San Diego

Attorneys for Taxpayer Suing San Diego Over Ash Street Deal Have Plan to Stall Mayor Gloria's Proposed Settlement

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Attorneys for a taxpayer who filed a complaint alleging that the city of San Diego's 101 Ash Street transaction violated the California Constitution because the city paid for a building it couldn't inhabit says they're prepared to file a temporary restraining order to stop the city from making payments on the Ash Street building if the city council votes to approve Mayor Todd Gloria's proposed settlement agreement.

The city council approved a lease-to-own transaction on the 101 Ash Street building in 2016 only to find out that the building was uninhabitable. In June, Mayor Todd Gloria announced a proposed settlement agreement that would transfer ownership of the Ash Street building and the Civic Center Plaza. Cisterra Development would refund the city for the Ash Street deal, but be able to keep the profits it made on the Civic Center Plaza. The city would be on the hook for the remediation costs of the Ash Street building which have been estimated at anywhere from $20 to $115 million.

"In my view, thinking as a taxpayer, this settlement is a surrender, it's not a true settlement whatsoever. This is very bad management and care of the needs of the citizens," said John Gordon, the taxpayer who filed the lawsuit.

Gordon's attorney, former San Diego City Attorney Mike Aguirre, shared exhibits that were presented to Mayor Todd Gloria in his deposition for the taxpayer lawsuit back in May, along with press releases the Mayor's office has put out about the proposed settlement. He says the mayor has been inconsistent with his statements regarding the transaction.

"They're just backing off, backing off, backing off and I just thought it was inconsistent statements that the mayor has to know is inconsistent with what was brought to his attention while he was being examined, under oath I might add," Aguirre said.

In a statement to NBC 7, Nick Serrano, Gloria's deputy chief of staff, said, “What Mr. Aguirre is proposing will result in the continued waste of millions in taxpayer dollars on attorneys and attorney’s fees to litigate this matter for the next five to eight years. Even if the City did litigate to the bitter end -- as Mr. Aguirre is suggesting -- and was successful in court, we would still be required to complete the repairs to the botched remodel of 101 Ash Street made by the prior administration, then hand the keys back to Cisterra to profit from. This would mean the City has nothing to show for years of suffering from this failed acquisition. Our proposed settlement agreement gives the City certainty, secures the City’s ownership of the buildings and the land, stops the bleeding and waste of taxpayer dollars, and gives us an opportunity to redevelop the Civic Core in Downtown. That is why this is truly in the taxpayer’s best interest.”

The mayor's office has said that they will bring the proposed settlement in front of the city council for a vote on July 26.

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