The Gran Havana case still smells of corruption. 06/29/07
by Pat Flannery
Wednesday's CCDC Board hearing of the Gran Havana redevelopment case was more interesting for what it did not say than for what it did.
Starting with the Agenda. The Gaslamp Renaissance Hotel, formerly the Gran Havana Cigar Shop, was Item 17. Note that it made no mention of the alternative action available to the Board, viz. to sign this draft Notice of Default (pages 15-16) specially prepared for this CCDC Board meeting but hidden deep in the 57 page staff report. The actual Agenda only offered the Board action recommended by the staff, viz. to extend Ramin Samimi's development agreement for another two years. That is dirty pool by the staff.
Nancy Graham and Eli Sanchez tried to hoodwink the Board into doing what staff wanted. The unmistakable impression was intentionally given that the only action available to the Board was to extend the developer's contract. That contract is now in default for over six months - since December 15, 2006. Putting Samimi in default was not an option.
Well, the Board didn't go for it. They voted unanimously to send the matter back to the Real Estate sub-Committee on July 11, 2007. Here is a link to that Agenda. It is not published yet but try it again next week. In the meantime, for a look at what the Real Estate Committee does, here is a link to its Agenda for its last meeting on June 13, 2007.
Not getting their way on Wednesday put Nancy and Eli's plan to help Samimi out of kilter. No matter what the Real Estate Committee decides on July 11, it has to come back to the full CCDC Board on July 25 as a recommendation only. Here is the link to the July meeting agenda. Click on it during July when the Agenda will be published.
Again, no matter what the CCDC Board decides on July 25, the item has to come before the Redevelopment Agency Board (8 Member City Council sitting as the Redevelopment Agency). There is no RDA board meeting in August, therefore the earliest Samimi can get his extension is September 11, 2007. By then he will be 9 months in default.
What was obvious from watching Wednesday's meeting is that the Gran Havana case is not about whether eminent domain is a good thing or a bad thing (although that is what they want us to think) it is about favoritism. It is clear that the CCDC staff, for whatever reason, favors Samimi over Mesdaq. They have done so from the very beginning.
Did somebody get paid off? Staff members stuck their necks out a long way, for themselves or somebody higher up, by issuing a false Polanco Notice (alleging the presence of a toxic waste dump) on the 5,000 square feet lot owned by Mesdaq but not on the adjacent 35,000 square feet owned by Samimi. That smells of corruption.
In the interest of fairness, here is the real picture. 06/28/07
by Pat Flannery
I think the handshake picture in the U-T this morning was a little unfair to both men, so here is my picture of the same moment yesterday.
The U-T picture gave the false impression that Sanders and Aguirre avoided looking at each other as they shook hands. As you can see, that is not correct.
In the interest of fairness I just thought I would clear that up.
The purpose of the press conference was to hand out this letter, the Mayor's response to Sunroad's letter, which was the subject of the 9:00 PM press conference the night before and Mr. Aguirre response to both the Mayor and Sunroad. Enjoy.
At the risk of being accused of puckering up to Mike (Mike knows I don't "pucker up" very well) we should all be grateful to him for personally taking the time to write a full four page letter of careful explanation to Sunroad. It is pure Aguirre. This is not just showmanship for Mike, he really does care. He takes the time. I think even Sanders will admit that.
CCDC used a false allegation of toxic waste to seize Gran Havana. 06/25/07
by Pat Flannery
Mayor Sanders must deal with the emerging Gran Havana scandal before he has another Sunroad on his hands, maybe even worse.
Eli Sanchez, the CCDC project manager for Ramin Samimi's hotel project, admitted under oath at trial that he knew there was no contamination on the Gran Havana site and that he knew Samimi was using CCDC's false charge of toxic waste as a negotiating tool against Gran Havana. Isn't that corruption? A City employee lying for a developer?
Here's the unfolding story:
According to Cynthia Eldred's letter (pages 17-26) to CCDC (she is the lawyer for the developer who seized Gran Havana) the developer, Ramin Samimi, has to date spent $23 million on this project. Now he is in default on his contract with the City. Read the draft Notice of Default (pages 15-16) prepared for the CCDC Board meeting tomorrow. They must decide between extending and changing his contract or pulling the rug on him.
Samimi was contracted to close escrow (on the purchase from the now City-condemned Gran Havana property) by December 15, 2006 and to commence construction of a hotel by January 16, 2006. He has done neither. That escrow was due to close over 6 months ago! Try that one in the real world of private real estate.
Mr. Samimi now has $23 million riding on the toss of a coin at tomorrow's CCDC meeting. He is truly a risk-taker. Or is he? Somehow I don't think so. I suspect the fix has been in for a long time. We know he has friends in high places.
Remember the Iranian immigrant, Kourosh Hangafarin, Dick Murphy controversially appointed to the Port Commission, widely believed to be because of his extraordinary ability to raise big bucks for Republican Party causes from the deep-pocketed San Diego Iranian-American community? I am told Hangafarin is Samimi's cousin. Read this CityBeat article about Hangafarin's bizarre trip to Cuba that got him fired from the Port.
So, Simimi has $10,165,000 on deposit with CCDC for the acquisition of the 5,000 square feet Gran Havana lot (which the City now owns) and according to Cynthia Eldred, he spent $8 million on consulting and legal fees. This means that he spent only $4,835,000 to acquire the other 35,000 square feet. He offered Mesdaq a mere pittance for the Gran Havana property, boasting that he would use CCDC to get it for him.
In her letter to CCDC (page 25), Ms. Eldred cites as evidence of Mr. Samimi's "good faith effort to develop the project" the fact that he has spent $23 million to date. To expend such money without a guarantee of success, she points out, would be "folly". I agree. Who then is Mr. Samimi's friend at CCDC? The Project Manager Eli Sanchez? His boss Mr. Allsbrook? Both? The whole CCDC Board?
Why did CCDC appeal Mr. Mesdaq's successful court case? The Agency had nothing to gain. Samimi had contracted with CCDC to pay all the expenses, including acquisition costs and litigation expenses. CCDC is not at risk for a penny. And Samimi had already put the $10,165,000 on deposit with CCDC. There must be a reason why CCDC appealed.
I suspect that CCDC knew all along that Samimi was no hotel developer, that he needed to find somebody to do what he was contracted to do. He needed time. Did they cover for him until he finally located such a hotel developer? Read the email (page 33) everybody was waiting for. It didn't take Eli Sanchez long to get things rolling after that.
This vital June 5, 2007 email confirmed for Eli Sanchez and CCDC that Samimi's proposed lessee, Hansji Hotels Inc., had finally secured its contract with Marriott and everything was a go. Sanchez got it docketed for the CCDC Real Estate Committee June 13. They passed the buck to a full CCDC Board meeting tomorrow.
Why would CCDC spend public money to help a private developer when they had no monetary interest in the case? It screams to high heaven of corruption!
Project Manager Eli Sanchez's staff report to the CCDC Board tomorrow is taken almost word for word from Cynthia Eldred's letter. Sanchez is a City-paid advocate for Samimi.
David Allsbrook, Eli Sanchez' boss, is a long time staffer with CCDC. He was CCDC's manager of contracting and acquisitions and managed the agency's "land assembly" efforts in the East Village. He knows all the tricks. He is an expert on the use of eminent domain and the use (and abuse?) of the Polanco Act, the legal tool used by Redevelopment Agencies to clean up toxic waste sites. His wife is a real estate agent with Prudential Realty (Neuman & Neuman) and works in the downtown office.
This extract from Gran Havana's attorney Vince Bartolotta's court brief makes it very clear that CCDC, acting on behalf of a private developer, forced Ahmed Mesdaq, owner of Gran Havana, to spend $100,000 to defend himself against a trumped up charge of toxic waste. Read the whole brief.
Who is going to stop this corruption from being validated by the CCDC Board tomorrow? It is not too late. Nancy Graham, President of CCDC, should intervene and at least ask for a continuance until the matter can be investigated. If not, the false toxic waste charge is enough to launch an FBI investigation. The Feds don't like their laws being abused.
If Nancy Graham does not act in time, Mayor Jerry Sanders should intervene. Does he want another Sunroad, maybe worse, on his hands?
The smell of corruption is already sticking to this city. If Sanders does not act on Gran Havana he may never be able to convince the credit agencies to reinstate our credit rating, this side of a Chapter 9 Municipal bankruptcy.
We owe Ahmad Mesdaq (Gran Havana coffee shop) our support. 06/25/07
by Pat Flannery
This is a video interview with Ahmad Mesdaq, former owner of the Gran Havana cigar and coffee shop downtown. Ahmad had his property taken from him by the City of San Diego using eminent domain. The City gave it to Ramin Samimi. The case has attracted national attention.
He asks for your support at Wednesday's CCDC meeting where he hopes they will not give an extension to Samimi who has done nothing with the property. It is now a parking lot. We owe him our support, it could happen to any of us.
For those of you who really want to help and who really care, read this brief. It tells it all.
Why is the City helping this developer? He has already lost his case, but the City is appealing it. Is this another Sunroad?
Pandering to developers is not corruption? 06/25/07
by Pat Flannery
The top 20 feet of the too-tall Sunroad office building may not be the only thing discussed at that infamous December 19, 2006 meeting in the Mayor's office. There may also have been the matter of an SDG&E substation Sunroad was supposed to move to a new location.
Here is the SDG&E letter to the PUC advising them of the proposed move. It never happened. Sunroad reneged.
Why has the City allowed Sunroad to get away with it?
Here is a short video I took last week. You can see why this thing needs to be moved. It is a left-over from the General Dynamics days and is now right in the middle of the residential section of the redevelopment.
I talked to a number of residents and they are outraged at the City for allowing such a dangerous eyesore, and possible health hazard, to remain in their midst. It is a clear danger to their children. You can almost reach out and touch it through the very flimsy fence at the recreation area. It is a dreadful accident waiting to happen.
Sunroad became obligated to move this SDG&E transformer through a Mitigated Negative Declaration (LDR 41-0101) adopted by the City Council on November 12, 2002, Resolution 297294. The substation was supposed to be relocated to location B on the map below. It is still at location A. Unbelievable! What happens when you or I perpetrate the slightest code violation on our house? A City inspector is out with his citation book within the hour.
Below is what Sanders is letting Sunroad get away with. They are being allowed to put a parking structure where the SDG&E substation is supposed to be.
I am not a crook - Jerry Sanders. 06/21/07
by Pat Flannery
The deepening Sunroad scandal is following a familiar course: Sanders gave his "I am not a crook" speech today. Here is the video .
Unlike Nixon, who was largely isolated in the White House back in 1972, Sanders was able to muster almost the entire law enforcement establishment behind him today.
What does that say about San Diego in 2007? That it is far more corrupt than Washington was in 1972, that's what. Look at them, Police Chief Lansdowne, Sherriff Kolender and District Attorney Dumanis.
Chief Lansdowne seems to actually admire corrupt politicians. Back on July 1, 2005 he shocked his own officers by going to court, without being asked, to testify in favor of somebody he hardly knew, disgraced City Councilmember Michael Zucchet, at Zucchet's corruption trial. Even Sanders, running for Mayor at the time, condemned that one.
Then Sanders said this . Wow! What a city. Flanked by the Establishment-appointed District Attorney, Bonnie Dumanis he said "I am confident that this evaluation will conclude that I acted properly". Was there ever a more disgraceful line-up of public officials? It represents a complete breakdown of law enforcement in this County. Of course they will exonerate Sanders. He is one of them.
So now what? Well, I say start the recall right away. What else can we do? Look at the above picture. It is like they are defying us. The entire law enforcement establishment of this County! They know Sanders is corrupt and they are going to protect him!
Look at the evidence. Look at the key email I published on this blog (for the first time anywhere) on June 8, 2007.
It proved (Sanders has since admitted it on the Roger Hedgecock Show) that a crucial meeting took place on December 19, 2006. What happened at that meeting?
Here's what happened . Aaron Feldman, President of Sunroad, came to the Mayor's office and succeeded in getting Mayor Sanders to overrule the City's building inspector by instructing the Director of Development Services, Marcella Escobar-Eck, (long time City colleague of Tom Story, who is now a VP with Sunroad) to personally sign the letter to Sunroad lifting the City's Stop Work Order. The City's duly appointed building inspector had refused to do it. He is no longer with the City.
Now if that is not corrupt, what is? And the above disgraceful line-up of top law enforcement officials defend Mayor Sanders and blame the City Attorney for not being as corrupt as they are! Sometimes I think this is all just a bad dream.
Sunroad called a news conference yesterday and admitted that it called it to warn off the City and Aguirre . Obviously it didn't work. Thank goodness for Mr. Aguirre. I don't know how he keeps going under such a relentless onslaught of sleaze - condoned, aided and abetted by the very law enforcement officials who should be on his side.
And Sunroad "is disappointed in the Mayor". He hasn't done enough for them! It reminds me of all Dick Murphy did for John Moores who then hung him out to dry. Here is Sunroad's attorney yesterday expressing that disappointment . Can you believe it?
Then watch Sunroad's attorney insist that Montgomery Field is safe .
The only thing we can do is recall the Mayor. The above line-up has left us no choice. They have deprived us of all legal recourse. It is nothing short of a legal coup d'é·tat.
No good will come until we are rid of Sanders. He has corrupted everything he touches. The law enforcement officials who (purely for Party loyalty?) stood up with him today, should hang their heads in shame for the rest of their lives. What an ignominious end to the long career of Sheriff Bill Kolender. What a sad spectacle to see such a longtime public servant stray so far from the path of decency. It truly was a sad day for San Diego.
