Councilwoman Barbara Bry appears at an election night event at Golden Hall. / Photo by Megan Wood

An empty skyscraper was a big deal in local politics this week. But could it matter to voters in November?

The city of San Diego has been wrestling with a building that sits behind City Hall — 101 Ash St. — for three years now. It was purchased to house city employees after Sempra vacated it.

The building was emptied even before coronavirus happened. In January, employees were forced to vacate for asbestos violations.

On this week’s podcast, hosts Scott Lewis, Andrew Keatts and Sara Libby take this story from the beginning — when city officials thought the building might just need some elbow grease — to now, when multimillion-dollar remodels are in order.

It’s a big deal, though, not just because of the price tag for taxpayers.

According to an investigation VOSD reporters obtained, a key city employee failed to get an independent assessment of the building. Further, the building’s former tenant, Sempra, already told the public the extent to which the building needed repair. It’s another recent example of real estate deals by the city gone awry.

Oh, and the Mayor’s Race

Beyond the bungled building deal itself — which took place under Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s administration — mayoral candidate and City Councilwoman Barbra Bry has made the deal a central campaign issue.

Also on the election front: Our hosts review Bry’s takes on neighborhood development, and how much her campaign is framing the mayor’s race.

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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

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