101 Ash St.
101 Ash St. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

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The city’s former top unelected official testified under oath that she leaked a purportedly confidential legal analysis of the 101 Ash St. transaction to a candidate for city attorney in 2020.

Former Chief Operating Officer Kris Michell was subpoenaed to sit for a deposition on July 21 following a bombshell letter from City Attorney Mara Elliott’s office accusing her of ordering records about the city’s acquisition and handling of 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza to be purged in her final days at City Hall.

Michell deemed the letter from Elliott’s office unfair and “inaccurate,” according to a draft transcript obtained by Voice of San Diego.

During the deposition and a subsequent interview with Voice’s Lisa Halverstadt, Michell said she sought the counsel of lawyer and neighbor Cory Briggs, who lost the race for city attorney in 2020, as she considered whether to blow the whistle amid frustrations that she wasn’t getting the answers she sought on the Ash deal.

At the time, City Hall was in an uproar about funds that couldn’t be fully accounted for in the Ash deal and the fact that the city ended up holding the bag on repairs to a vacant building it evacuated in early 2020 after a series of asbestos violations.

Aimee Faucett, former mayor Kevin Faulconer’s chief of staff, and Elliott’s office pushed back against Michell’s narrative.

Read more of Halverstadt’s story here.

In Other 101 Ash News…The District Attorney’s Office and lawyers for the city’s 101 Ash St. landlord and a former real estate adviser told a Superior Court judge Monday they are working together to decide what evidence seized during an October raid can be included in a criminal probe.

District Attorney Summer Stephan’s office on July 21 filed a motion in Superior Court seeking to resolve privilege claims raised over items seized during October raids targeting onetime city adviser Jason Hughes, his company Hughes Marino and city landlord Cisterra Development.

In the motion filed days before the City Council approved a settlement with Cisterra and lenders behind the city’s 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza leases, a deputy district attorney wrote that it was “apparent that Hughes and Cisterra don’t want to share communications with us” and argued all communications should be released.

But Hughes’ attorney Michael Attanasio told Superior Court Judge Kenneth K. So. that he and other attorneys had already been working to resolve privilege issues on records he said likely total hundreds of thousands of pages.

The District Attorney’s Office motion seemed “completely out of context with, frankly, what we’ve been doing together in good faith,” Attanasio said.

Deputy District Attorney Leon Schorr told So that the lawyers met last week to discuss how to handle the materials in hopes of limiting the number of items that may need to be reviewed by So. Schorr also said he is “happy to work together” with the other attorneys.

So he looked forward to an update from the attorneys in September.

“I’m glad you’re working to try and resolve this,” So said.

Stephan spokesman Steve Walker wrote in a statement after the hearing that the District Attorney’s Office doesn’t consider its fight for documents over.

“We will continue to litigate any issues related to this complex public corruption investigation in the courtroom, including our responses to claims by other parties. Our court filings accurately depict the status of the investigation,” Walker wrote. “In any case where there are court ordered search warrants, the District Attorney’s Office does not rely on whatever the parties wish to provide but rather what the law requires that we have access to.”

Hughes’ attorney fired back with his own statement.

“Every single privilege claim we have made is lawful and accurate, and the District Attorney’s Office will either agree as it has so far, or we welcome the Court’s review,” Attanasio wrote.

Tijuana River crosses U.S.-Mexico border on August 1, 2022
The Tijuana River, which typically only flows in the rainy winter season, begins to flow over the U.S.-Mexico border after a couple of wastewater leaks or breaks in Tijuana. / U.S. International Boundary and Water Commission

Environment Report: Onslaught of Tijuana Sewage Heads for San Diego Coastline

There’s a double whammy of doo-doo about to strike South Bay’s shoreline. 

A couple of breaks to wastewater pipelines in Tijuana have caused sewage to spill into the Tijuana River, making its way across the U.S.-Mexico border toward the Pacific Ocean just south of Imperial Beach. 

That and some pretty magnificent south swells are headed toward Southern California due to a hurricane in Baja and winter storms in the Southern Hemisphere. But that also means a higher likelihood sewage from another point in Tijuana – a broken wastewater treatment plant called Punta Bandera – will likely be swept northward. 

Sewage warning advisories from Silver Strand beach to Coronado were lifted recently. But they may return soon enough. 

Read and subscribe to the Environment Report here. 

San Diego Pressing Ahead with Contractor Transparency Regulations

Following on the heels of the county, the San Diego City Council on Monday moved forward with an ordinance requiring construction and right-of-way permit holders to disclose their subcontractors. In a report to the City Council, Mayor Todd Gloria’s office said the ordinance seeks to strengthen the rights of workers while protecting “law-abiding contractors.”

The ordinance codifies state regulations in the city’s municipal code to ensure contractors and subcontractors have the right certifications, training and insurance. It applies to residential and mixed-use development with 20 or more dwelling units, and commercial or industrial development of more than 20,000 square feet.

Considering a similar proposal at the county-level last year, we reported that wage theft for low-wage workers, especially immigrants, in the construction industry is widespread but not rarely enforced. Unions backing the ordinance said it will hold back actors accountable. 

Business and housing reps, on the other hand, according to the Union-Tribune, have complained that the city’s proposed disclosures and subsequent paperwork will slow down housing development. To make it easier, city officials said the information can be submitted by mobile phone from work sites.

The ordinance still requires a second vote. 

In Other News 

  • San Diego County officials are planning to install a dozen naloxone vending machines throughout the county; naloxone is used to reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The vending machines will be free, and five of them are scheduled to be installed by the end of 2022. (Union-Tribune)
  • San Diego is launching a new campaign that aims to fix thousands of in-ground magnetic sensors in order to make intersections more efficient. The city wants to start fixing 10,000 to 30,000  magnetic loops that sense when a vehicle is at the edge of an intersection waiting for the traffic light to turn green. Replacing some of the damaged or worn out loops could ease traffic congestion. (Union-Tribune)
  • The number of confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases in San Diego County hit 27 as of Friday. The county has now launched a monkeypox text message alert system, which allows health officials to send real-time information about monkeypox to San Diego residents. (NBC-7)
  • San Diego State University is opening its own investigation into the alleged rape of a 17-year-old student by university football players in October 2021. The San Diego Police investigation is ongoing. (KPBS)

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, MacKenzie Elmer, Jesse Marx and Tigist Layne. It was edited by Andrea Lopez-Villafaña. 

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1 Comment

  1. Just want to confirm what is meant in this paragraph: “Considering a similar proposal at the county-level last year, we reported that wage theft for low-wage workers, especially immigrants, in the construction industry is widespread but not rarely enforced. Unions backing the ordinance said it will hold back actors accountable.” Wage themf is “not rarely enforced”? And unions “will hold back (bad?) actors accountable”.

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