The Morning Report
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In an interview this afternoon, Jim Waring, the city’s top land-use official, said he thought yesterday’s report on the Sunroad controversy “by and large captured the essence of what was going on” when the development agency he oversees processed the company’s proposal for the Montgomery Field-area office tower.
The report, which concluded that the city’s Development Services Department failed last year to notify top officials such as Waring of the Sunroad issue, was released yesterday by JoAnne SawyerKnoll, the ethics chief for Mayor Jerry Sanders. Her conclusions largely spared Sanders, Waring, City Attorney Mike Aguirre and other top officials from bearing direct responsibility for the miscues. She instead attributed fault very generally to staff members that fall under their purview.
Waring said he thought “there was excellent discussion of my department and the City Attorney’s Office in the summer of 2006.”
The report found that it took six months after the controversy was spotted by staff members for the controversy to garner the attention of the city’s leadership.
“I felt that was where we really dropped the ball,” he said. “Before that damn building was topped out, that was our moment. I’m personally very frustrated things weren’t elevated that summer.”
Waring defended some of his office’s decisions after controversy came to light, starting with the modification of the stop-work order, which allowed Sunroad to “weatherize” its building in December. Waring said the move allowed the city to avoid some of the expense that could be incurred when if Sunroad is able to recover some of the costs of removing the hazardous portions of the tower in court.
“The modification of stop work order froze the city’s liability and transferred the risk to Sunroad,” Waring said.
The report, however, claimed that decision actually provided Sunroad an opportunity to perform work beyond simple weatherizing.
He also shrugged off SawyerKnoll’s assertion that his decision to pursue a settlement of Aguirre’s lawsuit against Sunroad created the appearance that the city was aligning itself with the developer.
“I have always felt that there was a solution that would have satisfied the FAA and eliminated the lawsuit, the risk of liability, and eliminated ongoing legal fees,” he said. “My disappointment is in us not completing or even pursuing those discussions.”
He continued, “In a nonpolitical environment for a situation like this, the goal is to try to find a solution. The only key parties I was concerned with were the FAA and the city of San Diego. I didn’t care what happened to Sunroad.”
Waring said he didn’t include the City Attorney’s Office in settlement talks his office took up because the two agencies had a “dysfunctional relationship.”
“I had no reason to believe the city attorney was interested in the matter being resolved that way,” he said.
Waring said he had not yet spoken to Sanders about the report. He said he did not know whether the mayor will punish or dismiss him or other development officials because of the report’s findings and added that he had not considered resigning.