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The Border Patrol owes the city of San Diego more than $150,000 in past-due rent on a building at the San Ysidro checkpoint, hasn’t paid the full amount of monthly rent since at least 2004, and hasn’t paid a dime since September 2006. What’s going on here?

The voiceofsandiego.org reported Wednesday on the San Ysidro situation in an article about the city’s real estate holdings. I was drawn to the article by the teaser that hinted that great deals could be had if the city gets around to selling its several residential properties in La Jolla. But what I found really interesting was the tale of the Border Patrol.

The city has rented the building to the Border Patrol since 1987, first on a lease and, since 2002, on a month-to-month basis. When the lease expired in 2002, the city had the property appraised and found that the building could be rented for nearly $15,000 — more than $10,000 more per month than the $4,188.59 that the Border Patrol was paying. The city, perhaps feeling its patriotic duty after the then-still-recent events of 9/11, opted to gradually increase the Border Patrol’s rent on the building rather than hiking the rent all at once.

But, whaddya know, the Border Patrol just kept on paying the $4,000-and-change per month. Until it stopped paying at all, that is, in September 2006.

Now, I’m not sure exactly what the Border Patrol is using the building for, and I didn’t really pay attention when I last crossed the border a few months ago. The article didn’t say the property was vacant, so I’m assuming that the Border Patrol is, in fact, still in the building.

Like a squatter.

A squatter in charge of monitoring people coming in and out of the country and keeping us all safe from drugs, guns and terrorists.

I’m just guessing here, but I would venture to say that other government contractors who are providing services in the interest of our national security are getting paid. Somehow I don’t think Halliburton is letting the government underpay on its contracts.

I realize the city is looking to sell the San Ysidro property, but in the meantime, couldn’t the mayor or somebody call up the feds and tell them to pay the damn rent?

JODI CLEESATTLE

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