You might have heard last week about the mayor of San Diego’s plans to largely remove the city from the landfill business.
That’s in stark contrast to a story from April we did about the city — or at least one of its top officials — flirting briefly with the exact opposite type of deal. Reporter Liam Dillon had pieced together the bizarre tale wherein a top city official, Elmer Heap, who’s now no longer with the city, had submitted a bid on behalf of City Hall to help operate two landfills in Mumbai, India.
Now we’ve learned Heap actually took a trip to Mumbai about which he didn’t disclose the details, raising even more questions in this strange tale.
In other news:
• Reporter Kelly Bennett, who has followed the saga of the gigantic Vantage Pointe condo complex for years, has an interesting update. Vantage Pointe is a 679-unit project that came of age right when the nation’s housing bubble burst. Buyers, who once got in fistfights for the privilege of purchasing a space there, were stuck wondering if the building would ever get completed.
Well, it’s been finished for a while yet no one lives there. Now, after hitting the first stage of foreclosure, the developer and the development itself are in limbo. While downtown property owners and brokers wait to see what might happen when, and if, those hundreds of empty condos reach the market, “the building is being treated like a giant hot potato,” Bennett writes.
But there are also signs that the rest of downtown may have hit bottom after years of plummeting property prices.
• In a related note, Rich Toscano, our housing analyst, writes that the boost in the number of home sales, prompted perhaps by government incentives, has fizzled. He says we may now see an indication of what the housing market is like without government giveaways to new home buyers.
• If you have never quite understood what happened to San Diego’s housing market over the last few years, you should check out Bennett’s fantastic edition of San Diego Explained last week. I don’t think she could have found a more perfect home to illustrate the madness.
• Last week, the LA Times published a story about e-mails that “offer a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the tactics lobbyists employ while representing major projects before” the California Coastal Commission. The major project in this case was San Diego’s North Embarcadero Visionary Plan and the lobbyist was Susan McCabe. The e-mails may not have indicated anything illegal happened but they seemed rather condescending of the Coastal Commissioner in question, Pat Kruer, and talk about “spoon feeding” him information. The U-T has posted a follow up and finds that the port will not be renewing McCabe’s contract.
• San Diego Congressman Brian Bilbray appeared on ABC’s This Week debating immigration issues with U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez on Sunday.
• The U-T reports that there have been no enforcement actions or any cleanup on “one of the county’s largest sewage-related accidents in the past decade,” which occurred in early June when millions of gallons of sewage drained into the Tijuana River Valley.
• Former Assemblyman Juan Vargas, who battled with fellow Democrat Mary Salas for the chance to succeed Denise Ducheny in the state senate, may be close to sealing the deal in the race that has come down to a photo-finish. City News Service reports that he now has a 23-vote lead over Salas. I will not issue the obligatory “see-how-one-vote-actually-can-make-a-difference” speech. But, wow. The Republican blog SDRostra.com, by the way, has done a good job following the vote count.
Quote of the Day: “I think this is the new normal. People who are waiting for a return to a market tempo like we had in 2004 or 2005, I think, are waiting in vain,” downtown realtor Jim Abbott, on the state of that neighborhood’s housing market.
• Finally, there was news Sunday that federal authorities had arrested the leader of a “pot ring” that was illegally distributing the drug to medical marijuana dispensaries. This news broke on the same day I heard, for the first time, a radio advertisement for a “medical cannabis” dispensary that was offering a “free edible” to new customers.
Is marijuana legal or not? Is it legal to sell and consume but illegal to distribute and grow? What’s the deal? It is not a simple question. We did our best to explain the basics in this edition of San Diego Explained. But of all the interesting questions to consider this fall, the most complex of all might be what happens if California voters actually just legalize the drug outright?
It would still be an illegal controlled substance according to the federal government. Maybe California would consider seceding, as its finance chief imagined last year.
I suppose that will probably never happen. We better not insult the rest of the country — after all, we may need it to bail out the state in coming years.
— SCOTT LEWIS