The 101 Ash St. scandal has never been the most exciting of scandals and we’ve rarely seen big, revelatory days.
Monday and Tuesday, though, were big – a trove of revelations and answers to questions we have long had came out.
Here are the big points.
First, the lawsuits: San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott got the City Council to agree to pursue litigation that would, she hopes, completely unwind the city’s lease-to-own arrangement with 101 Ash St., the former Sempra headquarters that the city has never been able to move workers into.
But she also seeks to unwind the earlier, less controversial lease-to-own deal for Civic Center Plaza, the tower adjacent to City Hall that houses Elliott’s own office.
Second, the reason: Elliott thinks the deals can be voided (and up to $24 million returned to the city) because she has uncovered that Jason Hughes, who volunteered as a real estate adviser for three mayors, actually got paid nearly $10 million in the deals. He did not disclose the payments with the proper Form 700 and the city maintains it was not aware that he got paid.
The money came from the company Cisterra, which had purchased the buildings just to turn around and lease them to the city.
Third, the question: As Lisa Halverstadt explains, Hughes and Cisterra acknowledged the findings and seem to have decided their best defense is to prove that former Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his staff knew and supported the fact that Hughes would be seeking compensation for his efforts to organize the deals and find permanent office space for thousands of city employees.
If true, if Faulconer did know of the payments, it would mean he and his staff have lied for years and helped Hughes keep his compensation secret.
Fourth, the denial: But Faulconer and aides flatly deny that they knew Hughes was being compensated. Faulconer’s former chief of staff, Stephen Puetz, went further and pronounced Hughes’ earnings “completely unethical.”
But Hughes and his attorney produced some evidence that Halverstadt goes over in her piece.
Fifth, the asbestos: Scott Lewis explored how we wouldn’t have known any of this had the city and its contractors not managed to disturb asbestos in the building. Hughes may very well have maintained the impression he volunteered all along.
San Diego Officials: No Change in Mask Policy
Citing the spread of the highly transmissible delta variant of COVID-19, Los Angeles County health officials are now recommending everyone wear masks indoors – even if fully vaccinated, the Associated Press reported.
San Diego County officials, however, are doing no such thing. They announced Tuesday they’re standing by their existing mask guidance that vaccinated individuals don’t need to wear masks indoors.
“We continue to monitor the situation with COVID -19 and in particular the delta variant and want to emphasize the single best action you can take to protect yourself and your family is to be fully vaccinated,” County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher said in a statement. “Almost 95 percent of our delta variant cases are from those not fully vaccinated. We will continue to align our public health guidance with CDC and CDPH and do not anticipate any changes.”
Meanwhile San Diego County Health and Human Services reported 58 new COVID-19 infections Monday.
In Other News
- La Jolla boosters are looking to re-launch the Fourth of July fireworks show in the coastal neighborhood, while the local chapter of the Sierra Club is arguing that the show should not be allowed to proceed after federal officials in 2019 designated the area a sea lion rookery, KPBS reports.
- County officials last year canned before it got started a $1.5 million program to provide grants for homeowners in fire-prone areas to install attic vents that prevent wildfire embers from entering homes through ventilation openings, inewsource reports.
- The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce urged city officials to assist businesses staving off unprecedented challenges on the way out of the pandemic by being flexible with regulations and prepared to step in with financial assistance, the Union-Tribune reports. Flexible rules and forthcoming financial help? Get you a hype man like the Chamber of Commerce!
- Another month of housing sales data, another new high. Home prices in April were up 22 percent to the highest level in eight years, the Union-Tribune reports.
- But, San Diego has some of the most cost-burdened homeowners in the country with about 40 percent spending one-third or more of their income on mortgages and other home ownership costs. (KPBS)
- The FAA is investigating a Tuesday incident at San Diego International Airport in which a plane being towed clipped the wing of a parked aircraft, 10News reports.
- The beach at the Tijuana River mouth ranked the dirtiest in California among a list of coastal water quality grades from the environmental nonprofit Heal the Bay. (KPBS)
- Swimmers and surfers be warned, there’s a dangerous rip current along San Diego County’s coastline through Wednesday due to a southern swell paired with high waves. (Union Tribune)
The Morning Report was written by Andrew Keatts, MacKenzie Elmer and Scott Lewis, and edited by Sara Libby.