Attorney Marco Gonzalez and former City Councilwoman Donna Frye call on Mayor Bob Filner to resign at a press conference outside of Briggs Law Corporation. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Environmental attorney Marco Gonzalez is working on a ballot measure. It would guarantee that whoever wins development rights for the Mission Valley stadium property – the groups behind SoccerCity and SDSU West, or someone else if both measures fail – would have to build a park along the San Diego River with at least $40 million in private investment and without taxpayer assistance. They would have to agree to maintain and operate it for 99 years.

“I’ve maintained discussions about how we might get the city to do another initiative to make sure that river park gets built, and on the schedule that FS Investors (the group behind SoccerCity) promised,” he said.

The measure would also end all city subsidies on the site – including the city’s current agreement to operate the stadium at a loss so SDSU’s football team can play there.

“I’ve written it, now I’ve got to decide how to get it on the ballot,” he said.

That could mean collecting signatures to qualify, or seeing if the City Council would take it up. What will determine the answer to that question?

“Moola,” he said.

Behind the scenes: Gonzalez confirmed that he is working for SoccerCity.

“They are a client. I am not an endorser. I am not an opponent. I am also not an endorser or an opponent of SDSU West.”

His problem with SoccerCity: “It avoids CEQA. It’s Caruso all over again,” he said, referring to a ballot initiative by developer Rick Caruso to a shopping mall in Carlsbad that voters rejected in 2016.

He’s got bigger problems with SDSU West, and they reflect a move by Councilman Scott Sherman that questioned the legality of the measure as it’s currently written.

Sherman asked the city attorney whether it was legal for the private group pushing the measure to call itself “Friends of SDSU” and the measure “SDSU West,” since the university is barred from officially supporting it. He cited sections of the state education code that make it a misdemeanor to use any officially protected term, like SDSU.

Gonzalez said he agrees with Sherman.

“If there’s one thing I hate, it’s a fraud on voters,” he said. “We have been watching this group grossly manipulate messaging to suggest that their vision is an SDSU vision.”

Gonzalez also this week submitted a public records request to the trustees of the Cal State system. It asks for any records that relate to whether Friends of SDSU ever received permission to use the SDSU name. And it seems to threaten legal action over the “fraud on voters.”

Jack McGrory – San Diego’s former city manager, a proponent of SDSU West and a newly appointed member of the CSU Board of Trustees – told me the proponents have a First Amendment right to use SDSU, and the restriction is meant for private commercial use.

“That’s legal horse shit,” Gonzalez said. “Since the entire initiative is intertwined with the idea that it’s part of the university, I think it could invalidate the initiative.”

The city attorney is going to weigh in by the end of May. We asked a spokeswoman for the city attorney this week whether they would respond to Sherman’s memo on the topic.

The reply: “Our response will be geared toward providing the Mayor and the Council with information they need to fulfill their respective duties. Our Office can only respond to issues raised in the memo that are appropriate to address using public resources.”

Cate: Not Supporting SoccerCity

Chris Cate San Diego
San Diego City Councilman represents District 6 and is running for re-election. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

We had a chance to interview San Diego City Councilman Chris Cate for the podcast. It was our first chance to talk to him in the studio since the scandalito broke about his admission that he had shared a city memo marked confidential with the proponents of SoccerCity.

News 1: He said he did not support SoccerCity. He was unwilling to say, in fact, what he thinks should happen to land, perhaps the biggest land-use decision the city faces.

“I have not supported either of the proposals. And actually I requested that my, my name information come down from the website because I have not said that.”

News 2: We asked if the attorney general had ever finally contacted him about the matter. (He didn’t say yes or no.)

There was more about housing, vacation rentals and the future of growth.

♦♦♦ Interlude ♦♦♦

The U-T editorial board has done us all a solid and posted the entire audio files and transcripts of their interviews with candidates for county supervisor, District 4.

Right after he posted them, U-T opinion editor Matt Hall said he got a call from Jason Roe, who is the campaign consultant for Bonnie Dumanis. Hall said Roe complained that Hall was posting the full transcripts and audio.

Roe replied only with “#fakenews.”

♦♦♦ Interlude ♦♦♦

Gun Owners for Myers Irks Moms Demand

When Dave Myers, who’s running for sheriff against his boss, Sheriff Bill Gore, asked Wendy Wheatcroft for her support in the race, she said she was baffled.

Wheatcroft is the founder of the San Diego Gun Violence Prevention Coalition and the leader of the California chapter of Moms Demand Action.

“It’s concerning to me that so many progressive groups are fawning all over this guy,” she said.

They are: Myers has locked up support up and down the liberal side of San Diego politics. But Wheatcroft is not getting on board. Why? Myers is the choice of San Diego County Gun Owners, which she calls the “Baby NRA.”

The National Rifle Association has no involvement in local politics. It plays on the national and state stages.

Locally, Gun Owners appears to be the top advocacy group for firearm access. Its members are often on the other side of public hearings and demonstrations where Wheatcroft’s colleagues line up to argue for local resolutions and statewide action on gun control.

Unlike the NRA, which is a nonprofit 501c(4), Gun Owners is a political action committee with some 1,000 members, who pay dues of about $10 a month. It also has received larger checks gun stores and ranges and even embattled Rep. Duncan D. Hunter. Its board includes several local mayors and it bought a table at the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner to support the Republican Party.

Executive Director Michael Schwartz told us that, although he’s a proud NRA member, this group is very different. Gun Owners is nonpartisan and not interested in statewide or national politics, he said. He’d be glad to buy a table at the Democratic Party’s dinner.

“We support sane, trained and law-abiding citizens who want to protect themselves and their families,” Schwartz said.

