement to monitor what the regional vision is, refine it as needed, and lobby elected officials to see that it’s being implemented.
“We hope this might influence future development and those individuals who really do have land-use authority,” Ball said.
Financial Commitment to Center
Malin Burnham, a retired real estate executive, has pledged $5 million to fund the center. The entity would be under the auspices of The San Diego Foundation and serve as a place where other organizations and groups would interact to formulate strategy concerning the vision, said Kevin Harris, who has been involved in the project from the outset and is chief executive of Sharepoint360, a local consulting firm.
As part of a recognized nonprofit philanthropic group, the center would have more independence than if it was affiliated with a government or a university which might skew its interpretation, Harris said.
Because of its great climate, location, and work done 25 years ago when the region went through an earlier recession, San Diego is in far better shape than other regions in the nation, Roth said.
After the Cold War and a massive downsizing of the area’s defense industry, the region’s economy had to be restructured, resulting in the basis for one of its three main drivers — the high-tech/biotech cluster. The other two are convention and tourism, and defense/military, Roth said.
The survey hopes to find out what kind of strategies this region should adopt to ensure these clusters continue growing, he said.
“If this exercise leads to that kind of focus, then we have a chance to get everybody talking about the same shared image,” Roth said.