Did Tony Atkins sell her vote to Sanders? 06/17/07
by Pat Flannery
Will this be called the "Toni Atkins Park"?. Will it be Toni's monument to her "public service"? If so, then it should have the word "shame" inscribed below her name.
Here is a video clip
2008 Budget signing
publicity gig on June 13, 2007. Note how Atkins
can hardly keep her hands off her idol, Sanders. I
thought she was going to kiss him. What had he done to make her so fawning and
Her name on a park in return for closing a winter
homeless shelter and for her vote on June 11th depriving the City Attorney of 14 city attorneys?
"Fiscal Considerations: These actions will appropriate a total of $411,200 to CIP-29-002.0, Central Avenue Mini Park-Acquisition ..... contingent upon receipt of a fully executed grant agreement, and authorize an expenditure of a total of $520,000 from CIP-29-002.0, Central Avenue Mini Park-Acquisition, for the acquisition of the 0.37 acre Caltrans excess property for future park purposes."
Here is the Form
1472 that was expedited on June 12th. Notice the
date of all the Mayor's office signers - June 12th. Even the City
Comptroller obliged by signing a form
that the money was available.
City's building inspector fired for not repealing Sunroad's Stop Work order? 06/15/07
by Pat Flannery
Here is a transcript of Roger Hedgecock's interview with Jerry Sanders yesterday. I have provided links to relevant documents and written some comments of my own.
Today, Mr. Aguirre released this News Release. In it he says:
The Mayor recently confirmed on KOGO radio that a City building inspector refused to sign a December 21, 2006, modified stop work order that allowed weather-proofing of the Centrum building ..... today the City Attorney spoke with the inspector and he confirmed to Aguirre that he refused to sign the proposed modified stop work notice because it went far beyond weatherizing the building. The inspector no longer works at the City and is employed in San Francisco.
This feels more and more like Watergate. The lies keep tumbling out.
Was a City building inspector fired for not repealing the Sunroad stop work order? Where is Ted Sexton? Why did Ronne Froman suddenly quit?
Gran Havana eminent domain: it's not over yet. 06/15/07
by Pat Flannery
So now we know what the taking by eminent domain of the Gran Havana building at 5th & J downtown (by CCDC) was all about. For a relatively small campaign contribution an aggressive developer can get to use government's police power to intimidate owners and acquire valuable developable properties. It sure beats paying market value.
La Jolla based developer Ramin Samimi (a prominent member of the San Diego Iranian community) through his 5th and J Limited Partnership, gave $10,000 to the local GOP central committee in 2004. That committee then gave $7,800 to Jim Madaffer's City Council re-election campaign. That is how you buy the police power of government. Doug Manchester gave $50,000 to the Lincoln Club in 2006, which immediately gave $50,000 to Sanders' Prop C campaign (Prop C was the "outsourcing" initiative that meant a lot to Sanders).
Jim Madaffer is chairman of the City's Land Use and Housing Committee and a big supporter of "redevelopment". His influence over the CCDC is legendary. So Samimi got the Gran Havana site and Doug Manchester got five City Councilors to ignore the seismic fault under Navy Broadway. I will never forgive Tony Young for that immoral vote. I pick on him because he knew better and better was expected of him.
Now it turns out that Ramin Samimi never intended to build a hotel on the site. And CCDC knew it. He is in the business of acquiring ownership of valuable land and renting it out to real developers. He is doing exactly the same as McMillin, who is leasing valuable land he acquired from the City for $1, to the “Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott”.
Having got CCDC (and Madaffer?) to acquire the Gran Havana property for him (using the City's police power of eminent domain), Samimi will now be the ground landlord to Hansji Hotels.
Hansji Hotels intend to build and operate a 350 room Marriott hotel (see the rendering opposite). That should bring in a nice rent check to Samimi.
BUT it will require a "bait-and-switch" action by CCDC to the original Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA). That action was deferred from the CCDC Real Estate Sub-Committee meeting on June 13, 2007 (they got cold feet) to a full CCDC board on June 27, 2007. I shall be there with my trusty YouTube camera.
If the CCDC board does not amend the DDA, Samimi will be in default of his agreement with the City. HE was supposed to build the hotel, not rent the deal to a third party.
You will remember Ahmad Mesdaq's spirited fight against the City's eminent domain taking of his 5th and J Gran Havana property. Ahmed is a great guy. His father was a general in the Afghan air force who fought to repel the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Threatened with death if he remained in Afghanistan, General Mesdaq sought and obtained political asylum in the United States for himself and his family in 1983.
I have no doubt that Ahmad will put up a spirited fight at CCDC on June 27th, just as his father did with the Ruskies. But I'm sure he would appreciate some support. The CCDC board must not be allowed to approve this "bait-and-switch" change to the original DDA.
If they do, I will be convinced they were complicit in this misuse of the power of eminent domain from the beginning. They took property from a hard-working citizen and gave it to a campaign contributor of a powerful and unscrupulous City Councilor, Jim Madaffer.
Here is the supporting documentation for that aborted CCDC Real Estate Committee meeting on June 13, 2007. It will probably be substantially the same for June 27th. Here also is the Trial Brief for Mesdaq's 2005 suit against the Redevelopment Agency. It provides an excellent summary of this whole nasty business.
Sanders hasn't got a shred of credibility left. 06/13/07
by Pat Flannery
I went to Mike Aguirre's press conference on the 13th floor of City Hall yesterday. It promised to be a big one, and it was. As I set up my little home video camera I joked with the big boys to move over that YouTube was here. Gene Cubbison (NBC 7/39) quipped "oh, oh, we're going global". Seriously though, the Internet is a beautiful thing and is doing wonderful things for democracy.
Mike started out by telling us that he discovered Sunroad documents in Ted Sexton's airport office. These documents had been illegally moved from Sexton's city office to his airport office (Sexton is on loan to the City from the Airport Authority).
He went on to tell us that he has been told, apparently by the airport authority's legal counsel, that there are more Sunroad documents in Sexton's airport office, but they will not be turned over to the City Attorney and that Ted Sexton has left town. Wow!
I have posted below the various documents Aguirre has obtained, as they become appropriate in my narrative. They really do make a liar out of Sanders.
First Mike held up a thick wad of architect's drawings, the entire plans for Sunroad 12, discovered in the office of a guy Sanders said had nothing to do with Sunroad.
Then Mike dealt with a previously withheld March 2, 2007 letter from Sanders to Alan Bersin, Chairman of the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority. In this letter Sanders pretended that he knew nothing about the Notice of Hazard to Aviation issued by the FAA on August 11, 2006. He said that he had been "unable to get a clear analysis of whether or not the building is a safety risk to aviation". What a whopper. I guess he thought that letter was safely beyond Aguirre's reach in Sexton's airport office. No wonder Sexton left town in a hurry, Sanders must be livid at him.
The big lie to the people of San Diego is Sanders' repeated statements that Sexton was not brought in to help with Sunroad, when the entire letter is all about the Sunroad. Sanders' was requesting help in solving Sunroad and wanting "changes to operations or notices that would eliminate the risk". Here is Bersin's reply thanking Sanders for his letter "in which you request assistance from the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority to help resolve issues surrounding the Sunroad Enterprises building near Montgomery Field".
Nowhere does Bersin mention the "wider issues" Sanders is now peddling.
He could have solved the safety problem in a heartbeat by simply revoking the illegal permit he issued on July 7, 2006. But he could hardly do that when it was he himself who issued it. Nobody else could have, not even Escobar-Eck. Nor did anybody else authorize the "winterizing" nonsense on December 21, 2006, two days after Feldman's visit to his office. Again, Escobar-Eck would never have signed without Sanders' authority. Otherwise he would have fired her long ago. And Froman knew that!
What particularly galled Aguirre was that on the very day they stood together on the same platform, there on the 13th floor, May 18, 2007, the day Sanders told the people that he took full responsibility and would conduct an investigation, his hireling from the Airport Authority, Ted Sexton, was busy finalizing arrangements for a secret meeting with the FAA in Fort Worth, Texas. Now that is devious and dishonest.
Here is the PowerPoint presentation this Ted Sexton, Vice President, Regulated Operations, San Diego County Regional Airport Authority and Jim Barwick, Director, Real Estate Assets, City of San Diego, had prepared for a presentation to the FAA for four days later on May 22, 2007. Notice that the proposal said nothing about lowering the building height to 160 feet, only to "Modify Flight Procedures to restrict circling approaches north of Runway 5/23", exactly where the Sunroad building is located.
Why else was Sexton hired? As VP for "Regulated Operations" he knows this stuff backwards. Sanders hired him as a lobbyist for Sunroad, on City money.
Here is the rest of the PowerPoint presentations, one segment offered a spurious "City's Flight Safety Proposal" and another offered an even more spurious "Sunroad Hazard Elimination Proposal". All requested the same thing, "changes to operations or notices that would eliminate the risk", exactly what Sanders had requested in his letter to Alan Bersin on March 2, 2007. Now Sanders is denying the whole thing.
This would be a good time to view the 9 minute video of Mike's lawyerly presentation of the above evidence. Between the video and the above documents you will have a very clear idea of what actually happened.
Mike then leads us through the meeting with the FAA in Texas. He notes the email that ties Ted Sexton to Tom Story and the "data" Sexton shared with Sunroad, but which was not shared with the City Attorney. Sanders has been telling the media that he is fully supportive of Aguirre's civil lawsuit against Sunroad, while all the while withholding documents and "data' from him. Is our Mayor actually working against the City in a civil lawsuit by helping a defendant who happens to be a developer? It seems that way.
At the very moment that Sanders was vehemently denying that he had borrowed Ted Sexton from the Airport Authority to lobby the FAA on behalf of Sunroad, and at the very moment he was telling the people who live south of Montgomery Field that "nothing could be further from the truth" (a favorite expression of Sainz, which gives you some idea of who writes this stuff) Ted Sexton was writing this email to the FAA.
Note the date, May 30, long after Sanders' May 18 press conference. Note that Sanders only wanted to eliminate "any public perception of a hazard" not the hazard itself.
At that press conference Sanders said that he had merely sent a letter to the FAA proposing, among other things, that Sunroad should reduce the building height to 163 feet. But here is Sexton's proposal, scheduled to be presented to the FAA only 4 days later, complete with the above PowerPoint presentation.
It never even mentions reducing the building height to 163 feet!
It is clear therefore that up until just a few days ago, until he got caught by Aguirre, Sanders was using a borrowed top ranking Airport Authority official, to get the FAA to change its rules in order to accommodate the illegal Sunroad building. At the same time he was telling the people of San Diego the exact opposite. It was his promise never to tell such lies that got him elected.
Aguirre then summarizes the situation, starting with Lansdowne's refusal to serve the warrant on Tom Story, Sanders' failure to disclose what the FAA told them in Texas, whether Sanders authorized the July 7, 2006 permit and the sudden resignation Monday of the person who was supposed to get to the bottom of it all, Ronne Froman.
Mike admitted that the establishment, the Mayor, Police Chief and District Attorney, have tied the hands of the City Attorney and are refusing to take action against their establishment friends. It made for sobering listening. This city is in deep political trouble.
Watch the video as Aguirre explains the present situation.
One of the documents that intrigued me was this one. In it, Airport staff confirm that "the City was obligated by State law to send all proposed projects affected by the ALUCPs within their jurisdiction to the ALUC for a Consistency Determination". Not only was the July 7, 2006 permit illegal but the Substantial Conformance Review was illegal.
Mike finished up by appealing to the media to "dig deep". He pointed out that we have a prosecutorial problem in San Diego and that "corruption, at least right now, has won out".
This the final portion of his press conference . It should give any San Diegan cause for concern.
Donna Frye thought Aguirre's press conference was so important that she actually left her City Council seat and came upstairs to support Mike and make some points of her own, particularly about the public's right to know and the lack of information from the Mayor. She was particularly appalled at the Mayor's lack of response to her numerous inquiries over many months concerning Sunroad and the known safety issue over there.
Here is the video of her passionate presentation.
Fred Sainz, the Mayor's PR man, took the podium after Aguirre left, to take advantage of the five cameras present (not counting mine). He tried to play the whole thing down and suggested that Aguirre was hyping it to get back at Sanders for firing 14 City Attorney's.
I think it goes much deeper than that. There is no doubt the Mayor lied to the people of San Diego. And Fred Sainz will have a tough time spinning the Mayor out of this one.
Lying is an unforgivable sin in politics. Ask Richard Nixon.
The airport landfill remediation will greatly increase airport costs. 06/08/07
by Pat Flannery
Here is the
CEQA Process Flow Chart
Notice of Preparation (NOP) for the proposed
Landfill Remediation EIR. Notice that it says "Excavation
of the solid waste and burn ash will remove a potential
source of groundwater contaminants and reduce
exposure to environmental and human receptors".
There should be a public discussion about who
should pay for this cleanup and how it will affect
neighboring properties. This landfill and toxic dump was
a product of the Naval Training Center as a whole. It
seems to me that its cleanup should be spread over the NTC property as a whole. The economic impact on the
airport should be considered by the Airport Authority
before accepting responsibility for the total cost of
Sunroad's top executives meet in the Mayor's office. 06/08/07
by Pat Flannery
According to innumerable press conferences and media interviews by Jerry Sanders he and Jim Waring were strictly neutral on Sunroad. Campaign money never played a part in the permit process.
However, here are the headings of three emails referring to meetings between Mayor Sanders and Sunroad's President, Aaron Feldman and its Vice President Tom Story, in the Mayor's office and a meeting between Jim Waring and Aaron Feldman in Jim Waring's office. Whatever could they have been talking about, the weather?
The December 19, 2006 meeting in the Mayor's office is particularly significant. December 19th was a Tuesday. The following Thursday, December 21, 2006, Marcella Escobar-Eck issued this response to Sunroad's request to lift the stop work order. She duly lifted it. Her boss, Mayor Sanders, told her to.
