City Not Sure U-T Car Museum Is Street Legal

City Not Sure U-T Car Museum Is Street Legal

Photo by Sam Hodgson

Construction is underway of a new ramp headed into U-T San Diego's headquarters in Mission Valley.

 

If you drop by U-T San Diego’s offices in Mission Valley, you’ll find the usual newsroom, printing press and proverbial ink-stained wretches along with a little something extra. Visitors can eat at a restaurant, admire signed limited-edition prints by the likes of Picasso and Dali, and visit a small “auto museum” showcasing Shelby Cobras, a Woodie and more.

These are all part of the grand vision of publisher and owner Doug Manchester, who’s been dramatically remodeling the U-T building while brashly pushing his political agenda on the front page of the newspaper.

The auto museum, which required the construction of a ramp and bridge to bring cars into the U-T building, is certainly striking. It may also violate city regulations, potentially exposing the paper to hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

The city is investigating whether U-T San Diego built the auto museum in its office building without permission. A city inspector went to the building on Camino de la Reina in late July to investigate the auto museum, but the newspaper’s staff turned the inspector away, saying the museum was only a “converted office,” a city spokeswoman said

If the city deems the auto museum to be in violation of city rules, the paper could face court proceedings and a fine of up to $250,000.

John Lynch, the newspaper’s CEO, seems unconcerned. “Get a life,” he wrote in an email after I asked him about the investigation today. Lynch, who’s previously expressed dissatisfaction with city regulations regarding the use of the U-T building, declined to make any other comment.

The “U-T Auto Museum,” which was built last month, showcases restored classic cars. They sit in a brightly colored room with extensive lighting, golden walls, a bright red ceiling and a floor painted royal red in a pattern featuring golden lines and medallions.

A source who’s seen the museum but wishes to remain anonymous said it spotlights seven vintage cars: two Shelby Cobras, a couple luxury sedans, a Woodie, an old Ford pickup, and a hot rod. (A U-T staffer took a photo of the museum that you can see here.)

On the back side of the bland 1970s-era U-T office building, which sits near Interstate 8, a new driveway has been built from the street to the building to allow the classic cars to get inside the new museum.

Photo by Sam Hodgson
Construction was underway in July on a driveway leading into U-T San Diego headquarters.

 

The city launched an investigation of the auto museum after Voice of San Diego inquired about it.

The newspaper doesn’t appear to have the appropriate permit to build the auto museum, said the city spokeswoman, Lynda Pfeifer. “However, the investigation is ongoing and no violations have been confirmed,” she said.

The city will follow up with a complete inspection within the next two weeks, she said. Permits are needed for the “construction, conversion, alteration, or establishment of a use” in the area where the U-T building sits, she said, although there are some exceptions to the rules. The city issues permits with an eye toward making sure neighborhood planning rules are followed.

Among other things, construction workers this year built a TV studio in the third-floor newsroom (it is the home of the U-T cable TV channel) and have been ripping out walls on the fourth floor. The paper also closed the employee cafeteria and opened a first-floor restaurant called the U-T Bistro that can hold 313 people; Pfeifer said the newspaper got a permit to convert office space into a restaurant.

Lynch is no fan of city regulations. Earlier this year, he wrote to City Councilman Kevin Faulconer’s office complaining that the paper received a city citation threatening a $1,000 fine for an illegal banner on its building, according to emails obtained by the San Diego Reader.

“If it weren’t for the digital sign pending approval, I would instruct our folks to run a piece on how this is so reflective of this city being anti-business,” Lynch wrote. “We are fighting to keep this business vital and if it were ever to go away, there would be 700 San Diego jobs that go with it.”

The “digital sign” refers to the newspaper’s bid to put what the Reader calls a “video billboard and news ticker” on the top of the existing U-T building.

That’s a separate project from the U-T’s announced plan to build a complex of 198 condos, 230,000 square feet of office space and shops on its Mission Valley property. The project reflects Manchester’s interest in advancing both the newspaper’s journalism and his own real-estate interests.

Pfeifer said the U-T has not yet asked for a permit for the video billboard/news ticker on its current building.

