In the latest episode of their simmering feud over the Sunroad Enterprises office building, City Attorney Mike Aguirre accused Mayor Jerry Sanders lobbying federal officials about plans that would have allowed the developer’s controversial building to remain near the Montgomery Field airport.

Aguirre said that Sanders’ aides, including San Diego County Regional Airport Authority executive Ted Sexton, met with Federal Aviation Administration officials in May to discuss the possibility of changing severe-weather flight patterns to accommodate Sunroad’s building. As evidence, the city attorney cited a presentation that Sexton gave FAA officials in Ft. Worth, Texas, that offered the alternative route.

Aguirre accused Sanders of misusing Sexton, who Sanders said was borrowed from the airport authority to help the city manage all of its airport operations. Aguirre said the Mayor’s Office tried to cover up the real purpose by not informing him of Sexton’s work and for not turning over all the documentation the City Attorney’s Office asked for regarding the matter.

“This is a major scandal in the city of San Diego,” Aguirre said

Sanders spokesman Fred Sainz said Aguirre’s claims were false. “There certainly is a lot of drama, but very little news here,” Sainz said.

The FAA determined that the company’s 180-foot building presents a hazard when aircrafts circle north to approach the airport from the west during Santa Ana winds and low-hanging clouds. The agency wants the building lowered to 160 feet as long as that circle-north pattern is available.

Sexton and Real Estate Assets Department Director Jim Barwick, which oversees the airport’ operations for the city, presented an option that would direct planes to circle to the south instead, thereby avoiding the hazard that the Sunroad building presented. The proposal would have forced the planes to fly over residences in Serra Mesa.

Sanders abandoned the idea in a letter he sent to the City Council on Monday. He said the circle-south pattern would have posed new hazards to the residents of Serra Mesa and scuttled the city attorney’s lawsuit.

The city may devise a plan to reroute air traffic through a different pattern, but environmental impact studies and about $2 million would be need to be located by the government first, Sainz said. Sunroad has been pushing for that option since December, documents show, but Sainz said it was not currently an option the city is pursuing.


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