It is safe to assume that the December 19th meeting in the Mayor's office was a direct approach from Sunroad to the Mayor to lift the stop work order. He did exactly as requested. Developers such as Sunroad own this Mayor. How many other big developers have this kind of access? Probably all of them. They put him there.
In an attempt to preempt Mike Aguirre's press conference today, Sanders sent an email circular to the media around 3:00 P.M. Here is an extract:
"In tonight's story, Mike Aguirre will allege that I was trying to fashion a new landing pattern to the south of the airport in order to accommodate the building's developer. Nothing can be further from the truth. Let me state emphatically that there won't be any alternative landing approaches at Montgomery Field. No one that broke the law should be accommodated. The status quo will remain in place until the building is reduced in size."
Sanders' letter to
the FAA dated May 18, 2007. How quickly he forgets.
He said in that letter: "my staff has put forward a
proposal ..." for "... aircraft to circle to the
south". Now he denies saying that. He says
"Nothing can be further from
the truth". It would appear that "the truth"
is not something Jerry Sanders is very familiar with.
It's now full steam ahead at Navy Broadway - and damn the torpedoes. 06/07/07
by Pat Flannery
Manchester has written to the California Coastal Commission withdrawing his application for a Coastal Development Permit. Here is his attorney's recent letter.
This is similar to Sunroad's attorney, Barbara Lichman's strident defiance of the FAA. In Manchester's case his attorney, Michael Levinson, is defying the Coastal Commission and even threatening to sue them if they try to enforce the State's coastal jurisdiction.
Levinson is quoting the Federal Coastal Zone Management Act's (CZMA) definition of the Coastal Zone: "excluded from the coastal zone are lands the use of which is by law subject solely to the discretion of, or which is held in trust by, the Federal Government its officers or agents". This pits Federal Law against State law.
So the developers' gloves are off at both Navy Broadway and Sunroad. Manchester will now start construction and damn the regulatory torpedoes.
This super-aggressiveness of the San Diego developers is intimately related to the super-permissiveness of the Sanders' administration.
The $1 per year 18 acre McMillin ground lease. 06/06/07
by Pat Flannery
How would you like to own a 66 year ground lease for $1 per year on this choice 17 acre Harbor Drive waterfront parcel and rent it out to the operators of a 650-room resort hotel with a 100,000 square-foot water park? Is your name McMillin?
San Diego's answer to Mickey Mouse is going to be SpongeBob SquarePants.
"The first “Nickelodeon Resorts by Marriott” property is expected to be a 650-room resort at Liberty Station in San Diego, which will incorporate a 100,000 square-foot water park and activity deck complex featuring a variety of pools and interactive attractions. Designed by Gensler, the well-known international architectural firm, the resort is expected to break ground in January 2008 and open in early 2010."
Miller Global Properties will build the above on the ($1 per year McMillan) site below.
Here is the official Parcel Map for the site, showing 6 parcels totaling a net of 17.12 acres. Not bad for $1 per year.
Here is the Memorandum of Lease between the City's Redevelopment Agency and McMillin, filed on April 30, 2002.
You will notice that on page 2, par. 5 it says that a copy of the full lease is on file at the Redevelopment Agency. So I went downtown today and read the full Lease. I paid 75 cents (almost as much as McMillan pays for a year's rent) to copy three pages, particularly the page showing the rent at $1 per year.
Most of the other pages describe the terrible things that will happen in the event McMillan fails to make his rent payment on time and how the City will recover the property in the event of his default. Normal stuff in an abnormal lease.
Here is the Redevelopment Agency's map of the entire NTC Project. It shows this site zoned as "Hotel District".
Finally here is an article in the U-T last Saturday. It tells a lot about the developers and the hotel business, but it "forgot" to mention the thing of most interest to its San Diego readers: "how much does the long-suffering San Diego tax-payer get out of this?" Zilch. And this is only a very small part of the infamous NTC giveaway, throughout which the Union-Tribune, remained mostly silent.
The taxpayers of no city should have to endure the billions of dollars in giveaways the politicians and staff of this city perpetrated on its citizens. The people of this city must find a way to bind all future candidates for elected office, with a legally enforceable contract, that they will protect and defend the public purse and not pander to developers and unions, as their predecessors have so shamelessly done over the last two decades.
Surely, of all the charter changes we think we need, this is the most important.
Another blow to Sunroad. 06/03/07
by Pat Flannery
Community Airfields Association of San Diego (CAASD) filed a complaint with the FAA last week requesting the imposition of civil penalties on Sunroad.
Attorney's for CAASD told me that "Federal law requires that a builder send a formal notice (Form 7461-1) to the FAA 30 days before applying for a building permit. The purpose, of course, is to trigger FAA reviews early enough to re-design. It is the BUILDER’S responsibility – not the City’s."
The CAASD complaint points out that Sunroad could be liable for $25,000 per day in penalties, up to a maximum of $400,000. Sunroad may already be facing that maximum fine as $400,00 represents only 16 days. I wonder if their hyper-aggressive aviation attorney, Barbara Lichman, will cough up the $400,000. After all it is she who has been advising them that they have nothing to fear from the FAA, that it is a toothless tiger.
Reading the CAASD complaint is useful because it highlights the important facts in this case. It also has very good Exhibits. Here, for example, is Sunroad's original application for the Substantial Conformance Review (SCR) and here is their application for the grading permit. This is the first time I have seen the actual applications. I notice however, that CAASD failed to locate the application for the July 7, 2006 building permit. That could be informative. It would show what the City knew and when it knew it.
These applications are important because they define the land Sunroad intended to develop, by showing the Parcel Number, the Parcel Map and the Assessor's Parcels Numbers. The base zoning of the identified land is thus confirmed as CC-1-3. Below is an excerpt from the City's Official Zoning Map. The orange areas are zoned CC-1-3.
According to the zoning regulations, zone CC-1-3 "is intended to accommodate development with an auto orientation". Here is a list of the actual uses allowed. But the most important restriction is: "The maximum building height for the CC-1-3 zone is 45 feet tall".
That restriction has been illegally waived by Mayor Sanders' staff. That cannot stand.
The U-T is running interference for Sanders. 06/02/07
by Pat Flannery
Today, in an editorial, the Union-Tribune covered for Sanders and his staff regarding the Sunroad building. Bob Kittle, the presumed writer, said "Astonishingly, city officials issued a building permit for the unsafe office tower without consulting the FAA."
"Without consulting the FAA" is grossly misleading.
Here is an email showing that Dan Munch, Sunroad's architect, spoke to Mayor's staff John Cruz and Jeannette Temple regarding "Centrum, FAA Obstruction Evaluation" as early as April 3, 2006.
Here is a letter from Karen McDonald of the FAA dated June 20, 2006 where she gives the timeline: "Sunroad submitted a 7460-1 to the FAA on April 5, 2006, ASN number 2006-AWP-1638-OE. FAA responded April 24, 2006 with a notice of presumed hazard". Here is the FAA Notice.
Ms. McDonald was writing on June 20, 2006 to remind Sunroad and the City that the "60 days for resolution" was about to expire four days later on June 24, 2006, after which she would be issuing a full "Determination of Hazard to Air Navigation". She gave her phone number in LA and suggested they call her if they had any questions. The Mayor's staff went ahead and issued the permit anyway. They would never have done that without instructions from the very top - Sanders himself. It would have been suicide for them to do otherwise. That's why he is protecting them - they would surely turn on him.
Yet the Union-Tribune would
have us believe that the Mayor's staff merely issued
this permit to
Sunroad on July 7, 2006
"without consulting the FAA". The Mayor's staff
issued that permit in spite of the FAA.
The "authority" for that illegal permit came from
Sanders himself and the U-T is now protecting him.
This is official confirmation of what I have believed
from the beginning: the legally zoned height for that
12 story Sunroad building is 45 feet.
Therefore it is not just the top 20 feet that must come
down, the whole building must come down. The Mayor's
staff not only did not have authority to exceed
the 160 feet set by the FAA, they did not have
authority to exceed that set by the City's Land
Development Code. That building is simply illegal.
Mike Aguirre discovers the real Jerry Sanders. 06/01/07
by Pat Flannery
I went to Mike Aguirre's Community Forum last night in the Council Chambers expecting to be updated on the major City law suits particularly the pension rollbacks case (upon which I have not given up and neither has Mike). I never guessed this was the night he would lower the boom on the Mayor. Aguirre finally discovered the real Jerry Sanders.
Here is a shortened version of the CityTV video
It speaks of secret meetings between City staff and Sunroad and the Mayor's open advocacy for a building that has been officially declared a hazard to people's lives. Our Mayor, Jerry Sanders, secretly advocated for an unsafe building. Unbelievable!
I spoke to Mike afterwards and he was clearly distressed at having been let down so badly by somebody he considered a friend. Mike only discovered yesterday that Sanders had been telling him one thing and doing the exact opposite behind his back. That is always hard to take. I sometimes marvel at how trusting, almost naive, Mike can be. With all his external toughness he could be taken in by a smoothie like Sanders.
But thank goodness that's all over now. Readers of my blog know how much it has bothered me over this past 18 months. I could never understand what Aguirre saw in Sanders, apparently he actually trusted him.
Mike's final break with Sanders will have huge implications for next year's City Council elections. The line between quality of life and developer greed is once again clear. Sanders is a mere shill for the developers. He cares nothing for the ordinary citizen. Mike on the other hand is all about the ordinary citizen and good government.
The rift between Mike and Donna Frye can now be repaired. I am sure it bothered Donna every bit as much as it bothered me and others, probably more, that Mike could not see through Sanders. Maybe it was a man thing. Maybe Mike enjoyed the togetherness of these two manly types running the City. Whatever it was it could not last. Mike is still a Bobby Kennedy-style dreamer, while Sanders is all about self and money.
Let's hope we can get four like-minded people to run for City Council - and win. Together with the ever-faithful Donna Frye we will have the five votes to defeat the "what's in it for me" crowd at City Hall. The City Council and Administration is about public service, not a business opportunity. Aguirre will be a great example to the next generation of City Councilors, now that he has come back to his Bobby Kennedy "good government" roots.
The Communities have to become engaged. 05/30/07
by Pat Flannery
The job of a City Councilor is to bridge the gap between City Hall and the Communities. Let's take a look at Council District 5 first (I will do the others one by one later):
Back in 1996 Barbara
Warden won this seat unopposed in the March primary,
receiving only 25,453
votes. Again in 2004 in the March primary Brian Maeinschein ran
unopposed and got elected on 33,024
votes. 2000 was a little better. There were
34,887 votes cast in the
March primary with Brian Maeinschein receiving
12,047 or 34.53%
and Tom Cleary receiving 9,613
Maeinschein easily beat Cleary in the November runoff
receiving 38,299 or 62.61%
to Cleary's 22,876 or 37.39% of the 61,175
Mitz Lee could make a formidable City Councilmember. 05/28/07
by Pat Flannery
Regular readers of my blog will agree that I am a big supporter of the City Council as an institution, while often critical of individual Councilmembers. I am therefore keenly interested in who will fill the four City seats up for grabs next year. They are Districts 1, 3, 5 and 7. All four have termed-out Councilmembers, which creates a real opportunity.
The four outgoing members, Peters, Atkins, Maienschein and Madaffer, weakened by financial scandals, were content to serve out the remainder of their terms as quietly as possible. That gave an unfair advantage to the strong Mayor experiment.
I opposed Prop F, the strong Mayor initiative, and I still do. I fear it will diminish citizen participation and lead to boss politics and cronyism. Everything I have seen so far reaffirms that fear. The Sanders administration is aggressively centralizing power in the Mayor's Office, tightening the grip of his political donors on City Hall.
It is essential that the voters elect strong-minded City Councilors who will stand up to the strong Mayor, both in person and in concept. The 2008 candidates must possess a strong respect for the City Council as an institution.
The first Council area to show clear battle lines is District 5.
Mitz Lee will challenge fellow republican Carl DeMaio for that safe Republican seat. DeMaio is a close ally of Mayor Sanders and a severe critic of the City Council. Lee on the other hand made her School Board reputation by hard work and for standing up to Superintendents Alan Bersin and Carl Cohn. She will be well able for Sanders.
She has plenty experience dealing with high testosterone executives. Carl Cohn, Bersin's successor as School Superintendent, doesn't believe in too much consulting with his elected Board. One result is that the School District now has two official logos, one with the word "Unified" and one without. The irony seems to be lost on Cohn.
Lee is considering hiring Schuman Hoy & Associates, with offices on Girard Ave in La Jolla, as her campaign consultants. John Hoy and Bob Schuman are professional Republicans who briefly got mixed up with Tom DeLay and Enron on the national stage during the energy deregulation days. That dubious connection may have got started during the 1996 Republican Convention in San Diego. City Hall watchers will mostly remember them for their involvement with former City Councilman Byron Wear.
Is it possible for a Republican to get elected without developer money? Who will back Mitz Lee? Does Schuman Hoy automatically mean Byron Wear-style developer money?
If Lee and DeMaio split the vote it is just conceivable that a grassroots Democrat could win 50% in the June primary. But there seems no chance a Democrat could win a runoff in November. Therefore it is a contest between these two very different Republicans.
DeMaio will need a better reason for being on the City Council than, I suspect, using it as a springboard for Mayor in 2012. He seems more at home on the executive side, perhaps he should just run for mayor in 2008.
Judging by her performance on the School Board, Mitz Lee would be a more natural legislator. It needs patience and thoughtfulness. And party affiliation should be less important than a strong commitment to quality of life. However, adherence to environmental laws means a constant battle with developers. Which side will she be on?
