COUNCIL DISTRICT ONE CANDIDATE MARK LIUAG
Mark Liuag is running for Chula Vista City Council District 1, being vacated by Council member John McCann. A native San Diegan and longtime resident of Chula Vista, Liuag’s father worked for the city of Chula Vista as a city planner, and his mother worked for the Chula Vista Elementary School District. His wife works for the Chula Vista Elementary School District, and they raised both of their children here.
“My roots are here in Chula Vista,” he said. “I went to elementary school in Chula Vista and Hilltop middle and high schools. Then went to Southwestern College and SDSU.”
Liuag worked in the aerospace industry for General Dynamics and Rohr, before opening his own business in Chula Vista manufacturing gas turbine engines. He said his business had around 215 employees and was one of the largest independent employers in the city.
“We have a lot of roots here in Chula Vista, lots of friends, lots of family,” he said. “I became involved with the city after my children graduated and I had more time, I did what I always wanted to. I became more involved with the city, the chamber of commerce, ending up on the Planning Commission for eight years. The timing was good. It was during the time of the Otay Ranch development, the Olympic Training Center and other large projects happening on the east side.”
Liuag said there were many land-use choices that the planning commission took a stance on, but City Council overrode their decisions.
“Mostly turning commercial and retail space to residential,” he said. “The Commission did not believe that was appropriate. We were moving too far off our master plan and going in the wrong direction, but City Council took the short-term dollars that we felt was at the expense of the long-term. That is one of the primary reasons that I am running. I want to help get the city back on track and get our economic development more aligned with the type of city that we are and what Chula Vista can be.”
Liuag said Chula Vista is the second largest city in the county, but that it is near the bottom when it comes to revenue per capita.
“Our household incomes are above average in the county and there is no reason for us to be economically challenged that way,” he said. “It is largely because of our land use. We are not spending enough money to generate our own sales tax revenue. Plus, we had to increase taxes. I supported that because that is the only way we were going to keep doing it, but if we keep going down this track, we are going to have to keep adding taxes to keep up services. Or we are going to lose services.”
Liuag said somewhere down the line the city must make economic development the “key piece” to bring back community services lost over the years. He said things he used as a child growing up in Chula Vista may never come back because no one wants to cut fire and police, himself included, because their services are primary to the city.
“But, if you do not have enough money, something has to give,” he said. “Economic development is a big key piece to my core in why I am running as a means to an end in bringing back the services that we need, and also, bring back the amenities and things that we should see.”
Liuag said the city should have retail stores to shop, restaurants to eat at, after school programs, opportunities for youth to work in the city, just as he did growing up in the area.
“Those types of things, I think we have lost track of,” he said.
Liuag said the city has grown out of balance over the last 15 years, especially with the tremendous growth in East Chula Vista.
“If you look at District 1, it is much more in balance,” he said. “Rancho Del Rey, Terra Nova, the Costco shopping center, Home Depot, and everything along H Street. Then you go to Eastlake you have that whole commercial area. But then you go look how much Otay Ranch is so much bigger, eventually it will be built up bigger than Rancho Del Rey and Eastlake, and they do not have near the shopping or businesses that Eastlake and Rancho Del Rey generate. Those are sorely missing.”
Liuag said giving up the property adjacent to the Olympic Training Center was a disservice to the city and the training Center.
“The City operates it now, and the one thing that the guy who manages is says is that they wish Chula Vista had more amenities for its athletes to have outside of the Training Center,” he said. “They are not there, so where do they stay? They stay in Mission Valley, downtown San Diego, closer to where there are more amenities. We had this beautiful opportunity with the Training Center and campus there, and it generates no revenue for the city, because the people are going somewhere else.”
Liuag said the city has missed many opportunities due to “short-sided decisions” in land use and is largely why he is running for city council.
“I know the history. I know where it came from, and I know when some of those decisions were made and why. They were really for short-term reasons. We must get back on track,” he said.
Liuag said the city lacks in good jobs and opportunities, and like other cities and neighborhoods has a problem with the homeless population.
“But we are the second largest city in a very comfortable climate, so we have our share of homeless and must deal with that,” he said. “The lack of jobs and retail space, the opportunity there has hurt the city’s revenues in terms of sales tax. It has suppressed some of our property values, which we thought of, but we are still not in pace with the rest of the county. So, we lose money in property taxes as well.”
Liuag said the city’s primary focus should not only be on economic development, but since it has been ignored for so many years, it needs to come to the top of the list for City Council.
“We must go and really recruit, be very aggressive in trying to bring in good employers, businesses, good services to the city,” he said. “And we need to compete. Imperial Beach is one new business more than we did, and the same in National City. We need to look at this at a countywide position. There are many good reasons why people should locate their businesses in Chula Vista. El Cajon has a larger tax base in manufacturing, and you see the same thing in Carlsbad and Oceanside. We have all the makings to be the best, yet we are lagging behind. We squandered many opportunities on the east side to do it better.”
Liuag said that getting a university in Chula Vista is a “good long-term goal,” having the dedicated space sets the opportunity, but rather than forcing it, it should be something that comes “organically.”
“We need the UC system in California to see the need, so the key focus here is to extend the educational opportunity at Southwestern College, inside the Sweetwater school district, adult schools, and expand our capacities in those to show that we really have that need for a bigger facility. Then we can grow from that. Whether it be an extension of Southwestern College, or a bigger piece in making it a CSU,” he said.
“It does not always have to be a four-year college destination for all our folks,” he said.
“There are many vocational positions that we can do to educate people that brings great jobs…Even if you want to pursue a four-year degree later, vocational skills are a great way to start. Even a good way to end for that matter. There are many ways to succeed in life.”