101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The city of San Diego has thousands of employees who are spread out among several buildings downtown.

To help centralize its staff and operations, the city in late 2016 purchased the former Sempra headquarters at 101 Ash St. and started spending $18,000 a day in a lease-to-own deal. But more than a year after the agreement was signed, problems started to arise. The mayor’s office told the City Council that the building would need as much as $30 million for a complete rehab, far more work than initially thought. 

Weeks after city staff finally moved into the building, the city issued an evacuation order. The county’s air pollution regulators declared the building a public nuisance due to ongoing asbestos violations. Late last week, the top city manager involved with the effort resigned.

The whole debacle has now spilled into the mayor’s race.

On this week’s VOSD Podcast, hosts Scott Lewis, Sara Libby and Andrew Keatts unravel the controversy at City Hall.

Monica Montgomery

Councilwoman Monica Montgomery / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

San Diego City Councilwoman Monica Montgomery joined the podcast this week to talk with Keatts about her top priorities and some of the most pressing issues facing the Council.

Montgomery recounted her 2018 election, in which she was the subject of attack ads — which, as she said in the interview, ended up pushing her to a dramatic win.

She also discussed the report from VOSD that found MTS riders get ticketed for fare evasion far more than other U.S. cities. Montgomery, an MTS board member, said the issue is tied to the city’s homelessness crisis.

“It’s a very real thing and that we have to, now that we have signed on to the (homelessness action), plan in my mind, then we have to attack that and do something about it,” she said. “Because it is holding folks back. Is it fair to end up charging someone $300 in perpetuating this cycle of poverty for a fare that costs $2.50? Do we really want to be that as a society?”

Montgomery and Keatts also touched on her goals for community-oriented policing in San Diego and how she hopes to address surveillance concerns that have emerged over the city’s “smart” streetlights.

The interview with Montgomery starts at 23:30.

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Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at nate@vosd.org.

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