And that’s why, he said, they support Myers.

“His Second Amendment view, in general, was far better than the sheriff’s track record,” Schwartz said.

Sheriff Bill Gore / Photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

The real issue: In January, the Gun Owners decided to endorse Myers. It was right about then, Schwartz said, that they started to see movement on the main issue that concerns them: concealed carry permits.

In California, you can only get a permit to carry a concealed firearm if you go through a battery of background checks, applications and required training. But then there’s one more subjective obstacle: The sheriff has to determine that you have good cause to need a weapon.

Gore has not made that determination liberally. Applicants have to demonstrate, for instance, that they have a restraining order against someone or they were victims of violent attack. It has been a sticking point for years and led to litigation.

Myers, on the other hand, told Gun Owners he would sign off on all applicants who met the objective requirements.

“If they say they want it for personal protection, for me that’s good enough. I don’t need somebody to be victimized first before I do my constitutional duty as sheriff to issue them a permit to carry a weapon concealed,” Myers told us.

Schwartz said that Gore has responded to pressure from his rival by issuing far more concealed weapons permits.

“It’s too little and definitely way too late,” Schwartz said. (Gore, via a campaign consultant, did not accept our requests for comment.)

Myers said he would never take NRA support. The group, he said, spreads hateful rhetoric and misinformation.

But he said the fact that Wheatcroft can’t sit down with the Gun Owners and support him is part of the problem with the issue.

“Both sides yell past each other and aren’t willing to come to some agreement on any issues,” he said.

Wheatcroft said other progressives are mad at her for opposing Myers. Her team sent a memo to various Democratic clubs asking them to consider Myers’ support from Gun Owners before endorsing him.

But it has been met with silence.

“Nobody is comfortable talking about this,” she said.

Democratic Women Rip Democratic Party

Thirty prominent Democratic women published an open letter of sorts this week on Voice of San Diego. It said that women are mobilized to support Democrats.

“Activism, employment and candidacy within the San Diego County Democratic Party, however, remains unsafe, rife with potential for unchecked sexual harassment and worse, despite several attempts to create fair internal systems of accountability since the resignation of disgraced former Mayor Bob Filner in 2013.”

“We have had enough,” they wrote.

The group included Sara Jacobs, who’s running for Congress and Vivian Moreno, who’s running for the San Diego City Council seat that David Alvarez currently holds.

Housing Group Loses Left Flank

Mary Lydon
Mary Lydon

At the start of 2017, there seemed to be an emerging bipartisan coalition ready to tackle the housing crisis.

One part of that was Housing You Matters, a group of developers, environmentalists and community leaders looking to build consensus around the need to build more homes in hopes of slowing price increases.

The happy talk among those factions seems to be over.

“Elitist Environmentalists Strike Again!” That was the title of a recent blog post by Building Industry Association CEO Borre Winckel.

It was a screed against the idea new housing needs to be concentrated in urban areas so residents can live closer to transit or job opportunities to reduce the environmental impact of growth. That is a fundamental belief of some environmentalists in the group.

“It is a fact that CA is responsible for less than 1% of global green house gas (GHG) output,” he wrote. “It is a fact that the environmentalist ‘Infill Vision,’ based on shifting the population towards Transit Oriented Development, will dent this 1% by under 1%.”

A sprawl lobbyist doubles down: Tony Manolatos, who now works for the developers of Lilac Hills Ranch, a plan to build hundreds of homes in the semi-rural hills of Valley Center, wrote “Thank you, @BIASanDiego, for sounding the alarm. We cannot continue to let extreme climate activists and special interests force working families, young people and seniors out of SD.”

The BIA has always supported building new single-family homes in undeveloped parts of the county. Pro-housing environmentalists never stopped opposing it.

But it had looked like their shared support for urban development was enough for them to work together.

Winckel’s and Manalatos’s comments, though, suggested otherwise. In fact, they reflected a falling out among the coalition.

Housing You Matters was created in late 2016 to focus on the housing shortage. It got a raft of attention for its disparate membership.

Nicole Capretz, executive director of the Climate Action Campaign, was one of the group members from the left.

In response to Manalatos’ tweets, she revealed that her group left Housing You Matters “months ago” because of “anti-labor and anti-enviro vitriol.. like being stuck in 1995.”

“It was clear our values were too far apart,” she wrote.

Two other liberal members have also left.

Maya Rosas, a staffer at the transit advocacy group Circulate San Diego and chair of the pro-development group YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County, said she too left a few months ago. She said she was involved in too many things. Joe LaCava, a longtime community planning group advocate, likewise was “stretched too thin.”

In a statement, Mary Lydon, the Housing You Matters’ executive director, said the group remains broad-based.

“It requires strength, courage and commitment to stay at the table and work with people who are not always of like mind, especially during this intense housing crisis,” she wrote. “Housing You Matters looks for solutions where there is common ground.  One sweet spot is advocating for middle income families near transit.”

She touted the consensus positions the group has supported since its inception: the mayor’s Housing SD plan; the housing plan from Councilwoman Georgette Gomez, a Democrat and chair of the city’s housing committee; and a package of bills the state Legislature passed last year intended to increase housing supply.

She also cited two measures that will appear on the November ballot that could help housing. One is a hotel tax increase to expand the convention center that would also create new funds for homelessness. The other would be for a $900 million bond to pay for low-income housing.

Correction: An earlier version of the piece said the Republican Party of San Diego County had donated to the Gun Owners group. In fact, it was a contribution to the Republican Party. The article was updated to also include that the group would love to attend the Democratic Party’s fundraising dinner as well. 

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Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

Andrew Keatts is a former managing editor for projects and investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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