101 Ash St. / File photo by Adriana Heldiz

Former city real estate adviser Jason Hughes has a court date this morning.

Hughes, who was once publicly known as a volunteer, is expected to plead guilty Thursday to a misdemeanor conflict-of-interest violation over $9.4 million in previously-secret payments from the city’s ex-landlord for his work on the city’s 101 Ash St. and Civic Center Plaza leases.

As our Lisa Halverstadt reports, a settlement approved by the City Council on Wednesday – and endorsed by City Attorney Mara Elliott – also orders Hughes to essentially repay that $9.4 million. In exchange, the city is ending its two civil conflict-of-interest cases against Hughes.

As the City Council wrapped up a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, the District Attorney’s Office announced the expected resolution of its criminal case and described Superior Court Judge Kenneth So’s pursuit of a “global resolution that would serve the interests of justice.”

Hughes and his attorneys have for months argued that Hughes was not covered by the state conflict-of-interest law he is now expected to plead guilty to and emphasized that he told multiple city officials he wanted to be paid by someone other than the city. A Wednesday statement Hughes’ attorney sent on his behalf underlined those comments and said Wednesday’s events would provide finality for Hughes.

Read the full story here.

Refresher: In 2017, the city got the keys to 101 Ash St. and planned to move hundreds of city employees in. After a series of delays and unexpected costs, they quickly moved out in January 2020 just weeks after moving in following county asbestos violations. The situation generated 

multiple scandals and a flurry of legal claims – and that was before the revelation that Hughes got paid for his work on the controversial lease deal.

Reminder: The city’s 101 Ash St. legal woes aren’t over yet. The city is set to eventually battle in court with contractors and workers who reported to the building during and immediately after renovations.

Catch up on our 101 Ash coverage here.

North County Report: A Sidewalk Vendor Ordinance Could Be Coming to Escondido

Avocados on sale from a vendor off state Route 76 in San Diego’s North County. / File photo by Jamie Scott Lytle

Escondido might soon be implementing sidewalk vendor regulations, following the lead of several cities across the county that have adopted vendor ordinances in the past few years.

The City Council is expected to consider a sidewalk vendor ordinance soon, after the issue was pushed forward by the Economic Development Subcommittee earlier this month.

The issue is likely to spark controversy between those who say restrictions are necessary and those who argue that they’re harmful to low-income and immigrant communities.

Critics of similar regulations say the complicated permitting processes and strict guidelines discourage those who are trying to take their first step into entrepreneurship. Proponents argue that these ordinances promote safety and order.

Voice of San Diego’s Tigist Layne looks back at the stories of sidewalk vendors in other North County cities that have ordinances in place and examines how these new rules have impacted vendors’ businesses and livelihoods.

Read the North County Report here.

In Other News

  • The city of San Diego will make its largest annual pension payment ever thanks to a combination of employee pay raises, weak investment returns and penalties for its unsuccessful attempt a decade ago to eliminate pensions for all city workers except cops. (Union-Tribune) 
  • After two men allegedly assaulted a teenage girl, El Cajon officials are responding by threatening to crack down on serious crimes in motels. They’re also discussing a moratorium on homeless vouchers, although it’s unclear, as the U-T reports, if that effort could survive a legal challenge. 
  • Elsewhere in El Cajon, NBC 7 interviewed a family made homeless because of a $300 rent increase. They just moved into a tiny home built on church property. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced a plan to use tiny homes to ease the homeless crisis. 
  • Speaking of housing, San Diego will consider the sale and redevelopment of two East Village properties — the old Central Library and a former indoor skydiving center — to boost the production of homes for people of varying income levels. (Union-Tribune) 

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

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