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The San Diego city government bungled its handling of the Sunroad Enterprises office building controversy by ignoring warnings and failing to raise others that would have prevented the Kearny Mesa-area tower from reaching hazardous heights, the ethics chief for Mayor Jerry Sanders said today.

But the 40-page report, which Sanders commissioned in May amid growing criticism that his office was accommodating the building’s developer as a political favor, stopped short of accusing the mayor and other high-level officials of any wrongdoing or malfeasance.

Among the problems found by JoAnne SawyerKnoll, head of the mayor’s Office of Ethics & Integrity, and two outside investigators were:

  • A lack of communication between the city’s Development Services Department, which was responsible for issuing a permit for the building, and city agencies that oversee Montgomery Field airport and city planning, which makes land-use zoning decisions.
  • A failure by the Development Services Department to notify Sunroad that it couldn’t construct over 160 feet once city staff learned the company’s 180-foot development violated the Federal Aviation Administration’s guidelines.
  • The absence of a clear guideline by which the Development Services Department could have immediately identified the potential hazard posed by the building when Sunroad sought permits in 2006.
  • The Development Services’ Department decision not to closely monitor construction of the tower, immediately issue a stop-work order and to keep the belated stop-work order in place without modification. The decision to change the stop-work order in December to allow weatherization led to further completion of the project above the FAA’s 160-foot threshold.

City Attorney Mike Aguirre, who had been critical of Sanders and his staff’s actions during the Sunroad controversy, said he did not want to debate the specifics of the report.

Sanders’ assignment of the probe to SawyerKnoll created a dynamic in which she would be investigating the bureaucracy her boss oversees. Sanders said that “not so much as a period” was changed in the report after he received it from SawyerKnoll for the first time this morning.

Check back later for a full report.

EVAN McLAUGHLIN

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