On the journalism front, the paper has changed its name (it was formerly known as The San Diego Union-Tribune) and fired a prominent sports columnist who questioned its new focus on television. On its front page, it’s proposed its own sports mega-project on the front page and adopted a new slogan: World’s Greatest Country and America’s Finest City. It also recently ranked Barack Obama as the worst president of all time.

The New York Times wrote in June that the paper has repeatedly published flattering “Making a Difference” profiles of Manchester’s cronies and “often seems like a brochure for his various interests.”

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga.

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Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego and president-elect of the American Society of Journalists & Authors. Please contact him directly at randydotinga@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/rdotinga

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47 comments
SDBruce
SDBruce

I do dig cool cars though.

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

Jim: no, I'm not against garages. I do prefer detached ones, however. It is a bit funny to me when people live above a garage in million dollar homes:: in the olden days that would be where the servants live. But I certainly dislike the idea that someone in a supposedly reputable business can add or convert one without a building permit, and then tell the inspector to shove off when he arrives after the fact. Workers, visitors and vendors who use a newish building should have the right to assume they are entering a site that has passed all the legally required inspections.

hardcover
hardcover

Jim: no, I'm not against garages. I do prefer detached ones, however. It is a bit funny to me when people live above a garage in million dollar homes:: in the olden days that would be where the servants live. But I certainly dislike the idea that someone in a supposedly reputable business can add or convert one without a building permit, and then tell the inspector to shove off when he arrives after the fact. Workers, visitors and vendors who use a newish building should have the right to assume they are entering a site that has passed all the legally required inspections.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

Yes. It would be hard to be a journalist in San Diego without knowing anyone laid off from the U-T.

Dotinga
Dotinga

Yes. It would be hard to be a journalist in San Diego without knowing anyone laid off from the U-T.

Scott Kovacik
Scott Kovacik subscriber

Xanadu is nearing completion - just leave some room for the snow sled.

sdnative1958
sdnative1958

Xanadu is nearing completion - just leave some room for the snow sled.

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

Randy, you are a friend to some people the UT let go, correct?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

Randy, you are a friend to some people the UT let go, correct?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

Good point Fryfan. Also, while admittedly I have probably seen fewer Elvis statutes than the average guy my age, I have never seen one with a gas tank.

hardcover
hardcover

Good point Fryfan. Also, while admittedly I have probably seen fewer Elvis statutes than the average guy my age, I have never seen one with a gas tank.

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

Did your dentist build a ramp and bridge to move those art objects into the lobby of his/her office?

fryefan
fryefan

Did your dentist build a ramp and bridge to move those art objects into the lobby of his/her office?

Jim Jones
Jim Jones subscriber

My dentist has a bunch of signed guitars all over his walls, and a mannequin of elvis sitting in the lobby, could some check and see if this music museum pulled a permit? I'd hate to think the city didn't get a bunch of money for nothing from my dentist as well!

Jim Jones
Jim Jones

My dentist has a bunch of signed guitars all over his walls, and a mannequin of elvis sitting in the lobby, could some check and see if this music museum pulled a permit? I'd hate to think the city didn't get a bunch of money for nothing from my dentist as well!

Bill Ray
Bill Ray subscriber

I had no idea that they thought of the Midwest as a 3rd world country. Now we know! :D

BillRayDrums
BillRayDrums

I had no idea that they thought of the Midwest as a 3rd world country. Now we know! :D

Don Wood
Don Wood subscriber

Don't the little people get it yet? Papa Doc and his new toy are above the law. He buys and sells local politicians. Watch how quick the mayor and butt kissing city councilmen shut down city staff on this. They'll do anything to keep on Doug's good side, since it comes with big contributions.

Don Wood
Don Wood

Don't the little people get it yet? Papa Doc and his new toy are above the law. He buys and sells local politicians. Watch how quick the mayor and butt kissing city councilmen shut down city staff on this. They'll do anything to keep on Doug's good side, since it comes with big contributions.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

g here is being watched nationally.

Dotinga
Dotinga

g here is being watched nationally.

Christy Scannell
Christy Scannell subscriber

I know it's not easy to write a piece like this when your main source from the other side responds with "get a life," which is unprofessional and unhelpful. But I also think it behooves you to rise above that and use the highest standards when you are attempting to show how a competitor is not playing by the rules.

