8050 Othello Ave. / Photo by Megan Wood

A downtown high-rise with asbestos violations isn’t the city of San Diego’s only troubled real estate acquisition in recent years.

The city’s lease of a warehouse in Kearny Mesa, intended to give the city a standalone facility to repair fire trucks, has flown under the radar as attention has increased on the city’s botched deal for the 101 Ash St. property downtown, where city staff was evacuated over the asbestos violations earlier this year.

But those deals and others reveal recurring problems in significant city real estate acquisitions, according to a recent memo by the city’s independent budget analyst. Now that a law firm has been brought in to look at the Ash Street situation, she’s recommending that certain city practices come under greater scrutiny. 

For years, the city has maintained and repaired both fire and garbage trucks at a facility in Miramar. Consultant reports have stressed that the arrangement is inefficient, chaotic and causes diminished city services.

The city tried to address that by leasing the industrial property in Kearny Mesa in 2017. City staff even said getting a standalone maintenance facility for fire trucks could save lives.

But nearly three years later, no mechanic has touched a fire truck at that facility. The city initially expected renovations to cost $6 million, which then swelled to $17 million.

New designs have pushed that number back down to $14 million, but construction isn’t expected to begin until this summer, and fire trucks won’t be maintained at the property until the beginning of 2022, nearly five years after the Council first heard about the deal.

The facility has not been sitting empty in the meantime. Some of the employees who were evacuated out of a different downtown office project over asbestos ended up there. 

Vote Count Update

In the latest batch of results released by the County Registrar of Voters Sunday night, Barbara Bry continued to chip away at Scott Sherman’s lead in the race for the second spot in the runoff for San Diego mayor. Sherman leads by just over 1,200 votes.

Nora Vargas continued to gain votes over Rafael Castellanos in the race for the second spot in the runoff for county supervisor District 1, and Will Moore now leads Aaron Brennan in the race for the City Council District 1 runoff by about 700 votes.

San Diego Companies Are Adding Women to Boards

A bill that went into effect this year requires that a publicly held company based in California have at least one woman on its board. We checked in on how that effort is going and found that more than a dozen companies in San Diego have added a woman to their board of directors since the passage of SB 826.

Three local companies don’t appear to have complied with the law, which could open them up to fines. The secretary of state’s office, however, declined to talk about enforcement because of two lawsuits seeking to invalidate the mandate. 

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a co-author of the bill, said the results so far are validating. “California is setting a precedent for the entire nation to follow,” she said. 

Measure A Appears Done But Sniping Isn’t

Measure A would have required certain housing developments in rural and semi-rural areas to seek voter approval and it appears to have failed this week. 

Celebrations were short-lived, though. Opponents of the measure were quick to note how few resources they had. Business leaders often point to the lack of available housing options as an obstacle to recruiting and retaining employees, but few ponied up. 

What that shows, Mark Cafferty, CEO of the Regional Economic Development Corp., told us, is that the business community isn’t being brought proactively into discussions about housing. 

Also in the Politics Report this week: 

  • The state’s political watchdog is looking for leads after someone produced anti-Cori Schumacher ads in Carlsbad but didn’t disclose who paid for them. Jesse Marx took a closer look himself and found that someone had filed a permit application to place signs around Carlsbad on behalf of the group that made the ads. (You’re welcome, investigators.) 
  • Bella Ross also followed up with Lemon Grove, where a sales tax increase went down in flames this week. Supporters of the measure had spoken of it as a lifeline for the city’s finances. The response: everything’s fine

The Latest on Coronavirus

An Orange County man who worked in Chula Vista tested positive for the coronavirus last week, but there doesn’t appear to be any confirmed cases of infection among San Diego residents. 

Still, the coronavirus continues to affect life here. NBC San Diego reports that bands and businesses planning to attend the South by Southwest festival in Texas can’t. A woman also missed the birth of her first grandchild in China. 

Asian-owned businesses are seeing fewer customers. This tends to be a slower time of the year for retailers, but some workers told the Union-Tribune they felt unfairly targeted.

In the meantime, nearly 1,000 California residents on board Grand Princess cruise ship will be quarantined at two military bases in the state, including Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the U-T reports.

The newspaper also reports that the county’s public health officer is monitoring for confirmed cases of infection and doesn’t immediately plan to shut down community events. The organizers behind major science and legal conferences have canceled their events in the meantime. Others went ahead as planned. 

That includes the San Diego Comic Fest, which Marx attended Sunday

Rather than give in to fear, he’s decided to continue living his life and accept the consequences of whatever comes next. It is the only true form of freedom that we can guarantee ourselves in defiance of the mad and shadowy forces that conspire to rob our daily experiences of the richness and color they deserve. Uncertainty is not chaos but rather the necessary habitat of the present tense, a state firmly rooted in the physical world and emboldened with wonder. 

So anyhow, it was a fun event! 

In Other News


Last week’s North County Report misidentified Tracy Carmichael as a current member of the Carlsbad Unified School District board. She is a former board member. The Politics Report also used the wrong fundraising total for the No on Measure A campaign. 

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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