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In case you missed it, here was my column from Friday. I’m back, slowly but surely, into the writing thing. The column’s theme was pretty simple: The very existence of CCDC — the taxpayer-funded nonprofit that directs redevelopment activities downtown — is in question and was before the scandal regarding its president emerged. Now, the scandal could very well be the bowling ball that breaks this camel’s back.

But I hadn’t had a chance to digest Thursday’s news that the Ballpark Village development may be caught up in this mess now that it’s been revealed that the former president, Nancy Graham, and one of the main partners in the Village — Lennar — had an ongoing financial relationship as she was negotiating the Village.

This is huge. You cannot overstate just how big of a deal the Ballpark Village is. It is 7.1 acres of proposed housing, office, retail and a hotel. Actually, not just “a hotel,” a 1,900-room megotel. It’s touted as the largest Marriott Hotel on the West Coast. And as the U-T noted before this latest furor, it displays pretty underwhelming architecture as well.

But dial back and remember this deal. In 2005, as this project was getting its first approval. An angry controversy had arisen between community groups, labor and the developers of the project. And then, poof! The acrimony was gone after a series of secret meetings.

So now the question becomes: If Graham’s conflict of interest was enough to scuttle or delay the development of one condo project on 7th and Market Streets, how would an equally offensive conflict with one of the developers of the Ballpark Village not endanger that project as well?

As reporter Rob Davis revealed last week, Graham’s involvement in the Ballpark Village negotiations is undisputed:

While at CCDC, Graham was extensively involved in a process to modify the Ballpark Village project, which was originally approved shortly before she took office in 2005. Her personal calendars show numerous meetings with the project’s developers, a team that includes JMI Realty, a development company controlled by Padres owner John Moores. Steve Peace, a Moores advisor, said Graham had been “totally involved” in the modifications to include a large Marriott hotel.

Peace, special advisor to Moores, said JMI Realty was unaware of any Ballpark Village-related contracts with CCDC during Graham’s tenure. However, he said some may exist and called on CCDC to act quickly to redo anything that Graham may have influenced so the project could advance on schedule. The City Council is set in October to consider modifications to the project, Peace said, which is planning to add a 1,929-room Marriott hotel, slated to be the largest on the West Coast.

“We want them to take an abundance of caution,” he said. “Obviously, we don’t want to go forward with a contract that’s potentially challengeable downstream.”

Obviously. There are a lot of people very worried that Graham’s little penchant for non-disclosure will somehow sabotage this project. If they’re not, they should be.

SCOTT LEWIS

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