It is time for the City Council to revoke the Sunroad permit. 05/25/07
by Pat Flannery
Chapter 12, Article 1, Section 3 of the Land Development Code clearly states that it is unlawful to "maintain or allow the existence of any condition that creates a public nuisance". The Municipal Code goes on:
"The issuance or granting of any development permit ... does not constitute a permit for ... any violation of any of the provisions of the Land Development Code." It then makes it abundantly clear that: "Development permits ... presuming to give authority to violate ... the provisions of the Land Development Code .... are not valid."
Even a cursory examination of the Sunroad permit makes it abundantly clear that Sanders' staff approved levels of density far in excess of anything allowed by the site's zoning. The permit is therefore void on its face. It was never valid to begin with.
Under the Municipal Code it is the City Manager who must revoke a permit that has been issued (wittingly or unwittingly) in violation of the Land Development Code. But as we all know the Mayor is now the City Manager. It was his staff that issued this invalid permit. Who is going to revoke it? Jim Waring? Ronne Froman? Waring thinks the City should be a neutral party. Yes, he actually said that.
I believe that the City Council should initiate the permit revocation process because the Mayor acted ultra vires. The people can no longer tolerate a situation where the Mayor and his staff can thumb their collective noses at land-use law. The legislative body that made that law, City Council, must find a way to enforce it. Otherwise we have anarchy.
There are two grounds for revocation: (1) the building is now officially designated a "public nuisance", and the developer has steadfastly refused to correct it; (2) irrespective of height that building is way out of compliance with FARs and development standards for that particular site. The permit is invalid and those who issued it must be fired.
If I can readily identify glaring breaches of zoning laws, surely City staff were fully aware of the illegalities when they issued the permit.
The City Council should not wait to see if Ronne Froman will "discover" this gross misapplication of the City's development laws, contained in Chapter 11, Article 3, Section 2 of the Municipal Code. After all Jim Waring works for her.
The Council has the legislative authority to order the Mayor to comply with the City's Land Development Code. That means ordering the Mayor to revoke this invalid permit. It not only has the authority, it has a responsibility to do so.
Apart from the appalling risk to human life, the City Council is the sole guardian of the people's money. Sunroad involves a minimum of $45 million. An airplane accident at this building would involve the City in untold liability. The City Council must act. Every day that goes by, with the City Council allowing that permit to stand, weakens the City's defense in the inevitable law suits that will flow from this illegal building.
We have a "strong blackmail form of government". 05/23/07
by Pat Flannery
Jerry Sanders assured the San Diego voters that service levels would not suffer from his budget cuts. Elected by the business community, he was going to show these wasteful bureaucrats how to run a city. Budget savings would be achieved through Business Process Reengineering (BPR). He had done it all at Red Cross and United Way. The people bought his aw-shucks smile and voted for the guy in droves.
But Sanders is, first and foremost, a political animal. He knows that the ability to reach into a department and cut where it hurts is a very powerful weapon. The responsible official, elected or otherwise, will scream for mercy. That's real power.
Andrea Tevlin, the Independent Budget Analyst (independently) attempted to address that potential abuse of power. She introduced the following budget authority ordinance on February 5, 2007:
"Section 14. Budget change authority granted to the Mayor requires City Council approval if such action is expected to result in reducing, substantially or materially, altering or eliminating a program or service level being provided to the community, based upon the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget."
The vote was 5 to 3 against the
Mayor on its first reading. Aguirre supported
Sanders. The second reading was scheduled for March 5,
Amid back-room negotiations and
back-scratching, the matter was continued to April 10th
. On April 6th Mike Aguirre issued his "no bright line"
That written opinion must be now keeping
Aguirre awake at night. Fortunately, at the actual
Council hearing on April 10th, he raised sufficient
doubt in the Council's mind regarding Section 11.1 of
the City Charter (whether the City Council can delegate
responsibility for raising and spending taxpayer money)
that they again referred it for further study. And there
it stands today.
Now, it looks as though
the City Attorney may become the first and most
spectacular victim of the Mayor's budgetary blackmail.
Sanders wants to cut 17 attorneys from Aguirre's staff.
It is hard to see how that would not have an impact on
service levels. Of course it will. The truth is that
Sanders wants to clear the City Attorney's office of
public-serving attorneys like Shirley Edwards and Carmen
Brock. That's what this is all about.
The beginning of the end for Community Planning? 05/22/07
by Pat Flannery
The big item on today's City Council agenda is the Council's governing policies for Community Planning Groups. It is Item-332, page 32, on the Docket.
The Land Use & Housing Committee (LU&H) voted 4-0 on October 25, 2006, that City staff should prepare and submit to City Council a set of standardized bylaws for all Community Planning Groups (CPGs). They were to include a process whereby CPGs can apply for bylaw variances, with a right of appeal to the LU&H.
On October 27, 2006 Mike Aguirre wrote an MOL overturning a Casey Gwinn 2000 "opinion" that CPGs were not subject to the Brown Act. Until Aguirre stated the obvious in his MOL, City staff thought they could do as they wished with the community planning system. That of course was the purpose of Gwinn's 2000 "opinion".
A week earlier I had written a particularly vehement rant against the heavy-handed way the Mayors' Office (as the Planning Department and DSD now like to be known) abruptly cancelled the October CPC meeting. It had been due to launch the new General Plan. But Sanders wanted that honor for himself so he launched it with much fanfare two days later. That was the only reason a CPC meeting was cancelled - Mayoral PR. And the compliant chair, private planning consultant Steve Laub (at that time consulting to Sunroad) obeyed Betsy McCullogh - do what you're told and you get on at City Hall.
On April 24, 2007 CPC had some input into the proposed bylaws, but by and large they swallowed it whole. Perhaps the most significant item they protested, if only half-heartedly, was the City's insistence that each CPG "adopt the standardized bylaws shell in its entirety". The Mayor's Office responded with an adamant "procedures must be standardized". Reading the stern response you can almost hear Waring stomp his foot.
Here is the staff report. The City team has flatly said that it will not consider even the slightest deviation to the bylaws. It points out that appealing to LU&H would deprive the Council Offices a say on any proposed deviations. The team therefore insists that even the most minute bylaw deviation must get docketed for a full City Council hearing.
Considering that La Jolla was denied an opportunity to be heard before the City Council for some major bylaw deviations and was docketed instead for a full-blown decertification hearing, it is easy to see how this will work. Waring must have gone to the same dictator school as Sanders. They both know how to keep peons in line.
Also, the City is talking up the so-called dangerous provisions of the Brown Act. They are scaring CPG members with wild stories about personal liability, designed to ensure abject compliance. Using the Brown Act as their excuse, they will now require centralized community mailing lists and CPG record keeping - at the Mayor's Office.
Will that list be public or will it only be available to well-connected lobbyists and political consultants? Even the Kremlin would be proud of that little citizen monitoring coup.
Now read the proposed policy document itself, particularly the strikeouts. Note that a planning group can only consist of 12 to 20 individuals. It may incorporate, but if it does it is a totally separate entity. Incorporation was the main problem Waring had with La Jolla. He wants a small group of INDIVIDUALS he can control. No corporations.
In practice up to half of these individuals are architects. Most of the rest are from large real estate firms like Prudential. They always manage to have a majority of developer industry professionals. The smaller the group the easier to pack it with professionals. And they do not even have to be local residents. All one needs is a business address in the planning area. In practice many CPG members live out of the area.
The firm hand of the Mayor's Office is evident throughout this policy document. It is supposed to be a Council policy, but it is clearly a Mayoral policy. We can therefore look forward to an even tighter Mayoral grip on land use. DSD is after all a self-professed enterprise, not a government department.
To illustrate how the current Mayor's Office feels about the City Council, at a recent Catfish Club forum Ronne Froman lamented the number of times her staff “has endured the inquisition process we call council meetings.” I guess the Navy is not the best place to learn about democracy. Maybe that's why Sanders picked her.
Here is the complete Bylaws Shell. With it Waring hopes to neuter the concept of community planning. Isn't that what Sanders hired him to do?
05/23/07 Postscript: To his credit yesterday Scott Peters "got the message" and attempted to curb the stranglehold City staff was putting on the planning groups. In an about-turn from the way he handled the La Jolla request for a deviation hearing, he undertook to place on the Docket on or before November 20, 2007 any deviation request from any CPG. That was a significant win for the community planners who spoke yesterday and a significant punch in the eye for Sanders' land use palace guard.
Coastal access alert! Salk catches the developer disease. 05/21/07
by Pat Flannery
Here we go again with the revitalization of decades old "Master Plans". This time it is the 1961 Salk Institute Master Plan. Claiming development rights supposedly granted back in 1961 they now want to construct "new scientific research facilities and accessory uses, including temporary residential quarters and a day care facility for employees on the existing Salk Institute campus".
DSD's Draft EIR: "Recommended Finding: The draft Environmental Impact Report concludes that the project would result in significant environmental impacts in the following areas: Biological resources, Historical resources, Noise, Paleontological Resources, and Traffic/Circulation."
The Sierra Club has sent
to DSD. It raises some very disturbing matters. Also
this letter from the University City Planning Group
that raises questions about the location of the proposed
day care center.
Sanders just reached for a bigger shovel. 05/20/07
by Pat Flannery
So, Mayor Sanders is to have his CEO, Ronne Froman, investigate the Sunroad fiasco as to process only. She is instructed not to find blame on anybody (except maybe the City Attorney if she can manage it). Is this the same Jerry Sanders that vowed to "remediate" the widespread lack of personal responsibility among City staff, identified in the Kroll Report? Wasn't he going to "clean up" the City? Apparently not.
The reason is obvious. He knows that two of his top appointees, Jim Waring and Escobar-Eck, would not survive a real investigation, hence the Froman snow job.
Watch the video of Sanders' Sunroad press conference on Friday. Sanders: "The reality is that the Development Services Department and the City Attorneys Office were aware of the FAA’s concerns, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, failed to act." We can already see how this is going: Froman has been instructed to blame Aguirre.
So I did a little investigating of my own. Here is a letter written by former Deputy City Attorney David Miller (never my favorite member of Aguirre's staff) to Jim Waring on 10/16/2006, relaying Mike Aguirre's personal instructions to "immediately issue a "Stop Work Order" on the Sunroad building. What part of that letter did Jim Waring not understand? Was there something wrong with the "process" Waring used to read it?
After all kinds of delaying tactics Waring reluctantly issued the Stop Work order on 10/27/06, eleven days later!
But here is the real duplicity. Sanders' staff issued the final building permit to Sunroad on Friday July 7th, 2006, for a height of 180 feet, at exactly the same time the FAA was being assured that the building was being scaled back to 160 feet. I checked the actual plans stamped out by DSD on July 7th. They show an (unchanged) building height of 180 feet, not the 160 feet being sold to the FAA. Tom Story was due to meet with the DSD "team" at 11:30 A.M. the following Monday. Here are the emails setting it up.
DSD staff were fully aware of the FAA position. Karen McDonald made sure to include them in her emails. And here is a timeline compiled by none other than Tom Story himself. Look at the June 20 entry "Sunroad letter to FAA showing intent to build to 160 feet" and June 22 "FAA application to build to 160 feet". Both Sunroad and DSD were engaged in fooling the FAA. Everybody at DSD knew that Sunroad had no intention of staying at 160 feet. They knew it on July 7, that's why they issued the 180 foot permit.
Did David Miller know? I have seen no evidence that he did. Besides, it was not his job to advise on permits. It will be interesting to see if Ronne Froman can figure out a way of finding that he should have stopped DSD from issuing a permit. With all her "administrative" skills she will have a tough time blaming everything on "process". DSD staff knew that Tom Story and Aaron Feldman were "special". They weren't about to confront them in the DSD conference room on July 10, 2006, and tell them that the City must wait until the FAA made its ruling. They already knew what it would be.
Now read Sanders letter to CALTRANS last week. It is part of what Sanders described at his Friday press conference as "efforts to find solutions behind the scenes" - in other words to get Sunroad off the hook. He is negotiating with the FAA to "de-conflict aircraft operations and the building" by putting forward a proposal "to discontinue circling instrument approaches north of the field and allowing aircraft to circle to the south".
Forget it Sanders. If that's the next step in your plan to force the closure of Montgomery Field, the true endgame for you and your developer buddies, the pilots will rise up in revolt. They sit on the left side of their aircraft and will not circle to the right. It is too dangerous and the FAA will not approve it.
You are not going to be able to smile your way out of this one Mr. Mayor, nor will your wonder woman, Ronne Froman, be able to deliver the snow job you have ordered. The rule of holes Jerry: when you are in a hole, stop digging. What you just did was reach for a bigger shovel. In the end, that building will come down to 160 feet. Get used to it.
Watch your wallets for the Sunroad "solution". 05/18/07
by Pat Flannery
In a 20 minute interview with Jennifer Vigil of the U-T yesterday Jerry Sanders attempted a bit of "political weatherizing" of his own. I doubt it will be any more effective than the infamous weatherizing of the Sunroad building. Jerry has to "dig a little deeper" into his heart and accept that he has a couple of wrong ones running his development services, Jim Waring and Marcella Escobar-Eck. They will continue to get him into political hot water until he eventually fires them. They are his Paul Wolfowitz and Alberto Gonzales.
"Taking full responsibility" for Sunroad is just Sanders opening move in a planned "solution". Waring will come up with a "compensation" package for Sunroad. Remember how he attempted to "settle" Navy Broadway by offering Manchester $20 million "compensation" for open space Manchester was obligated to provide in the first place.
