Social Design’s Rise & Fall

One Mayor’s Downfall Killed the Design Project That Could’ve Changed Everything

Next City, Feb. 23, 2015

On June 29, 2014, the four city staffers who made up the San Diego Civic Innovation Lab were hard at work all around the city, never mind that it was a Sunday. Ilisa Goldman was in Encanto, hurrying along the buildout of Chollas Creek Crossing, a small park of colorful benches and trellises on what had been a vacant and crime-prone lot. In Linda Vista, her colleagues Howard Blackson and David Saborio were putting the final touches on a new plaza at the neighborhood library, while several miles to the south, in East Village, Xavier Leonard was presenting a showcase of community-led technology projects. San Diego’s planning director, Bill Fulton, shuttled from place to place to cheer his staffers on.

It was like one of those HGTV shows where the team is racing to beat the clock, but the fixer-upper was the city, not a house. And there wasn’t much time left: less than 24 hours, because the staffers had all been fired. Their last day as City of San Diego employees would be the following day, Monday, June 30th. They had been on the city payroll for less than six months.

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