In 2021, We Learned More About the City’s Real Estate Woes — Voice of San Diego

Pechanga Arena San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

The city has seemed, for a few years now, to be competing against itself to see how monumentally it can mess up any attempt to buy, lease or develop real estate. San Diego’s ongoing problems with land and buildings continued in 2021.

As part of our ongoing look back at all the things we learned about the region this year, Andrew Keatts revisits all the bad news the city got on its real estate dealings in 2021 and an audit that called it all out, while looking forward to the nascent attempt to rebuild those efforts.

One project bookended the year of bad real estate news. In March, the city learned that it broke state law when it chose a developer to revamp 50 acres of city-owned land around the Sports Arena, and needed to re-start its process of choosing a developer. By December, though, the city learned it broke a different state law when it asked voters to remove the height limit in the Midway area — seen as a crucial deregulatory step for that Sports Arena redevelopment — without first studying the environmental effect development over 30 feet would have on the community.

But the city also learned, as part of a now-criminal investigation, that its former real estate advisor had received nearly $10 million on deals he advised them on while publicly claiming to be a volunteer. And the city approved $15 million in spending to turn a warehouse it doesn’t own into a fire truck maintenance yard. And the agency it deputized with handling low-income housing needs hired a broker to help it buy hotels, only to see the broker invest heavily in a company with whom he negotiated a hotel purchase (and the agency priced the hotel, purchased at the height of the pandemic, as if the pandemic never happened).

“Regardless of what happened in the past, we’re moving forward,” said Penny Maus, who the city hired in March to rebuild a real estate department that was at the center of some of those screwups. 

Click here to read the full story.

Experts Envision a Binational Curriculum 

It’s surprising how little some San Diegans know about our neighbors down south, and vice versa. In her latest Border Report, contributor Sandra Dibble explores the idea of a course for San Diego and Tijuana high school students that focuses on regional history. 

“The classes would be taught in different languages, in two countries, but with the same books and same set of facts,” Dibble writes.

It might seem like a far-fetched dream, given that schools on both sides of the border have curriculum and graduation requirements set by their respective education departments. But, as Dibble points out, educators from Tijuana and San Diego have already shown willingness to work on common projects — such as a program to develop bilingual teachers in Baja California.

She spoke with two historians and asked them: What would the class teach? Read what they had to say here. 

In Other News

  • The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer turned down purchasing the 101 Ash St. high-rise, and instead directed the city to purse the lease option, because he had concerns about “political optics” and using bonds for the purchase. This comes after the newspaper obtained summary notes an investigation by the city auditor. Note: The story is for subscribers only.
  • National City will discuss a proposal next month that would temporarily suspend a nearly 30-year-old law that bans cruising in the city. The Union-Tribune reported that the local lowriding community believes the city should repeal the law completely, but that’s yet to be seen, as progress on the issue has been low and slow.
  • And the U-T also reported that commanders in the San Diego Sheriff’s Department directed subordinates to enforce some evictions over the past year while others languished for months. Turns out they prioritized politically connected landlords, according to documents and a longtime sergeant.
  • The county reported more positive cases of COVID-19 than any time since the surge over Christmas 2020. Hospitalizations have ticked up but we haven’t yet seen them spike like they did this fall. (Fox 5) The virus is spreading almost everywhere and even mild positive cases can cause great disruption with recommended isolation times. But the CDC Monday changed it’s recommendations for how long you should wait if you get a positive test. Before, it was 10 days. But now, if you’re asymptomatic, you need to isolate five days. Read more here.
  • Petco Park almost looks like a legit football stadium.

This Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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