At Sunroad I expect it will have something to do with the old SDG&E transformer. Sunroad was obligated to move it but didn't. They may agree to scale down their too tall building in return for Sanders "taking responsibility" for moving the SDG&E transformer.
Maybe it was all set up in advance. The taxpayers may be paying Waring's salary but Sanders hired him to serve the developers, not the City. So watch out for your wallets folks, Jim Waring is about to use his legendary negotiating skills - with your money.
Density Bonus alert. 05/16/07
by Pat Flannery
Here we go again. DSD is coming back at us with another Density Bonus attack. This time they have done their homework. They have created a new slick Supplement to their original EIR. Bob Manis has been busy reworking the original, which correctly stated that the coastal 30 foot height limit is not protected by the Coastal Commission.
Now all of sudden it is. Being the political hack that he is, Manis rewrote the original EIR as instructed by the developers. And we pay his salary! Or do we? Maybe that's the problem: we don't, they do. This is the same guy who wrote Doug Manchester's $50,000 EIR "finding" that the environment hasn't changed downtown in 15 years.
Here is Manis' freshly minted lies, dated today. Soon they will be put before the Council.
A quick look at the Supplement makes it clear that DSD is recycling the same basic lie: "deviations from the 30 foot coastal height limit cannot be considered as incentives". A deviation from the coastal height limit is available as a density bonus concession, the very same as a height limit concession outside the coastal zone. Being part of the LCP is not grounds for refusing a developer. The Coastal Commission does not enforce local height limits, voter approved or otherwise. And Manis knows it.
Mike Aguirre has to come to terms with the fact that one of his deputy city attorneys, Shannon Thomas, wrote a lying MOL for DSD back in September 2006, while DSD and the developers were paying her salary. Her time was charged out to DSD. That is a remnant of the old Casey Gwinn "legal advice for sale" days. But has it stopped? I've been told that it has. Then who wrote this new Ordinance? Does DSD have its own attorneys over there now? Who checked the EIR for legal issues? Manis?
DSD or any City Department, should not be able to purchase the legal advice it likes from the same City Attorney we elect to ensure City staff obey the law. Yet that is exactly what has been happening for many years. The problem still is: who does the City Attorney represent, the people or City staff? If he represents DSD staff, he effectively represents the developers. That must be clarifed.
Shannon Thomas's lying September 8, 2006 MOL is a direct result of this dubious situation. Her salary was paid by DSD, which is an enterprise fund, not part of the General Fund. DSD relies entirely on developer fees for funding. They are therefore its clients. The bigger the project the more it earns. They love the big developers.
Developers' service staff actually meet with DSD staff every month to "advise" it on how to improve its services. It is called the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC). So, not only do they get the service they require, they get the legal advice they require.
Our City Council is little more than a rubber stamp for the legislation written by the developers through the DSD, using legal advice purchased from the City Attorney's office. The pending Density Bonus legislation is just an example. The developers get to write the EIRs and the Municipal Code. The people have become mere spectators.
I had hoped that by now the Shannon Thomas's September 8, 2006 MOL would have been withdrawn by Aguirre's office. If it had, Bob Manis could never have written this Supplement to the Density Bonus EIR. Nor could whoever wrote this new and improved developer-serving Density Bonus Ordinance have written it. Jim Waring will once again quote the City Attorney as his authority that the 30 foot height limit is protected.
This new Ordinance is much the same as the one sent back to the Mayor's Office a few months ago. We have to fight the whole sordid fight all over again.
This City needs professionals, not political hacks. 05/16/07
by Pat Flannery
I wrote my "Good luck Marcella" piece last night before seeing Bob Kittle's about-turn or Gerry Braun's (always amusing) U-T pieces today. What a wind shift down at the U-T. Fred Sainz and Jerry Sanders must be in emergency session this morning. Is the Teflon finally wearing off our Jerry? Bob Kittle sure stripped a few layers with: "Jerry Sanders should be embarrassed – and the public should be furious".
Well they're furious all right Bob, they have been for some time, you just didn't notice. You were so busy beating up on Mike Aguirre that it slipped by you. So now what?
That stop work order on Sunroad has to be fully enforced - finally. Any more work on that building and the City is in contempt of the State authorities. If Jerry does not take immediate action his career could end right here. Murphy resigned for less. Sanders hired Escobar-Eck back from Carlsbad in October 2006. He is responsible for her.
Also, here is Jim Waring dragging his feet and arguing with DOT over the Stop Work order. He actually asked them: "will your department assume and accept responsibility for any financial liability and cost of defense that may arise from that action?" That is like a burglar asking the Police Department to assume financial responsibility for his "loss of earnings" while in jail. In Jim Waring's bizarre logic, because the crime was already committed (the building was "already built") the criminal must be compensated!
And these are two key people
Mayor Sanders hired to run the City? Thank goodness for
Mike Aguirre's professionalism. This City needs
professionals in charge of its day to day management,
not political hacks. Right now it looks too much like
Bush's White House.
Good luck Marcella. 05/15/07
by Pat Flannery
Mike Aguirre issued a 32 page Report on Sunroad today. When you read it together with David Hasemyer's watchdog report in the U-T, you probably have about all the information on Sunroad you can handle. So here is my "cut-to-the-chase" summary:
It all comes down to Marcella Escobar-Eck. What is now the Sunroad project has been her baby from its inception. She advocated it before the City Council in 1997. It passed. She has nurtured it and protected it ever since. But, has she gone too far this time?
By March 2005 Sunroad bore no resemblance to what she got passed the City Council in 1997. It had quickly grown from 3 stories in 1997 to 6 stories in 2001 to 12 stories in 2005. She seems to consider it her very personal gift to developers. What is she hoping for? A developer job? Perhaps, but it may well cost her her City job.
She is central to Aguirre's "efforts to meet the concerns of the California Department of Transportation so as not to enable "the developer to violate State law"". It was she who "enabled the developer to violate the law". It was her motherly gift to Sunroad. Her 1997 three story baby had a six story son in 2001, who in turn fathered a whopping broth of a boy towering to twelve stories in 2005! She really understands "grandfathering".
Take a bow Marcella. She and that 1997 "grandfather" must have made one hell of a couple. And she did it all without any help from the City Council. In fact she didn't even tell them. Today's 12 story 180 foot towering wonder is Marcella's very own grandson - by a 1997 "grandfather" who apparently was only a puny 3 story midget.
Seriously though, in view of
the pressure Aguirre is now under to
protect the City (he must mollify
the Department of
Transportation who are baying for City blood), it is hard to see how Sanders can
continue to protect his favorite employee, Escobar-Eck.
She has already cost him political capital. He
had to prostitute Police Chief Lansdowne, who
took a lot of heat for keeping Aguirre at bay (we all
know it was Marcella Aguirre wanted, not Story).
Sanders had to ensure Bonnie Dumanis stayed out of it
and did not interfere. Dumanis also took heat for pandering
to Sanders and may not do it again.
The San Diego Courts have become instruments of political power. 05/10/07
by Pat Flannery
Judge Wellington's arrogance (he told our City Attorney Mike Aguirre to sit down in court yesterday, refusing to hear what he had to say) demonstrates the grip an elite group of individuals has achieved over this city. These insiders have gained control to an extent exceeded only by those who seized control of our nation's Capitol in 2000. Wellington epitomizes the doctrine that the Judicial Branch is a mere instrument of political power.
As a result multiple appeals are spilling out of San Diego. Mike Aguirre quite rightly added the Tom Story criminal case to that growing list. Wellington did not like it, so he lost his cool in court yesterday. This cadre of insiders intended to immediately appoint a "special" prosecutor. Who could they have had in mind? Casey Gwinn? Leslie Devaney?
The rest of us can only guess at the scope of "services" routinely provided to the developer community by Tom Story and his like. The special interests Story served for 20 years is now mobilized to send a clear message to its current insiders e.g. Jim Waring and Marcella Escobar-Eck - if you faithfully do your "duty" to the developers while on the inside, they will protect you when you seek your reward on the outside.
How else are we supposed to interpret the outrageous antics of Police Chief Lansdowne, DA Bonnie Dumanis and Judge Wellington? They are puppets of the Establishment.
But Dumanis and Wellington may have slipped up in their haste to serve their masters. Making her submission to Wellington BEFORE he issued his ruling barring Aguirre from prosecuting Story, Dumanis may have handed Aguirre exactly what he needs to win his appeal. As Aguirre pointed out in court yesterday, Dumanis' submission to Wellington was improper and it was improper for Wellington to read it. As a Judge he knows that and that is why he lost his cool yesterday. He knows it will hurt him on appeal.
So, does Dumanis routinely do as she is told by the Establishment, or does she ever think first? She could hardly have given much thought to her untimely interference in the Story case. Does she simply get a phone call from Kollender or Sanders and immediately comply? Compliance is a highly valued virtue in San Diego today.
It is now up to you and I, the plain People of the State of California, to protect our health and safety from these developer buffoons. The Sunroad building is a public nuisance and a safety hazard to those of us who fly. I do not want to read that one of my long-time flying friends died because of Sunroad's greed. I did my first solo from nearby runway 28R in 1977. Unfortunately, like most people who fly, I have lost very close friends to flying. It is dangerous enough without Story's and Wellington's ignoble contributions.
We need to support and encourage our City Attorney, the FAA and the California Department of Transportation, to protect us from the arrogance of developers like Sunroad and their servile puppets Chief Lansdowne, DA Dumanis and Judge Wellington. We should start by initiating a full public investigation into what is happening at Sunroad. We need an ad hoc committee of public-spirited individuals who will do what the Establishment has barred Aguirre from doing. Any takers?
"The People of the State of California" is under attack. 05/09/07
by Pat Flannery
There is one thing judge Michael D. Wellington missed in his rant against Michael Aguirre yesterday: this case is "The People of the State of California" v. Thomas T. Story, not Mike Aguirre v. Tom Story, as the San Diego Establishment are painting it.
Wellington's 11 page judicial rant was matched only by Bob Kittle's editorial rant in today's San Diego establishment newspaper, the San Diego Union-Tribune. Let them rant, The People of California will have the last say. Wellington's establishment-serving ruling will only serve to further inflame the people. They know where blame lies.
Judge Wellington didn't even bother to get his basic facts straight. He wrote: "The evidence shows that Defendant, Tom Story, was a long-time City employee who worked with the City’s Development Services Department (DSD) and then for the Mayor". Story never worked for DSD, he worked for the Planning Department. But then facts didn't play much of a part in Wellington's decision.
This case is far from over. The people of San Diego will now make it their own. Like Mike Aguirre we are not going to disappear silently into the night. Story and his inside helpers at the City are not going to be able to serve their developer masters and blame outsider Aguirre. We are all outsiders in this developer-controlled city.
It is time to call on the institutions of this State to bring this rogue city under civilized governance. It is time to warn the rest of the Golden State that if it does not reign in the San Diego disease it will spread from the Mexican border to Oregon
The San Diego disease is well known around the world. It created and maintains Third World countries. Money is power, votes mean nothing. Look no further than Mexico. Judges become part of the establishment, Police Chiefs protect the oligarchy that appointed them, developers build what they please because they control the permit process. Look around you, are we far behind? Is it already here?
Sunroad will be the test case. So far the monied establishment is winning. It is now up to "The People of the State of California", not just Mike Aguirre.
Sanders' smoke and mirrors budgeting. 05/08/07
by Pat Flannery
Here is what the Mayor has to say in the Fiscal Recovery section of his proposed budget (page 4 of 11):
"Funding the Pension Plan
In Fiscal Year 2008, the City is
committed to paying the normal cost and the unfunded
liability cost and will contribute $20 million in
addition to the ARC of $137.7 million. This amount will
pay down the Unfunded Actuarial Accrued Liability (UAAL)
with no negative amortization. In addition,
the City has budgeted an additional $7.3 million to
begin paying back the pension plan for assets spent
inappropriately in prior years on $165.1 million."
Let's look at how Sanders has set it up for himself if he wins in 2008. According to his own published amortization payment schedule, far from doing what the voters mandated in Prop B, paying off the pension deficit over 15 years, Sanders will have added more than $20 million (there will be interest on the unpaid interest) to the pension deficit by the time he leaves office. And everybody is afraid to run against this guy?
Sanders and DSD want to create a city within a city. 05/06/07
by Pat Flannery
Former City Attorneys routinely supplemented their department's budget by charging fat fees for custom-made "advice" to other City departments. They made a business out of telling City Departments whatever it was they wanted to hear. Casey Gwinn took it to a whole new level by billing the waster-water department for services he never provided.
Now take a look at the revenue side of Mike Aguirre's proposed budget for 2008 :
Notice that there is
still some budgeted charges for (internal) legal
services. They do not publish a breakdown. Presumably
these are legitimate pre-agreed charges to enterprise
funds such as sewer, water, CCDC and DSD (DSD is an
enterprise fund!). Notice that there is roughly a $2
million reduction in "Charges for Current Services" in
the City Attorney's 2008 budget. Is that because DSD no
longer uses the City Attorney for legal services?
Sanders and his developer
cronies want to create a city within a city. Under
Aguirre they no longer have shills within the City
Attorney's office doing their bidding, so they want to
set up their own legal department within DSD. They want
to write their own developer-serving ordinances, such as
the Density Bonus Ordinance. They plan a complete June
overhaul of the City's Land Use Code, using outside
attorneys, paid for by developers.
Sunroad shows that the City Attorney must represent the people. 05/04/07
by Pat Flannery
The City's Development Services Department (DSD), under its Director, Marcella Escobar-Eck, an old friend of Tom Story, stamped and approved a set of construction plans for Sunroad that raises many questions of special treatment.
Look at the San Diego Municipal Code Chapter 11, Article 3, Division 2, (page 16 on the above link). In particular look at Diagram 113-02S on that page.
