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Time to abandon a sinking ship? Carlos R. Davalos | Sat, Oct 05 2013 12:00 PM

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: Steve Padilla, Jerry Rindone and Mary Salas are running for a seat on the Chula Vista City Council.

Or this one: SDG&E's take on a 2004 memorandum of understanding regarding bayfront property isn’t sitting well with some influential people in Chula Vista.

Or this one: Chula Vista’s Nature Center is struggling financially and is on the brink of shutting its doors.

If the scenarios sound familiar maybe it’s because they’ve happened before, as in prior to 2013.
Padilla, Rindone and Salas have in the past run for (and served on) seats on the City Council and are currently running again.

In 2007 SDG&E disappointed the mayor and City Council when it announced it would not tear down utility towers along the bayfront. Just this year the utility company disappointed  former councilman John Moot and former mayor Steve Padilla when it decided not to underground all of the power lines as discussed in the 2004 MOU.

In 2002 the city of Chula Vista took over the nature center because operators at the time could not afford to keep it running. Then, in 2009, the city determined it couldn’t afford its $1 million subsidy to the Nature Center and suggested they might have to shut down the aquatic zoo. Four years later, after becoming a non-profit organization and re-naming itself the Living Coast Discovery Center, the nature center is, again, on the verge of closing its doors unless it can come up with money to continue operating for one more year.

Sometimes it feels like deja vu in this city. But different.

Sometimes in this city it feels like deja vu. Only different.

If they want their nature center to stay open, residents, visitors, philanthropists and animal lovers will have to raise $200,000 by Oct. 28. Anything less and the center will close its doors permanently in December.

But that figure will keep the center open for only one more year. What then? Will supporters be hosting more emergency fundraisers in the near future?

If history is any sort of indicator — and in this case it is — the answer is yes.

The Living Coast Discovery Center, née the Nature Center, has been sinking under the weight of financial burden for a few years.

Tax forms indicate the center, from July 2011 to June 2012, had an estimated $1.4 million in total expenses but roughly only $1.1 million in revenue.

From July 2010 to June 2011 the center brought in $899,929 but spent about $1.2 million. I haven’t seen figures from 2012, but I am seeing a pattern.

No one wants to see the center close. But no one seems to be able to afford to keep it running. So the question remains, as it has all these years, how do you keep the center afloat long term? Can you?

Or do you just regrettably abandon ship?

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