We reported on Monday that the City Council voted to pay the legal fees for environmentalists in exchange for an agreement to extend the deadline for replacing sewer lines. We reported that the city was behind on sewer-line replacements mandated by a legal settlement.

However, attorneys involved in the settlement said that was not the case.

Instead, the council decided to pay the legal bills for San Diego Coastkeeper and the Surfrider Foundation in exchange for the chance to postpone a final settlement in the case, Deputy City Attorney Thomas Zeleny said.

A final settlement would require that new pump stations are built and sewers lines are replaced – expensive tasks that are difficult for the city because it is barred from borrowing on the financial markets until its credit rating is restored. However, no such final settlement mandating the replacement of lines is in place with Coastkeeper and Surfrider, and the city isn’t behind on its legal obligations, as we had implied, according to attorneys on both sides of the case.

In the meantime, Zeleny said, the city is agreeing to a temporary settlement that serves as a placeholder. The city is not ready to further analyze the cost of making the improvements needed to satisfy a final settlement and does not have access to the bond markets that is needed to pay for these improvements.

Zeleny and Marco Gonzalez, the attorney for Coastkeeper, said the city is not behind on any of its current legal requirements.

Gonzalez said Monday’s vote was to continue the city’s work to clean up its sewage system. This is the second year that the city has entered into an interim settlement.

We regret the confusion.


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