"When the vertical distance between the finish-floor elevation and the finish-floor or flat roof elevation immediately above exceeds 15 feet, gross floor area includes the area of the actual floor plus the area of a phantom floor at 15 feet of height and at each 7-foot, 6-inch increment, or portion thereof, of height above the 15-foot height, as shown in Diagram 113-02S."
Here is the actual permit. Note that it is for 12 stories and 306,000 square feet. I viewed the building's approved plans at DSD and found that they show eleven of the twelve floors have a height of 13.75 feet. However the twelfth floor is 17.33 feet and its floor area is 23,070 square feet (see table below). That means that there is actually a 13th (phantom) floor and an additional 23,070 square feet.
In addition, the building has a penthouse or utility room above the 12th floor (presumably for air-conditioning and elevator machinery). Here are the Municipal Code rules for calculating gross floor area for a penthouse:
"§113.0234 Calculating Gross Floor Area
(a) Elements Included in Gross Floor Area For Development in All Zones
Viewed from outside, the Sunroad penthouse appears to be at least 25% of the roof area i.e. 23,070 X 0.25 = 5,767 (the roof area is the same as the 12th floor area). Therefore this does not qualify as a penthouse and must be treated as the 14th floor. Its actual area, approximately 6,000 square feet, must be included in the total.
Then there is the problem of the Sunroad Plans and
the City Permit quoting net rentable area, not gross
The declared floor areas are much less than the outside
measurements multiplied together, as required by the
On March 10, 2005 the
"Substantial Conformance Review" (SCR) application was
"Deemed Complete" by DSD. Tom Story was still Mayor
Murphy's Chief of Staff at that time. Then on February
10, 2006 the "Substantial Conformance Review" (SCR)
application was actually approved by DSD and the first
permit was issued.
Sanders preens while the city burns. 05/01/07
by Pat Flannery
If I were to write to my family in Ireland and tell them that I live in an American city where a former city employee turned developer is being allowed by the city to build a 12 story office building, 180 foot high, beside a city airport, despite having been told by the U.S. aviation authority and the California state department of transportation to stop, because the building is a hazard to aviation, they would say it was time I left that crazy place.
If I were to further tell them that when the city attorney tried to prosecute the builder for "inside trading", the police chief protected the builder by refusing to carry out a court ordered search warrant on the builder's premises, that the city's mayor lambasted the city attorney for trying to prosecutor that former city employee turned developer and that the city attorney has now ended up in the dock himself, they would come and get me.
Not even in the wildest days of the Wild West was there such disregard for law and order. Dodge City was a model of civic rectitude compared to present-day San Diego.
According to an audit, that took 3 years to complete, San Diego overvalued certain of its approximately $1 billion total assets by $458 million, while undervaluing other such assets by $533 million. Even a blind man making wild guesses would do better than that. Yet, that is exactly what happened according to our outside auditors, KPMG.
No wonder the above city employee turned developer, Tom Story, thumbs his nose at city authorities. He is one of those who made this city the basket case that it is.
And there seems to be no relief in sight. The City's Chief Financial Officer says the Mayor will not be able to make any improvements until a new computer system is installed in 2009. The City's Council President sees nothing whatsoever wrong with anything in the City and swears the City Attorney is mad and invented the whole thing.
This Mayor has done absolutely nothing to rescue this city from the maladministration that has been endemic for decades. All he does is preen for the cameras exactly as he did 23 years ago when he put his macho cop image before the lives of innocent children cowering at the mercy of a mad gunman inside McDonalds in San Ysidro.
As SWAT commander he ordered the police snipers at the scene to hold their fire, for over an hour, for no better reason than so he, Jerry Sanders, now our Mayor, could suit up, get to San Ysidro through the rush-hour traffic and be the one on TV. During that long agonizing hour police snipers had the gunman in their sights but had to watch while children were killed one by one. That is hard for me or anybody else to forgive or forget.
23 years after that massacre of the innocents the entire city of San Diego is at the mercy of this same man. Over 1 million people are held hostage by the greed-crazed developers and builders who financed this ex-cop's mayoral election and will do so again. The San Diego power elite protects its own and Sanders is its hand-picked man. They certainly have forgiven him the deaths of all those innocent children at San Ysidro.
What a different country America would be today if the man the voters elected, Al Gore, had been President for the last 7 years. What a different city San Diego would be today if the woman the voters elected, Donna Frye, had been Mayor for the last 3 years.
The illegal Sunroad building is just an example of the power wielded by the money interests that finance puppet politicians like George W. Bush and Jerry Sanders. Money picks flawed individuals to do its bidding, knowing they will not answer their bosses back. And that is how it will remain, and get worse, nationally and locally, until the ordinary people start paying attention to what is really happening not what they are told is happening by the well-oiled political spin machines. Mayor Sanders has five personal PR professionals to manage his day to day TV performances - while the city burns.
"Wrong Way" Peters is on a one-way ticket to nowhere. 04/25/07
by Pat Flannery
Some of you may wonder why I have been coming down so hard on Scott Peters lately. The reason is - he really is that bad. How could a public representative go so far off course as to be actually traveling in the opposite direction of his election pledge?
Peters is the "wrong way" Corrigan of politics, with my apologies to Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan. Remember "Wrong Way"? Read this Wikipedia essay about that Texas-Irishman and you will see what I mean. Notice Corrigan's San Diego and Charles Lindberg connections. I don't mean to imply that Peters has any of his fine qualities.
So back to Scott Peters. How could anybody run for public office only to turn on the very people who elected him? Last night at City Hall he sat in front of his constituents and attempted to use the Council President's chair to disenfranchise them. He brought a trumped up charge against them. He framed them! His own constituents! But he failed. The La Jolla Community Planning Association is now stronger than ever.
The background: Council policy allows individual local planning groups to adopt bylaws that reflect their particular local circumstances but deviate from a model or "shell" set of bylaws maintained by the City, provided that they remain in substantial compliance with that City "shell". Council policy then requires that a community planning group must seek Council approval for any major deviation from that "shell". But it can be approved.
Even more importantly, the entire bylaws are legal, from the moment of their adoption, pending that formal City Council approval or disapproval. That's the way it is set up. There is no provision otherwise. Therefore there was no legal basis for Peter's attempted decertification. That was repeatedly pointed out to him by Mike Aguirre and his staff.
Peters twice refused to docket La Jolla's request to obtain City Council approval. Instead he moved directly to expel them from the planning system. He is the one who breached Council Policy and he denied them due process. Officials have been recalled for less.
If that's not wrong-headed and "wrong way" I don't know what is. It is clear that Peters is trying to curry favor with the developer community who want to eliminate all public involvement in land use decisions. Businessmen always try to get rid of their opposition. Peters hopes that by eliminating the involvement of local communities, the developers will pony up the money he needs to run for City Attorney in 2008. The other part of this devious strategy is to demonize Mike Aguirre. That will fail too. The public trusts Mike. They know he is on their side, even if he doesn't always succeed in his objectives.
So what happened last night at City Council? Well, in a nutshell, the people of La Jolla won. Despite Peters’ best efforts to “discipline” his own constituents for an offense they never committed, Kevin Faulconer, displaying considerable diplomatic skills, suggested a "compromise". Essentially the Faulconer “compromise” gave La Jolla exactly what it was entitled to if Peters had done the honorable thing in the first place. Last night's (amended) action essentially brought La Jolla's request for approval of their bylaw deviations before the whole City Council. That's what Kevin Faulconer managed to do.
Madaffer’s (pre-arranged) motion, seconded by of all people Ben Hueso, to decertify the La Jolla planning group, was withdrawn and the Faulconer “compromise” was passed unanimously. Even Peters had to bend to reason in the end and Kevin Faulconer’s star was raised a notch or two. He got away for a week from the stifling air of City Hall to celebrate his wife’s birthday and the sweet Caribbean air cleared his head. Maybe Scott Peters should retreat to a little hacienda in the Caribbean with his wife – for a few years.
So, the Council did the obvious thing, it approved the La Jolla bylaws but suspended those items that are in conflict with the City's "shell", until the City's Planning Department can get its act together and unveil the new "shell" it has been promising for some time. The release, according to Betsy McCullough, is now sometime in May.
It is hard to know whether McCullough and the Planning Department are still actually working on the new "shell" or Betsy McCullough, Deputy Director, is playing games with it. Did the City (DSD and Planning) just want La Jolla decertified as a service to their developer clients? Did they hold up the "shell" release until the plot was achieved?
That's the kind of games City staff play all the time. Example: the game Greg Levin played with the KPMG 2003 Internal Controls Report. He tried to suppress it until AFTER the City Council (and the public) "received" the City's 2003 main Audit Report.
Donna Frye brought the loudest cheers of the night (she really knows how to work a crowd). She pointedly said that if somebody tried to pull a stunt like that on a planning group in her District she would “fight like hell”. Indeed she would. What a contrast with “Wrong Way” Peters. If only we had eight Council Members like Donna Frye.
She then turned to Jimbo Waring and nailed him as the real evil genius behind this whole sordid affair. Speaking directly to him she suggested that what really happened was that the La Jolla planning group dared to include a few bylaw items of their own “and you got angry”. Yep. That’s exactly what happened Donna. Waring got angry. So angry his hair caught fire, according to one email.
But you know, Waring doesn't bother me, not near as much as Peters does. Waring is just a Sanders' hireling. He is actually doing the job he was hired for, to clear the way for Sanders' developers. When I have a beef with something he does, I address it directly to the Mayor. But Peters .... he was hired by the people of District One - in good faith.
So, unpleasant though it was last night, we got it all out in the open and hopefully we can now move on. I just hope that both “Jimbo” and “Wrong Way” Peters have learned something from it. If not, the sooner they both leave the public sector, the better. Both constantly demonstrate an appalling disdain for democracy and the rule of law.
As far as DSD and the Planning Department are concerned, they better get used to the idea that the public is not such an easy push-over as they imagined. Maybe we will now see a little less of pushy staffers like Planning's Cecelia Williams jumping up every five seconds and grabbing the microphone at the community planning group meetings.
We have already taught Betsy McCullough that she cannot unilaterally cancel a regularly scheduled meeting of the Community Planning Committee (CPC) as she did last October so that CPC would not to steal Mayor Sanders' thunder at his news conference the following day where he introduced the City's General Plan.
We have Mike Aguirre to thank for imposing the Brown Act on the community planning groups, much to the chagrin of Betsy McCullough and the old-guard City's power elite.
So, we are making progress. Make no mistake about it. We just need a few more Donna Frye's and few less Scott Peters. The key to democracy is citizen involvement. It works.
The Mayor's reform image is wearing a little thin. 04/24/07
by Pat Flannery
I went to City Council yesterday and supported the continuance of the Item accepting the KPMG 2003 Audit Report. The way the Mayor has handled the release of this Report is becoming quite troubling. Something does not seem right. Is the Mayor dedicated to reform or is he hiding facts from the public? Here is some background to this story:
First watch the video of the Mayor's upbeat Press Conference on March 16, 2007. Sanders described the KPMG Audit Opinion Letter as a "clean audit opinion" and promised that he is "dedicated to reform". The U-T ran a glowing report of the celebratory event. Aguirre was full of praise for the Mayor and his staff.
Now it turns out that the Mayor suppressed a vital half of that March 12, 2007 Audit Report. Here is the other half. Why did the Mayor withhold it from the public? It can only mean that his dedication to reform is not as dedicated as he says. If it were, he would be having a discussion with us about the serious shortcomings in our internal controls.
I can't help wondering whether this is connected with the easing out of John Torell, the former City Auditor. It is well known that Torell did not fit into the Mayor's plan. John believed in open government and the free flow of information - hardly the hallmark of Sanders' administration.
Here is his one and only Report on Internal Controls, dated January 1, 2006. He called it his First Annual. Unfortunately it was destined to be also his Last Annual. His more political savvy successors did not repeat his mistake. There has been no 2007 report.
What does this say about the staff that Sanders found more to his liking? Greg Levin for example? Levin seems to be a rising star at City Hall. He recently displayed the chutzpah to lecture both Donna Frye and Mike Aguirre. I'm sure that got a few guffaws inside the Mayor's circle and further elevated his star.
Here is Levin's audacious response to Councilmember Frye's legitimate questions regarding the Mayor's withholding of the Independent Auditor's Internal Controls Report. Levin's cover letter says it all. It simply says "Here you go". I think the Mayor's staff should have more respect for City Councilmembers and the public whom they represent.
Watch the video of Councilmember Frye requesting a copy of the missing half of the KPMG Audit Report at last Wednesday's Budget Committee meeting. Mr. Levin said that he had now released the document and that he had placed it on the Docket for the April 30, 2007 Audit Committee meeting. He told Councilmember Frye that it was therefore available to the City Council, as the Audit Committee is a sub-committee of the City Council. Why then in his "audacious response" did he scold Ms. Frye for putting the document on her City Council web site the moment she received it on Wednesday?
Many, like me, regularly monitor the "Memorandums" tab of her web site knowing that she is usually the first to provide access to such documents. Levin would have known that she shares everything with the public the moment she receives it. Indeed he would have known that that was precisely why she wanted this particular document. She is a public representative, not a compliant employee of the Mayor.
Read her initial letter to Levin dated April 19th and then her polite response yesterday April 23rd to his (not so polite) "audacious response" scolding her for releasing the KPMG Report. I think he should apologize for that - to her and to the public.
