The Centre City Development Corp.’s board voted 6-1 today to complete negotiations for an update to the Ballpark Village development, a process that will move forward largely on track despite former CCDC President Nancy Graham’s potential conflict of interest with one of the project’s developer’s.
CCDC staff will be required to document the reasons for any changes proposed at the end of negotiations with the development team led by JMI Realty, Padres owner John Moores’ company.
The update is designed to clear the way for a hotel adjacent to Petco Park. Marriott International, which proposed a 1,929-room hotel there, recently withdrew. Moores’ company has said it will consider pushing the update forward anyway.
Graham, who resigned July 24 and now faces criminal charges stemming from her financial relationship with a developer working at CCDC, participated in negotiations about the Ballpark Village update despite receiving income last year from one of the project’s developers, Lennar Corp. The nationwide homebuilder partly owns the underlying 7.1 acres on which development would occur.
James Lough, an outside attorney investigating potential conflicts at CCDC, recommended that the board start anew on two key points of the deal that he said were tainted by Graham’s involvement.
However, the board indicated that it felt comfortable with the changes made while Graham was in negotiations and didn’t solicit an outside consultant’s review, as Lough recommended. Instead, the board said the project should have a “thorough internal vetting.”
“My guess is there won’t be a whole lot of deviation because direction came from the board,” CCDC Chairman Fred Maas said.
CCDC board member Janice Brown cast the dissenting vote. She said she didn’t disagree with the board’s conclusion, but wanted more of the underlying information to support Lough’s conclusions.
“The challenge I have is that I have to take your conclusion without knowing what the underlining facts are to support it,” Brown told Lough. “It’s helpful for me to have the underlying support for some of the statements you’ve made here.”
Ben Davidian, an attorney and former state Fair Political Practices Commission chairman retained by JMI Realty, said the company had “no preconceived notions of how this will end up. There could be some changes, we understand that.”
The sooner the process is resolved, he said, the better.
By way of its decision, the board implicitly endorsed the original Ballpark Village agreement, negotiated before Graham arrived at CCDC in December 2005. (It was signed after she arrived; Lough said that was a ministerial action that didn’t influence the project.)
A larger question about the 2005 project was raised because the agency’s former counsel, Helen Peak, didn’t recuse herself from discussions about the project. Peak resigned in late August after acknowledging that she’d received money from Lennar via a law partner’s representation of the company. Lough said Peak didn’t influence the 2005 agreement and created no reasons that project should be invalidated.