Christy
Christy

I know it's not easy to write a piece like this when your main source from the other side responds with "get a life," which is unprofessional and unhelpful. But I also think it behooves you to rise above that and use the highest standards when you are attempting to show how a competitor is not playing by the rules.

Bob Hudson
Bob Hudson subscriber

Has there ever been a newspaper whose editorial slant did not reflect the inclinations of the controlling owner?

Bob Hudson
Bob Hudson

Has there ever been a newspaper whose editorial slant did not reflect the inclinations of the controlling owner?

David Cohen
David Cohen subscriber

Just another nail in the Useless-Tribune's credibility coffin.

fryefan
fryefan

Just another nail in the Useless-Tribune's credibility coffin.

Dennis
Dennis subscriber

We should just anoint Doug Manchester Czar of San Diego and let him do what he wants. According to him, it's "better" for us anyway :)

Dennis Michael
Dennis Michael

We should just anoint Doug Manchester Czar of San Diego and let him do what he wants. According to him, it's "better" for us anyway :)

Ari Isaak
Ari Isaak subscriber

Thank goodness for Voice of San Diego.

SDMAPS
SDMAPS

Thank goodness for Voice of San Diego.

Randy Dotinga
Randy Dotinga memberauthor

As for the NY Times story: It is a high-profile article and an example of how the changes at the U-T are getting national attention, and not in a positive way.

Dotinga
Dotinga

As for the NY Times story: It is a high-profile article and an example of how the changes at the U-T are getting national attention, and not in a positive way.

john eisenhart
john eisenhart subscriber

The city is anti-business in requiring permits for tenant improvements? No , the city is making sure the exiting and fire requirements are met for the occupants. Or are life safety issues to socialist for your taste John?

mr architect
mr architect

The city is anti-business in requiring permits for tenant improvements? No , the city is making sure the exiting and fire requirements are met for the occupants. Or are life safety issues to socialist for your taste John?

bf08222e-e0bf-11e1-a57a-f30abf22ec20
bf08222e-e0bf-11e1-a57a-f30abf22ec20

Is this story intended as a column or as a news article? If it is a column, that should be indicated somewhere. But if it is a news story, I find the implications rather ironic. On the one hand, the writer points a finger at the UT publisher for "publishing his political agenda on the front page of the newspaper" (which is indeed unusual but is clearly flagged "editorial"), yet this article is slanted in its language and implications, including a link to a New York Times opinion piece that is not identified as such. Of course the UT should be held to the same building codes as any other city business, but this writer's approach to the story is loaded and anything but journalistically neutral. I hope you will continue to follow the UT's wins and losses, but please do so in a fair and credible way.

Elmer Walker
Elmer Walker subscriber

The City will not challenge Godfather Doug. He has beat them every time there has been a confrontation. We all know there is a set of rules for voters and a set of rules for the rich and powerful.

elmerew
elmerew

The City will not challenge Godfather Doug. He has beat them every time there has been a confrontation. We all know there is a set of rules for voters and a set of rules for the rich and powerful.

Brandon Smith
Brandon Smith subscriber

My own clients have to file for the necessary permits when undertaking construction, why should the UT be no different?

dcoopsd
dcoopsd

My own clients have to file for the necessary permits when undertaking construction, why should the UT be no different?

Mike Davis
Mike Davis subscriber

If Lynch is so concerned about jobs in San Diego, why are they outsourcing their Circulation Services to somewhere in the midwest? Why not bring those jobs back to San Diego?

davisword
davisword

If Lynch is so concerned about jobs in San Diego, why are they outsourcing their Circulation Services to somewhere in the midwest? Why not bring those jobs back to San Diego?

Mike Davis
Mike Davis subscriber

I was told Manchester also built living quarters at the paper. If so, did he need permits for that as well?

davisword
davisword

I was told Manchester also built living quarters at the paper. If so, did he need permits for that as well?

Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson subscriber

So, anything is legal as long as it was converted from an office? Weird logic from the same minds that recently predicted that Romney will win the election in part because a chicken outlet had its best day ever last week.

hardcover
hardcover

So, anything is legal as long as it was converted from an office? Weird logic from the same minds that recently predicted that Romney will win the election in part because a chicken outlet had its best day ever last week.