The full Audit Report will now be heard by Kevin Faulconer's Audit Committee on April 30th and then by the full City Council on May 7th or 8th. The public should attend both meetings and ask lots of questions. There are several major areas of concern:
(1) did the Mayor lie in his letter to the Union-Tribune, or did KPMG back-date its audit letter to March 12, 2007? It has to be either one or the other;
(2) did the Mayor try to "pull a fast one" on the City Council yesterday by submitting the KPMG 2003 Audit Report and the City's 2003 CAFR to the City Council requesting their approval while withholding an integral part of that Report - the Internal Controls Report?;
(3) what actions, if any, has the Mayor taken, or does he propose to take, to address the "material weaknesses" KPMG found in the "design or operation of one or more of the internal control components" of the City's financial reporting systems?;
(4) how will this affect the City's credit rating and when will that be established?
These are very important questions and, amazingly, Councilmember Frye seems to be the only public official asking them. The Mayor seems to have found many willing accomplices for keeping the public in the dark, not just Greg Levin.
That smiley face news conference on March 16, 2007 is all too typical of this smoke-and-mirrors administration. Fred Sainz and his department-sized Mayoral spin team know how to put on a good show. Now it is up to the public to put on an even better show on May 7th or 8th, by demanding answers to why their Mayor is hiding things from them. His "reform" image is wearing a little thin.
Scott Peters is a menace to democracy. 04/22/07
by Pat Flannery
• The LJCPA's bylaws.
• The LJCPA's corporate status.
• The validity under state law of the LJCPA's March elections.
The question is whether the City of San Diego will require that a group receiving the benefits and privileges of being a recognized community planning group, including the promise of indemnity by the citizens of the City of San Diego, follow the provisions of Council Policies adopted by former and current City Councils."
So, what the heck has La Jolla done to breach those Council Policies? Nothing that I can determine. In fact it may be the only planning group in the city that has not.
Why does Peters want his own CPG decertified? This is bizarre even for San Diego. Blaming Jim Waring for wanting to get rid of all Community Planning Groups doesn't quite explain it. We all know that Jimbo wants to dismantle all community involvement so his beloved developers can have a free rein. That's why Sanders hired him.
But Jim Waring could not be doing any of this if Peters was not manipulating the Council Docket for him. Is Peters competing with him for top lapdog of the developers? Is developer money and union hatred Peters' strategy for a 2008 race against Aguirre? Peters is sure stirring up that union hatred for Aguirre and he seems to be going after that developer money with vigor. What a scary thought: City Attorney Scott Peters.
Cecilia Williams, a staffer at the City's Planning Department, "explained" at the April 5, 2007 meeting of the La Jolla Planning Group, that her Department is bringing forward to the City Council on May 1, 2007 a set of proposed amendments to existing Council Policy 600-24. Therefore La Jolla is in breach of a yet-to-be-announced Council Policy! The City Council does not even know what it is La Jolla has done wrong. Nobody does.
Watch the video
Watch as a La Jolla questioner asked a Peters' staffer to explain what was going on. Cecilia Williams of the Planning Department jumped up and took over. She "explained" that Planning had tried to get the policy amendments on the Docket in April but failed. The questioner drew a laugh from the audience when he observed that Planning seemed to have had no trouble getting decertification on the April docket but the policy amendment that caused that decertification has to wait until May 1st. Does Cecilia Williams think we're nuts? How can City staff treat the public like that? It's so insulting.
This is like hanging a man in April for an offense that may become law in May. To curry favor with developers Scott Peters has docketed an item on April 24th that will decertify a planning group, in his own Council District, for breaching a Council policy that will not be introduced until May 1st.
The La Jolla planning group may already be in compliance with whatever new policy the City Council will set on that date. Is that what Peters is afraid of? Why the rush to decertification? This smells of high-stake developer corruption. "Strippergate" after all was only about how losers spend their own money in cheap strip joints. This is about high-rise condos along the La Jolla coast and billion dollar developments.
The worst abuses of Dick Murphy pale in comparison to Peters' bizarre handling of the City Council chair. He counts votes outside the Chamber and only allows a vote when he is assured it will be to his liking. He "continues" or "refers" everything else until arms can be twisted behind the scenes and the "right" results guaranteed. God forbid that this guy should ever run for any public office ever again. He is a menace to democracy.
Mr. Peters, flush this dishonest Docket Item down the toilet where it belongs. And don't try your usual "continuance" trick or your "refer back" trick on Tuesday. Docketing it was an insult to San Diego. It is time you found employment outside government.
Scott Peters is delusional. 04/15/07
by Pat Flannery
Scott Peters has a Napoleon complex. He thinks he is an Emperor. The latest example is his letter to SDCERS.
He is "looking forward to an informative discussion" with pension system administrator David Wescoe, at City Council tomorrow, after barring the City Attorney from that discussion. Yeah, that should do it Scott.
I looked through our City Charter and all through our Municipal Code and found no trace of such Presidential authority.
Images of Napoleon Bonaparte started to come to mind. Napoleon didn't fuss much about petty details such as the French Constitution, just as Peters ignores the California Brown Act and the San Diego City Charter on a daily basis.
Barring the City Attorney is just the latest in Peters' neo-Napoleonic phase. Twice in the last four weeks Peters arbitrarily dismissed key legislative Items from the Council Agenda. He simply announced that the City Council would not be voting on them. Pretty simple. They were the Density Bonus Ordinance and the Budget Amendment Ordinance. Both were crucial Council Items, but because Peters didn't like the way the way the votes were lining up, he arbitrarily confined them to legislative limbo - until the votes look more to his liking. A perfect Napoleonic power-grab - controlling the agenda and who gets to speak.
Peters has twice refused to docket the La Jolla Community Planning Association's Bylaws at City Council, because he does not like the way they are written or the precedence they might set for the rest of the city. He has instead docketed an Agenda Item for April 24, 2007 decertifying that Planning Group. He intends to get his way.
On March 26, 2007 he had the City Council adopt a motion without the statutory 72 hour notice to the public. That was a blatant breach of the California Brown Act. But neither the Brown Act nor Robert's Rules mean much to Mr. Peters.
Toni Atkins is the Councilmember requesting this pension hearing. Here is her 1472. She is Chair of the Budget and Finance Committee and needs to know what is going on at SDCERS. How does she feel about the City Attorney being barred from this important hearing? Does she feel competent to ask the questions Aguirre or his staff would ask? What if something is amiss at SDCERS and she misses it? Isn't that what this hearing is all about? She needs to think long and hard before she goes along with Peters on this.
Obviously the City Attorney has some important questions he would like to ask the pension administrator David Wescoe. But Peters says "due to current and threatened litigation between the City and SDCERS" he has agreed to shield SDCERS from the City Attorney's probing questions. Shouldn't it be the other way around?
So what is Peters up to? Does he know what Aguirre wants to ask Wescoe? Is he protecting the part he himself played in the pension crisis? Of course he is.
We know that Peters and Ron Saathoff are close. Anything to do with SDCERS still has a lot to do with Saathoff. He is a prime target in the "current and threatened litigation between the City and SDCERS". If Saathoff goes down, Peters goes with him. That is why he has opposed Aguirre at every turn on the pension law suits - survival.
Here is a link to Peters 2004 election web site. Saathoff was central to Peters' elections in 2000 and 2004. He is a master campaigner, which is the source of his power. Peters has remained faithful to Saathoff. Peters currently supports a 4% raise for the firefighters. Is barring Aguirre just another political payoff for Saathoff, or to ensure Peters' own survival? What about the rest of the City Council, particularly Toni Atkins?
Atkins should call for a vote tomorrow as to whether the City Attorney may question the pension administrator or not. I'm sure Donna Frye would second it. The public has a right to know what the City Attorney wants to know. We cannot trust the same City Councilmembers who granted such massive illegal pension benefits to ask tough questions when not asking questions was how they failed us in the first place!
Peters was held by the Kroll Report to be the most culpable of the Councilmembers. The San Diego public is just too forgiving. They should have gotten rid of him long ago. But because he got away scot-free he looks in his La Jolla mirror and sees Napoleon.
If the City Council does not do it tomorrow, it will be up to the public to knock Peters out of his Napoleonic fantasy. When he tries to exclude the City Attorney from a public discussion he excludes the public. The Kroll Report was right about Peters. He is not fit to serve in public office. He is not only the most culpable, he is the most dangerous.
This Council is at a crossroads. It can follow Peters down the same wrong path of 2002 or heed the warnings of the Kroll Report. The public may not be as forgiving next time.
Well done Donna, you were right all along. 04/10/07
by Pat Flannery
On February 6, 2007 I wrote: "Yesterday they all learned that they underestimate the political skills of Councilmember Frye at their peril - something Aguirre should also take on board. I am heartened that our system is working as well as it is. We may yet come out of all this as an example for everybody."
That was the day Donna Frye took on both Sanders and Aguirre. And won! The vote was 5 to 3 against the Mayor. The subject was the first reading of an Ordinance addressing Sanders' penchant for cutting city programs without telling anybody. He had claimed he didn't need City Council's permission to cut a swim program for poor kids. Wrong.
Two months later all Sanders has succeeded in proving is Frye's superior grasp of what the people of San Diego want. He may have a superior grasp of what the Chamber of Commerce and the Building Industry Association want, but he has no idea what the average San Diegan in the street thinks. He is the developers' Mayor and that's all.
All my fears of a Sanders puppet horror show evaporated today under the steady hand of Ms. Frye. She had orchestrated the public's response to Sanders power grab with the finesse of a master politician. Her loyal supporters turned up in droves at City Hall to let her know they still love her. It was pleasant to see all the old faces from her campaign.
At first they were worried and uncertain until Mike Aguirre took the microphone shortly after 2:00 P.M. It was immediately obvious that he was abandoning the Mayor and killing the ordinance. He was abandoning the legal opinion he had issued last Friday. He knew it would not survive a court challenge. He knew that Article 11.1 of the City Charter means exactly what it says - no part of "any ordinance or resolution which raises or spends public monies" is delegable.
The Mayor could not disguise his disgust. He wondered, sarcastically, why it took the City Attorney so long to see the clarity of Article 11.1. Aguirre had now ticked off just about everybody. How must his staff who researched and wrote the legal opinion have felt when they saw their boss trash their work in public?
The look on Tony Young's face was priceless. Just when he thought he was on the way up he was on the way down. He could not even look at Aguirre. In the morning he was praising Aguirre and challenging the credentials of a constitutional scholar who disagreed with Aguirre and spoke at the invitation of Ms. Frye. What a difference a lunch break makes. Young obviously never saw the Aguirre about-face coming.
I had made this presentation before the lunch break. This is the the Mayor's letter I referred to. Clearly the Mayor never saw Aguirre's about-face coming either.
It was obvious that Aguirre's action would make it impossible to get anything adopted today, so Peters announced that the Council would not be voting on Item-330 or 331 today. He entertained a new motion to refer "it" to the Budget Committee. What exactly was referred to the Budget Committee and for what purpose, we do not know.
It will be interesting to see what Toni Atkins, chair of the Budget Committee, will put on her docket, if anything. The City Council has its own way of burying its failures.
The death of Item-330 is a huge victory for Donna Frye and a huge defeat for Jerry Sanders. I hope this gives her the courage to challenge him again in 2008. I have absolutely no doubt that she would beat him. What has he achieved in eighteen months? All he knows is daily press conferences and making threats in order to get his way. He is not a consensus builder. There was no consensus in City Hall today, just strife.
Donna Frye is a consensus builder. She proved today that she can manage an issue and get her way. Sanders had to walk away empty handed. Aguirre had to (reluctantly) admit that she was right - Article 11.1 means exactly what it says. Well done Donna.
Mayor Sanders' all-embracing puppet show. 04/09/07
by Pat Flannery
Tomorrow will be Sanders' fourth attempt (2/5/2007, 03/05/07 and 03/19/07) to defeat an Ordinance "Declaring budget change authority granted to the Mayor requires City Council approval if such action will result in materially and substantially reducing, altering, or eliminating service levels to the community, based upon the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget".
Scott Peters and Tony Young proposed a compromise that would give Sanders the power to cut the Council-approved budget of any one department by 10% or $4 million, whichever is the greater. The trouble with this compromise is that it would give Mayor Sanders the power to leverage "influence" on the City Council. He has more than once demonstrated a clear tendency towards bullying in order to get his way.
I can readily imagine a Councilmember identified as the swing vote on an important issue, getting a call from "staff" the night before the City Council vote. The unfortunate Councilmember would be told that "staff" had reluctantly decided that a certain program, (one known to be very dear to particular Councilmember and to an influential segment of his/her District) would have to be cut, for economic reasons of course.
Copious expressions of regret would be expressed by "staff" and the Councilmember. The sympathetic "staff" would then wish the hardworking Councilmember "good look" in what "staff" knows must be a difficult decision on a particular Item on tomorrow's City Council Docket. Even a City Councilmember couldn't fail to get the hint.
The Councilmember would then mention that he/she was leaning towards voting a certain way (the way known to be favored by the Mayor). "Staff" would reassure the Councilmember that the Mayor has always held the Councilmember in high regard and offer to try and persuade the Mayor to take another look at the budget item mentioned earlier. Even an eavesdropper could find nothing incriminating with the conversation.
Apart from the potential for corruption (or maybe because of it), our City Charter outlaws such an Ordinance. Here is the relevant section.
"Charter Section 11.1: Legislative Power — Nondelegable
The same prohibition against delegation of the legislative power which is imposed on the State Legislature by Article XI, Section 11a of the Constitution of the State of California shall apply to the City Council of The City of San Diego, so that its members shall not delegate legislative power or responsibility which they were elected to exercise in the adoption of any ordinance or resolution which raises or spends public monies, including but not limited to the City’s annual budget ordinance or any part thereof, and the annual ordinance setting compensation for City employees, or any ordinance or resolution setting public policy."
Scott Peters has cunningly docketed
his item before the Donna
Frye/IBA item tomorrow.
