Morning Report: Former City Real Estate Chief Unloads Under Oath on 101 Ash

In August 2020, the city’s former property manager resigned as the city’s problems surrounding a downtown high-rise building turned into a garbage fire.

Cybele Thompson, who has largely kept quiet since leaving City Hall, testified under oath earlier this month that she remains proud of her work on the 101 Ash St. β€œOn the renovations there.

Lisa Halverstadt obtained a draft text of Thompson’s testimony conducted by a lawyer representing the owner of the Ash 101 estate in the city and broke a number of bombs from the city’s former property manager.

among them:

  • Thompson said former Mayor Kevin Faulconer directed city officials to pursue a more expensive expiring lease to acquire 101 Ash due to concerns about the optics of a deal with a political backer and thunderbolt Doug Manchester, a claim the former mayor’s attorney denies.
  • Thompson left City Hall with copies of hundreds of city documents, fearing she would be a scapegoat for her work at 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza, the deal that preceded it.

Read more of Thomson’s revelations here.

About 101 lawsuits against Ash in the city… Thompson’s statement has been linked to a city lawsuit seeking to void the contract of 101 Ash and Civic Center Plaza following the bombshell that paid city owner Cisterra Development to the city’s “volunteer” real estate advisor $9.4 million for his work on the two deals.

The city council received a closed-ended update on these two lawsuits and a third filed by the taxpayer on Tuesday. This discussion appears to have gone beyond the timeline. The city council meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. started more than 90 minutes late.

But insiders who have been speculating about whether the city is about to move forward with a settlement with the owner and the lenders behind the deals will have to continue to speculate. There were no public updates on Tuesday.

Another one 101 apocalypse Union-Tribune revealed news Tuesday that Cisterra received an October 2016 101 Ash valuation of $94 million β€” more than the previous $67 million deposit it made to the city months before the city council vote. The larger estimate was based on the assumption that the city pledged to pay a monthly rent for 20 years and used it to back a $92 million advance loan that the city owner needed to get the deal done.

Former city attorney general Mike Aguirre, who is challenging Ash 101’s lease for the city on behalf of taxpayer John Gordon, has argued that the group representing the lenders behind the deal sold the lease to investors on a premise that conflicts with the state constitution. The state constitution prohibits municipalities from incurring debt without interest in the year in which the debt was incurred. The city has occupied 101 Ash for only a few weeks since it got the keys to the building in January 2017. It stopped paying rent in September 2020.

Interestingly, Cisterra shared the realtor’s opinion on the value with the city before agreeing to Ash’s deal to value the property from $83.1 million to $85.7 million based on a 20-year lease with different lease assumptions. The separate $67 million audit that Cisterra ordered also focused on the value of the building assuming that the city would fully occupy 101 Ash with a different lease structure.

A member of the National City Council calls for the termination of work

National City Councilwoman Mona Rios has spent twelve years representing the city in which four generations of her family have lived. But now it’s time to stop, MacKenzie told Elmer of The San Diego Voice.

Her leaving for city council means she won’t run for one of National City’s newly formed districts, where council members generally ran until this year.

But Rios is also leaving a large vacancy as vice chairman of the San Diego County Water Authority, which was recently filled with an hiring process β€” or lack thereof β€” that has left a bad taste in some managers’ mouths. Rios is the second vice president to leave the midterm in two years, leaving three white men at the helm of a body making the biggest and most expensive decisions about water in the region.

Read more about Rios’ departure here.

San Diego is moving forward with Homekey

Homeless residents set up tents on Imperial Street in downtown San Diego / Photo by Adriana Hildes

The city and county are set to seek nearly $12 million in state homeless housing funds after major votes this week.

County supervisors voted Tuesday to file a joint city and county application for state Homekey Project funds to support a 40-unit supportive housing project in El Cerrito and to pledge $11 million in county funds to support capital, services and operating costs for the facility.

The city’s housing commissioners also unanimously endorsed the request at a special meeting on Monday.

The Future Housing Commission and city council are expected to vote later this year if the city and county are given state money.

The votes on the application came just days before the state’s May 2 deadline for the latest smash of Project Homekey money aimed at boosting statewide efforts to housing the homeless in California. The request came months after the district missed the initial deadline of about $61 million earmarked for the San Diego area.

Affordable housing developers earlier told Voice that the state initiative required a rapid construction shift and market changes since the program debuted in 2020, hampering potential projects. A housing commission executive said during a meeting Monday that Mayor Todd Gloria’s office and city housing officials are now discussing deadline challenges with the state in hopes of getting more options in the program’s next funding round, which is expected to begin this summer.

in other news

  • The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a temporary shelter policy for handling asylum seekers arriving at the US-Mexico border to claim humanitarian protection. (City News Service)
  • Average rent for a one-bedroom unit in San Diego is up 32.8 percent since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to real estate firm Zumper. (ABC 10)
  • According to data from the California Public Utilities Commission, more than a quarter of SDG&E customers are behind on their utility bills. (Union Tribune)

This morning report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Mackenzie Elmer and Megan Wood.