After all that, the unusual lease extension granted to the Bahia Resort Hotel got the city sued anyway.
The City Council reconsidered — but ultimately approved — the agreement, on the advice of the city attorney’s office because of possible legal action by a local lawyer. But Cory Briggs, a local attorney and legal activist who often challenges the city on environmental and open government grounds, sued anyway last week.
The lawsuit makes two specific complaints about the lease agreement, and Briggs said he will eventually add a third complaint.
It alleges the property sits on “Pueblo Lands,” the city’s original geographical area under Spanish and Mexican law that was granted to California. The city’s charter says no part of the pueblo lands area can be subject to a lease of longer than 15 years. Briggs contends that all or part of the Bahia’s property is part of the original pueblo land grant, which would make the city’s 40-year lease extension illegal.
The lawsuit also claims the agreement requires a formal environmental report under the California Environmental Quality Act. The deal didn’t include one originally, and the city attorney said at the last hearing it didn’t require one, because the agreement doesn’t yet include any new construction.
That’s part of the unorthodox nature of the deal: It includes a 40-year lease and requires no upgrades to the property. If the hotel gets approval for a large-scale renovation within the next 10 years, the deal guarantees a second, 50-year lease.
Briggs had originally threatened to sue over the fact that the council rushed the deal through without a hearing before the land use and housing committee, and didn’t include a property appraisal of the 15-acre plot on Mission Bay.
Briggs, who has his own firm, Briggs Law Corporation, threatened to sue on behalf of San Diegans for Open Government because he said a new estimate of the property’s value was required by law with any new lease agreement. The city attorney’s office agreed with him — “in an abundance of caution” — and directed the City Council to reapprove the deal after adding an appraisal.
Briggs plans to revive that issue in the third, yet-to-be-made complaint. The council, in unanimously approving the deal, accepted an appraisal conducted by someone hired by the Bahia’s owner, hotelier Bill Evans. Briggs contends that renders the appraisal meaningless.
I’m Andrew Keatts, a reporter for Voice of San Diego. Please contact me if you’d like at email@example.com or 619.325.0529 and follow me on Twitter:
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