The scandal surrounding the city’s Civic Center Plaza and the 101 Ash St. leases has now officially led to a criminal investigation.
Our Lisa Halverstadt announced the news that investigators from the district attorney’s office simultaneously served search warrants Tuesday morning on Hughes Marino and Cisterra Development. She saw investigators at both locations.
The move comes just weeks after Halverstadt announced that although Jason Hughes, the head of the company, was serving the city as an allegedly volunteer real estate advisor, he had a secret contract with Cisterra guaranteeing him a $ 45 reduction. % of the profits if Cisterra could sell the city two office towers in the city center.
Hughes advised the city on the agreements and the city agreed to lease the two buildings – Civic Center Plaza and 101 Ash St. For her role, Cisterra paid Hughes a total of $ 9.4 million. Neither Cisterra nor Hughes disclosed the payments. In fact, they also had nondisclosure agreements.
Representatives for Cisterra and Hughes told Halverstadt they were cooperating with investigators and expected they would eventually be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Don’t expect fees – if there will be fees – anytime soon: If the district attorney’s office decides charges are warranted, retired prosecutor Gary Schons told Halverstadt they are likely weeks or months away.
To note: Investigators had to persuade a judge that there was probable cause to believe that there had been a criminal offense to obtain a search warrant.
This, of course, does not mean that there have been criminal offenses and again the investigation is probably in its early stages.
Read the full story here.
San Diego High will stay
The San Diego High School will remain in Balboa Park for another 99 years without rent, under a rental agreement approved by city council on Tuesday.
Jennifer Van Grove of the Union-Tribune reported that city council voted to approve the lease without discussion despite the years of controversy surrounding it. The city council’s action will allow the San Diego Unified School District to implement a $ 74 million plan to modernize the property.
The city council vote comes years after a successful measurement of the 2016 ballot intended to give city leaders the power to keep the high school in the park. After all, the current lease expiring in 2024 requires the district to return ownership of the school to the city.
For years, some park advocates have argued that the city’s crown jewel shouldn’t be home to a school, and that the real estate deal with the school district is one of the city’s most problematic.
The district, meanwhile, argued that the city should not start the high school that has housed the site for around 140 years.
Looking for more? Van Grove examined the history of Balboa Park High School and the long-standing arguments that surround it.
- City council also voted on Tuesday to allocate an additional $ 39.7 million to the city’s COVID-19 rent relief program and at the request of Mayor Todd Gloria, of reallocate $ 5 millionn Federal CARES Community Development Block Grant funds to support eviction prevention education and legal assistance. Our Maya Srikrishnan recently tabled an update on the city’s rent reduction efforts and the protections that remain for tenants after the state’s moratorium on evictions expires.
In other news
- Politifest starts in less than two weeks. Register for the full event or get day tickets here. Bonus: If you are not already a member of VOSD, registration for the full week will give you access to some great member benefits, like the political report. Student tickets are free.
- If you’re a parent thinking about school choice, join us for a free virtual community meeting this Thursday to explore our annual parent’s guide to schools in San Diego. You can download the guide and RSVP here.
- Monday night thunderstorm left thousands without electricity throughout San Diego County. (City News Service)
- City News Service reports that San Diego County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to oppose the placement of sexually violent predators in the county until local governments have the means to influence the placement process, including the veto.
- Union-Tribune profiled a new effort to educate homeless people in North County.
This Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt and edited by Megan Wood.