Confirming rumors swirling around the local media world, influential and controversial local hotelier Doug Manchester told us that he’s looking into buying the Union-Tribune, which was sold to new owners just two years ago.

“There’s lots of people interested in that asset,” he said. “There has not been anything completed. We’re looking at it. It’s a very complicated transaction if it were ever to come to fruition.”

Manchester, who likes to be called “Papa Doug,” “has a reputation as an aggressive and litigation-happy developer, who through sheer will and political chutzpah transformed San Diego’s waterfront,” the U-T reported in 2005. He remains a powerful figure, but the state coastal protection agency handed him a big defeat last week when it declined to support his long-planned Navy Broadway Complex.

Manchester is also known for his financial support of 2008’s Prop. 8, the successful state ballot measure that banned same-sex marriage. He later issued a public apology, but some gay activists continued to boycott the hotel.

As CityBeat reported, Manchester separated from his wife, Elizabeth, of 43 years, shortly before the 2008 election. Their divorce became snarled in acrimony.

Twitter immediately lit up yesterday afternoon with chatter about the possible sale to Manchester. Comments included “Dislike!”, “Yikes” and “Oh hell no.”

The U-T cryptically announced earlier this year that it’s exploring options regarding its future, a seeming sign that its parent company is looking for a buyer.

What Does Manchester Want with U-T?

The media blog FishBowlLA picked up on the local gossip mill and wondered if Manchester, a developer, simply wants the property under the U-T’s Mission Valley offices instead of the newspaper itself. The blog speculates that the paper would go online-only.

That would be an unusual move for a major U.S. newspaper. The reason is simple: newspapers still make money (although not as much as in the past), and the wide majority of their revenue comes from print editions, not their online sites.

Here in San Diego, most of the U-T’s readers pick it up in the morning rather than read it on a computer: it has a weekday circulation of about 219,000. Its website gets an estimated average of 92,000 unique visitors a day, but half appear to be from outside the county.

There’s also this factor: The U-T is apparently making a profit after the deep cuts of the final Copley years.

Independent Review Sought for Nuke Plant Review

An anti-nuclear-power group wants oversight of a power company’s plans to study the earthquake safety of the San Onofre nuclear power plant, the North County Times reports.

In 2006, the state required earthquake studies at two nuclear power plants. An independent review panel reportedly looked over the studies at the other plant, but that might not happen here. San Onofre’s co-owner, Southern California Edison, “intends to use its own panel of experts to decide which seismic studies are appropriate for San Onofre.” 

“We have a problem with the fact that the Edison panel was created by the utility,” Citizens for Nuclear Responsibility’s executive director told the paper. “We believe that the oversight should come from outside.”

New Boss for Birch North Park Theatre

Lyric Opera San Diego, which is in bankruptcy and no longer holding performances, has hired an executive director to run and rent out the landmark Birch North Park Theatre. The hire signals that the theater will be open for other events while the opera tries to get its house in order.

A Video Look at Special-Ed Shift

San Diego Explained, our video series in conjunction with NBC 7 San Diego, looks at the major overhaul of how San Diego schools deal with special-ed students: the district is moving from separate all-day special education classes towards a mainstreaming approach.

Finding an Oasis from a Food Desert

Here’s a term you might not have heard until recently: “Food desert.” It describes low-income neighborhoods that are abandoned by big supermarkets, making it hard for residents to find nutritional food like fresh produce even if they want to buy it.

On Saturday, join us for a discussion about the challenges facing the immigrant and refugee communities of City Heights to access nutritious food.

Your Questions for a Rogue Hotelier

Hotel man Bill Evans is pushing opposition to the current plans to expand the Convention Center, and we’re sitting down with him this week for a Q&A. What questions do you want answered?

Tremendously Topsy-Turvy 

A strange little house under construction on the UCSD campus will soon have a new home: a precarious perch on the edge of a campus office building’s seventh floor.

The house, a New England-style cottage with off-kilter walls and floor, is part of a permanent art project called Fallen Star. We dropped by the house last week to get a load of how you build and install something like this.

The answer, of course, is very carefully. The 70,000-pound house will have a chimney with “smoke,” electrical outlets and furniture. It can’t fall off the roof but people need to be able to go in it. Then there’s the matter of construction challenges: building it, hoisting it and dealing with things like motion sickness inside its off-kilter walls.       

Our photographer captured numerous shots of the project, including one of me trying to cope with the vertigo-inducing interior of the cottage. (Lucky for you, the photo’s not included in his compilation). 

Now, pass the Dramamine, will ya?

Please contact Randy Dotinga directly at and follow him on Twitter:

Randy Dotinga

Randy Dotinga is a freelance contributor to Voice of San Diego. Please contact him directly at

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