The city says the U-T San Diego newspaper, which has a grand vision for its property in Mission Valley, built parts of a showcase for classic cars at its headquarters without required permission.

The newspaper won’t face any fines as long as it actually gets the proper permits, a city spokeswoman said, although it’ll have to pay for the work of code enforcement staff who will review any belated permit applications.

The city investigated the construction of the “U-T Auto Museum” earlier this month after I asked whether it had proper permits.

The U-T didn’t initially welcome questions. It turned away a city inspector during an initial attempt to inspect the building, and the newspaper’s CEO, John Lynch, told me to “get a life.” It allowed an inspector to enter the building three days after an Aug. 6 VOSD story.

Construction on the car showcase began earlier this summer and was easily visible to passersby. The showcase features seven classic cars acquired by U-T owner and publisher Doug Manchester, who has also added a restaurant and TV studio to the 1970s-era building overlooking Interstate 8 since taking control of the paper late last year.

The city found that the paper didn’t have permits for a roll-up garage door and a steel-reinforced ramp constructed as part of the auto museum project, city spokeswoman Lynda Pfeifer said.

The ramp leads from the street at the rear of the U-T into the main building’s southeast corner, allowing cars to access the U-T Auto Museum.

The city requires certain kinds of construction to get approval from the city through permits to make sure they follow the rules regarding factors like safety, engineering standards and neighborhood zoning restrictions.

Many driveways, for example, must meet engineering standards regarding things like their thickness and steepness

In a news story, the U-T said Manchester had acquired the vintage cars from a friend and simply housed them at the U-T building. “It’s basically an area to store the cars, nothing more than that,” Lynch told the paper.

The car showcase isn’t open to the public. The cars, including a 1967 Shelby customized Mustang convertible and 1956 Chevy Bel Air, appear to be in excellent condition and sit on a floor decorated with red spaces, yellow lines and medallions.

Manchester, a hotel developer, has plans for more changes at the U-T building. He wants to sell office space in it and eventually build a large condo and retail complex on the newspaper’s property, which sits near Fashion Valley. He bought the The San Diego Union-Tribune last year, changing its name and shaking up its staff.

He’s created plenty of buzz, publishing editorials declaring Barack Obama to be the worst president of all time, calling high-profile critics of the Balboa Park makeover “idiotic” and aggressively pushing a vision for a mega-sports complex at the waterfront.

Earlier this year, emails from the paper’s CEO, Lynch, to a city counciman’s office, as reported by the Reader, suggested that Lynch is no fan of pesky city regulations.

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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