The Gaslamp Quarter Association (GQA) board of directors has decided to rid itself of its Land Use Planning Committee (LUP). Reportedly, the decision was motivated by a desire to focus GQA resources on marketing and other business promotion functions. The effective date of this decision remains unclear.
The Gaslamp Quarter Association is a Business Improvement District (BID) association. It receives it’s primary funding from the business licenses of businesses located in the district. Thus it may seem unusual that it would have had a land use planning committee in the first place. However, in the early 1990s, the organization (then called the Gaslamp Quarter Merchants Association) co-existed with another organization entitled the Gaslamp Quarter Planning Committee, which was a publicly elected body formed under the city’s Council Policy 600-24. The planning committee had previously morphed from the Project Area Committee (PAC) of the former Gaslamp Quarter Redevelopment Project, which in 1992 was absorbed into the larger Centre City Redevelopment Project.
During the co-existence of the two groups, they sometimes were at odds with each other on issues. Additionally, the existence of multiple groups in the small district became burdensome, especially since some people served in more than one organization. Accordingly, the Merchants Association proposed the idea of “merging” the two organizations. Technically, the “merger” was a termination of the GQPC. In exchange, the Merchants Association offered to absorb the GQPC and carry on it’s mission in a new “Land Use Planning Committee.” It also agreed to allow property owner and resident representation in the new LUP Committee. Accordingly, the Gaslamp Quarter Merchant’s Association was renamed to drop the word “Merchants” from their title, resulting in the more encompassing and generic moniker of Gaslamp Quarter Association.
However as time passed, institutional memory or fealty to old promises seems to have faded. The original reasons for the “merger” were apparently unknown to the current GQA board of directors. LUP Committee members report that none of them were approached for input or background prior to the decision to offload the Committee, even though the decision, according to GQA Executive Director Jimmy Parker, was reportedly considered for three years prior to the board action.
Time will tell whether the GQA action will recreate the situation it sought to eliminate in the early 1990s: an independent and sometimes adversarial organization (residents and restaurant/nightclub businesses don’t always “play nice” together).
Efforts are under way to determine if the Committee can be offloaded to another organization. GQA staff has held discussions with the Gaslamp Quarter Foundation staff to explore absorption into that organization. The Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating the public about the National Register Historic District and curating the William Heath Davis House Museum.
Other options to be explored include continuing as an independent committee or becoming a committee of the Downtown Community Planning Council (DCPC). Interestingly, the DCPC had a similar origination and evolution as the LUP. It started as the Project Area Committee (PAC) of the Centre City Redevelopment Project, then morphed into the Centre City Advisory Committee (CCAC) upon the statutory expiration of the PAC. Then upon the repeal of redevelopment law, the CCAC morphed again into a Council Policy 600-24 community planning group entitled the Downtown Community Planning Council (DCPC). Thus, it would seem unlikely that the LUP could resume its Council Policy 600-24 status since the area has been absorbed into the DCPC planning area. If not absorbed into the Foundation, perhaps the LUP will find its home as a subcommittee of the DCPC. However, with an increasing number of residents downtown, additional area-specific groups are being formed. An example is the relatively recent formation of the East Village Residents Group. Therefore, continued existence as an independent group may be a viable option, albeit without staff support. It’s also possible that the LUP simply ceases to exist.
Disclosure: the author serves on the GQA LUP and was the Chair of the GQA during the “merger” in the early 1990s as well as a GQPC member.
Photo by author