Viva La Jolla! Let's hope the rest of the city follow. 04/05/07
by Pat Flannery
The good people of La Jolla filled the La Jolla Recreation Center this evening in a packed town hall meeting where they told Jim Waring exactly what they thought of his dictatorial interference in their community planning association. Speaker after speaker gave Waring and his staff a tongue lashing for the high-handed way they have treated the people of La Jolla in recent months. I videoed the whole thing and will put up excerpts in a later blog.
The strange thing about this ugly confrontation between people and City Hall is that it would not be happening if La Jolla's own Councilmember, Scott Peters was on his constituents' side. Much verbal La Jolla anger was directed tonight at Peters for having twice refused to docket their request to have the La Jolla planning group's bylaws approved by City Council. Instead Peters has docketed Waring's recommendation to have La Jolla decertified as a planning group on April 24, 2007. Peters wants to decertify his own planning group! Unless it first complies with Waring's dictat. Unbelievable!
Peters is in hock to the City's Development Services Department that is committed to eliminating as far as possible any brake community planning groups may have on the onward march of developers. All Waring has to do is wave Peters' list of campaign contributors in his face and Peters gives him whatever he wants. Here is the list. It seems to trump the popular vote in the La Jolla Recreation Center every time.
Tonight approximately 90% of assembled La Jollans voted against Waring and Peters. This is the third time since January that well over 100 La Jolla residents turned out to send an overwhelming democratic message to Peters and Waring. So far they have been completely ignored and arrogantly overridden, making it clear that developer money runs this City. Be sure to read Peters' developer contribution list and judge for yourself.
To Peters, a vote means nothing, unless it is accompanied by a $250 contribution, the only vote that counts.
I learned something tonight that shocked me. Of the 42 Community Planning Groups across the city only six are incorporated, La Jolla being one of them. The shocking thing is that most of them have been forced by the City to adopt two sets of bylaws, one corporate and one for dealing with the City. How can that be? How can a corporation have two sets of bylaws? Isn't that like keeping two sets of books? How can the City be a party to that? There must be a lot of dittohead "placemen" on those other community planning groups. Thank goodness for La Jolla. I hope they continue to stand their ground.
The real reason Waring wants to decertify the La Jolla planning group is to stamp out any ideas of corporate planning groups right across the city. It's as simple as that. Waring and his City staff want to deal only with entities they can control. Under the Waring-dictated rules tonight's vote could never have happened. His "placemen" would have done their duty. How many of the 42 community planning groups are like that?
Developers use Delaware LLCs, where nobody can determine ownership, but the people of this city may not even use a California not-for-profit corporation? No wonder La Jolla is in revolt. And La Jolla will win. There is no way Peters can deliver on his quisling promise to Waring. His constituents will recall him if he votes to decertify them on April 24th.
Maybe Aguirre was just sleep-walking with a guy named Sanders. 04/04/07
by Pat Flannery
I listened to Mike Aguirre give long responses to even longer "questions" at a press conference today. He was surprisingly patient with members of the media who had not done their homework on this Sunroad warrant issue. The press boys had just come from a Police Officers Association (POA) press conference where the men in blue had circled the wagons around their Chief and hurled personal abuse at the City Attorney.
Lansdowne had given interviews this morning to augment the POA rant against Aguirre. I wasn't present at the Lansdowne interviews, in his plush downtown office, but I have a hunch the brave newsmen who laid into Aguirre in La Jolla were a little less aggressive with Police Chief Lansdowne. Why is that?
Why has none of them asked Lansdowne whether or not he telephoned Mayor Sanders on Wednesday afternoon March 21st and told him about the Aguirre search warrant? That warrant contained references to senior members of Mayor Sanders staff, particularly Ms. Escobar-Ecke, his Director of Development Services. Why has nobody asked for the telephone logs of Lansdowne and Sanders? Does the media kiss up to power in this town? Are they afraid to ask? Thomas Jefferson once said: "When governments fear people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny".
One thing was clear to me today, things have changed between Aguirre and the Mayor.
Aguirre looked thoughtful when speaking about Sanders, like he had lost an old friend. It must be difficult for him to hear his "friend" Sanders describe his warrant as "reprehensible" on the Roger Hedgecock show. Actually the people of San Diego are the injured party, not Mike. Sooner or later they will come to realize that. The over-aggressive rhetoric of the Police Union today will come back to haunt them when their chief is disgraced. Facts are stubborn things. It is just a matter of time. The POA has called for an apology from Aguirre, they may be the ones making the apology.
Sanders may come to regret not sticking by his friend Aguirre. Has he forgotten about his "battle of the budget" on Tuesday? He cannot win it without him. Ever since getting elected in 2005 Sanders has assumed knee-jerk support from Aguirre, and he has got it. If Aguirre turns against him, this "popular" Mayor will find San Diego a whole different place. He has totally underestimated the combined popularity and political strength of Frye and Aguirre. The people may not always be ecstatic about them but they know and trust them, warts and all. All they know about Sanders is what Fred Sainz tells them. He is just a suit. He reads his lines and does what he is told. That's why they picked him.
Here is Tuesday's City Council Docket:
ITEM-330: "Alternative Proposal for Amendments to the Appropriations Ordinance; Repeal of BPR Ordinance; All Relating to the Budget Authority of the Mayor and City Council" (would give Sanders 10% or $4 million per department with which to blackmail individual City Councilors) vs. Donna Frye's ITEM-331: "Amendments to the Appropriations Ordinance, Repeal of BPR Ordinance, and Resolutions to Clarify Budget Process Requirements" (budget authority would remain with the City Council).
This may be the beginning of the end for Sanders mayoralty. He should never have taken that call from Lansdowne. He was a career cop and knew all about the sanctity of warrants. If Lansdowne had genuine legal concerns he should have called Judge Clarke for reassurance and clarification. Instead he called Sanders and doomed them both.
After Tuesday's City Council vote we may be back to pre-2005 city politics. Sanders may be facing the dynamic-duo who were really going to clean up San Diego until he hijacked the title and did the exact opposite. This city is more corrupt now than it was in 2005. It is more corrupt than under Murphy or Golding, and that is saying something.
Maybe Aguirre was just sleep-walking with a guy named Sanders.
Warrantgate; what did the Mayor know and when did he know it? 04/03/07
by Pat Flannery
Timeline of a crisis:
Wednesday March 21, 2007, 3:16 P.M.: San Diego Superior Court Judge George “Woody” Clarke signed this search warrant. Search warrants are issued on behalf of the People of the State of California to "any Sheriff, Police Officer or Peace Officer in the County of San Diego". They are not requests, they are a direct command by a Judge of the Superior Court on behalf of the People of the State California. They must be obeyed.
The law defines a search warrant as “an order in writing, in the name of the people, signed by a magistrate, directed to a peace officer, commanding him or her etc".
Friday March 23, 2007: David Hasemyer of the U-T wrote in an article: "The City Attorney's Office has obtained a search warrant for the office of Tom Story, a vice president for Sunroad Enterprises" and "As of last night, it had not been served".
Therefore, the day after a search warrant was signed against him, Tom Story was aware of it and was talking to the Union-Tribune. Hasemyer reported: "Story said the company's lawyers offered late yesterday [Thursday] to give Aguirre any documents he wanted in exchange for his promise not to execute the search warrant. Story said the company hopes to avoid the public spectacle that a search would create". Who warned him?
It is clear that the warrant had already been leaked to both its target and to the press. Aguirre found out about the leak Thursday afternoon. Alex Roth reported in the U-T: "William Maheu, San Diego's assistant police chief, was in his office Thursday afternoon when he received a call from City Attorney Michael Aguirre. The city attorney was livid."
Roth continued: "Aguirre was on the phone, demanding a reason for the delay, his tone so agitated that Maheu was “taken aback." Maheu recalled: "It was not a pleasant conversation, and I didn't say much". Aguirre realized that the Police Chief was defying a court order by refusing to execute a search warrant. The legal system was in crisis.
Saturday March 25, 2007: Deciding that attack was the best form of defense, Bob Kittle wrote a piece in the U-T's editorial page. He congratulated Lansdowne for refusing to serve Aguirre's "baseless search warrant" and wrote: "After reading the affidavit filed by Aguirre in requesting the warrant from Superior Court Judge Woody Clarke, Lansdowne concluded there was no evidence of any crime."
Obviously Kittle had spoken to Lansdowne. As an experienced journalist he would hardly invent such a thing. There could be no doubt: Lansdowne was not only refusing to carry out a command of the court but had alerted the targets of the search warrant. Surely unprecedented!
Sunday March 25, 2007: Alex Roth reported in the U-T: "in an interview yesterday, San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne confirmed that he refused to let his officers conduct the search, despite Aguirre's request. The chief said he had no faith in Aguirre's assertion that the search might uncover evidence of a crime. The chief said he reviewed the facts of the case and couldn't see how such a search could be justified."
Tuesday March 27, 2007: Bob Kittle, in full editorial fury, was calling on Judge Clarke "to unseal the affidavit and the search warrant so that San Diegans can see for themselves what prompted Chief Lansdowne, an official of unquestioned integrity, to put an end to Aguirre's planned police search of Sunroad's offices." He gloated: "With Chief Lansdowne standing firmly on principle and refusing to execute a groundless search, Aguirre reached a deal with Sunroad to abandon the search."
Putting the above pieces together, is the following how it really happened?
Wednesday March 21st: Lansdowne receives the search warrant late in the afternoon; he calls Sanders (Aguirre told KPBS: "Within hours on Wednesday, last Wednesday the 21st, it was leaked to the Mayor's Office" and Bob Kittle confirmed that important fact on the same program); Sanders realizes that one of his senior staff, Marcela Escobar-Eck, his Director of Development Services, is involved and vulnerable; he thanks Lansdowne for the heads-up and calls Bonnie Dumanis to see what can be done; she in turn calls Sherriff Bill Kollender; they confer together and decide that Lansdowne can refuse to execute the search warrant; Escobar-Eck is warned and in turn warns Tom Story; Story gets Sunroad's corporate lawyers on the job; Story's office is sanitized.
Thursday March 22nd: Bob Kittle of the Union-Tribune is notified; Kittle alerts the U-T news department; reporter David Hasemyer breaks the story; because of the delay Aguirre smells a rat and calls Lansdowne's office, speaks to assistant police chief, William Maheu; Aguirre talks to Sunroad's lawyers who offer to give him any documents he wanted in exchange for his promise not to execute the search (how he was supposed to execute the search is not clear; Kittle goes on the attack to give Lansdowne cover.
The moment Police Chief Lansdowne picked up that phone and called whoever he called to leak Aguirre's search warrant and announce that he would not execute it, this city went into deep crisis. It will remain in that crisis until Lansdowne is either fired or resigns. In the meantime Mayor Sanders is accountable to the people of San Diego.
A privileged few have escaped the law because the Police Chief protected them. An illegal building continues to be built while its developer continues to thumb its corporate nose at the FAA. Pilots' lives continue to be put in danger.
If Sanders does not fire Lansdowne, recall proceedings must be commenced. The people cannot let this stand. To do so would be to accept that law and order has broken down in San Diego. This is a defining moment for Sanders. He is the Mayor and must lead. If he continues to take Lansdowne's side against the people, he will not only be subject to a voter recall but will be guilty of obstruction of justice while engaging in a criminal conspiracy. There is no easy way out of this crisis. Serious illegalities have occurred.
Another one of Waring's bullying tactics? 04/02/07
by Pat Flannery
The Sanders administration seems to have chosen La Jolla as the battleground over community involvement (or the lack of it) in city government. They are waging a war with the Bird Rock community over Form-based Codes, an attack on traditional use-based land zoning, now they want to impose their will on the La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA), that represents all of La Jolla on all land use issues in the area.
Jim Waring is spending an inordinate amount of his high-paid time wrangling over some minor points in the LJCPA's By Laws (I have several emails and letters, one of them written by Waring on a Sunday!). Why are these By Laws so important to him? He even enrolled the aid of Scott Peters to stop their approval by City Council. Peters had been personally asked by Aguirre to docket them for Council approval. But Peters said in a letter to LJCPA that the "Mayor's Office", presumably Waring, did not want the LJCPA's version of the By Laws approved. So much for Peters' dedication to communities.
So what are these By Law provisions that has Waring so energized and why?
Here is the Agenda for a Special Meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association this Thursday at 6:00 P.M. On the surface it would appear to be about removing the provision for proxy voting and adjusting the requirement for membership from 3 meetings to 1 meeting. LJCPA has no problem with those.
So what is the problem?
It is of course a trick. It is always a trick with Waring. If LJCPA passes the Proposed Motion being thrust before it on Thursday, it will be throwing away thousands of unpaid community hours spent drawing up an excellent set of By Laws that reflect the La Jolla community's aims and character. It is Waring's way of trashing the community's work.
Thursday's Proposed Motion is all about this sentence: "re-adopt the previous City approved bylaws (approval date 1-1-92)" - eliminating proxy voting and reducing the number of meetings for Membership is just a cover. Waring wants to impose his own By Laws by threatening "decertification" of the Planning Group, if he does not get his way.
ideological difference between the two sets of By Laws
is in how many people should have a say in community
planning. Waring wants to impose a system where only a
small group of decision makers, that he can control,
will decide local planning issues. La Jolla and other
communities around the city, want to widen the
involvement by local people in planning. The last thing
Waring wants. Nor Peters apparently.
How prepared are the La
Jolla residents? I would say very prepared. They know
what is at stake. They know that they represent the rest
of the city in this battle with Waring. They believe
that their hard work resulted in actually improving the
City's By Laws template (shell) that Waring wishes to
impose on each one of them.
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