Councilman Harris’ Office Abruptly Cancels Meeting With OB Planners Supposedly “On Advice” of City Attorney’s Office – Which City Attorney Denies Giving

by on June 18, 2014 · 38 comments

in Civil Rights, Environment, History, Ocean Beach, Politics, San Diego

Councilman Ed Harris’ office  abruptly cancelled a meeting that had been scheduled with OB planners to discuss the OB Community Plan. The meeting had been set for Thursday, June 19th.

While the Plan goes before the full City Council on June 30th, OB planners had expected to be able to have a sit-down with the Councilman of OB before the hearing in order to explain in detail why the Community Plan is a good deal.

Harris had earlier met with the leader of the opposition to the Plan, property investor and owner, David Stebbins.

The two members of the committee responsible for the Plan Update and who have been working with City staff and who were expecting to meet with Harris, Gioivanni Ingolia and Peter Ruscitti, both were notified by Harris’ staff on Tuesday, June 17 about the cancellation. Ingolia is the Co-chair of the Update Committee  and Ruscitti is the current Chair of the Planning Board.

The reason for the cancellation? It’s unclear.

Anonymous sources familiar with the details said that the Ocean Beach planning reps were told that Harris’ office had been advised by the City Attorney’s Office not to meet privately with people on one side of the dispute regarding the OB Plan, as that would constitute an ex parte meeting that would then require Harris to recuse himself from the vote on the 30th.

This same source said that the City Attorney has advised all councilmembers not to have this meetings as the OB Community Plan issue is now in the “quasi-judicial” realm.

However, the City Attorney’s Office has denied that they had given Councilman Harris that advice.

Late on Tuesday, after being contacted by the OB Rag, the City Attorney’s Office would not confirm that such advice had been given. In an email to me from Tom Mitchell the media relations rep at the City Attorney’s office, he stated “no” to my question:

“Can your office confirm that the city attorney’s office advised City Councilman Ed Harris of D2 not to meet with OB planners regarding the OB Community Plan Update that had been scheduled for Thursday, June 19th?

The OB Rag made several calls into Mr. Harris’ office during the late afternoon of June 17, but as of this writing, none have been returned.

The meeting with OB’s councilman had been planned for some time, and had been announced at Monday night’s public meeting of the committee.  The cancellation took our local planners completely by surprise.  None of them wanted to make a statement to the OB Rag about this.

The OB Rag did ask around to other sources about the reasons for the cancellation.  A member of Councilman David Alvarez’s staff reported that Mr. Alvarez met with members of both sides of the Barrio Logan plan dispute, both privately and together.

To lend some background to the abrupt cancellation, another knowledgeable source who wishes to remain anonymous  told me that David Stebbins – the head of the opposition to the OB Community Plan – had threatened legal action if Councilman Harris met with the planners.

We also asked this of Tom Mitchell, PR guy for the City Attorney’s Office. We asked him:

 OB Rag: “Secondly, can you confirm that your office received a letter from a David Stebbins threatening legal action if Mr. Harris met with the planners?”

Answer: we are not aware of such a letter, but are still checking to see if one of our lawyers received something of that nature.

So, why did Councilman Harris cancel Thursday’s meeting with the planners from OB?

Here is the entire email exchange between me and City Attorney PR Mitchell:

Q: Can your office confirm that the city attorney’s office advised City Councilman Ed Harris of D2 not to meet with OB planners regarding the OB Community Plan Update that had been scheduled for Thursday, June 19th?”

Answer: no

Q: “Secondly, can you confirm that your office received a letter from a David Stebbins threatening legal action if Mr. Harris met with the planners?”

Answer: we are not aware of such a letter, but are still checking to see if one of our lawyers received something of that nature.



{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 9:13 am

I think a few phone calls from OBceans to Mr. Harris’ office would be highly appropriate.


SaneVoice June 18, 2014 at 10:20 am

Do you have a phone number, Frank ?


Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

There is a phone number attached to our website, thanks.


rak June 18, 2014 at 12:12 pm

I think SaneVoice may have meant a phone number to call for council member Harris’ office. If that’s so, here it is: (619) 236-6622. The city also supports a web site for council members where you can submit questions or comments; for Harris it’s: here.


Frank Gormlie June 19, 2014 at 9:25 am

Thanks rak, of course, sorry SaneVoice


OB Mercy June 18, 2014 at 9:34 am

This truly interests me, in that I interviewed Ed Harris for over 2 hours last year when he was first considering running for the District 2 office. He then backed out of running, claiming that it would take too much time away from his family. Then, we all know he was asked to fill in for Faulconer, as he went on to be mayor, and the District 2 seat needed to be filled for the remainder of the 8 months left in the District’s vacancy. I guess the powers that be felt Ed was the man.

My point being, Harris truly seemed like he cared for OB and the other cities in the District 2 map. In fact, he had me convinced that he cared enough and that made me want to vote for him. The details of what he told me were very convincing.

Now it seems he is having to follow some blueprint of what is expected of politicians. I hope this isn’t true, but this backing out of an important meeting seems a bit suspect to me. Of what, I’m not sure, nor will I venture to guess. C’mon Ed, you truly seemed that you were of, by and for the people here in OB. What gives??


SaneVoice June 18, 2014 at 10:19 am

So how does that work ? Stebbins gets to have a meeting, but the planning board doesn’t. Where’s the legality in that ? I’m beginning to think we’re going to see an angry mob with pitchforks and torches ready to storm Mr. Stebbins “castle”.


Aging Hippie June 18, 2014 at 10:50 am

^ This.


Geoff Page June 18, 2014 at 10:41 am

The City Attorney’s office did not answer the question the OB Rag meant to ask. The questions was “Can you confirm…” and the answer, “No” means nothing more than “We cannot confirm…” I don’t think the answer was that “We did not advise Mr. Harris not to meet with…” I’d suggest a reworded question a little more directly stated: “Did the City Attorney’s office advise Harris not to meet with the OB planners.” No wiggle room in that.


Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 10:53 am

Geoff, I have since heard from Mitchell at the CA office who stated that any private meeting with one side without the other is okay as long as a majority of the Council is not present.


Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 11:19 am

… or a majority of the committee or board.


Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 11:21 am

Since that response from the CA, I have heard that their office does not oppose council members meeting privately with one side in a dispute – as long as a majority of the council is not there.


SaneVoice June 18, 2014 at 2:17 pm

So Councilman Harris can meet with one of the planning members then ?


Geoff Page June 18, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Harris could meet with OBPB members as long as there is not a quorum of OBPB members or city council members. If there is a quorum of either body, the meeting can still be held but must be publicly noticed.


Tyler June 18, 2014 at 12:13 pm

It’s amazing to me how much clout Mr. Stebbins seems to have in this issue. It feels like a hatchet job happening right beneath the community.


Frank Gormlie June 18, 2014 at 1:11 pm

Tyler – are you kidding! OMG! as they say. Did you see this?
Planning Commission Approves OB Plan Update But With New Language that Guts its Teeth on Variances -


Tyler June 18, 2014 at 1:23 pm

Of course I read it! That’s one of the reasons I’m so befuddled with how much influence Stebbins seems to have. Maddening doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings.

Thanks for all you do to keep us all apprised of what is happening. I know I’m not the only one to call Harris’ office today.


Kathleen Blavatt June 18, 2014 at 8:13 pm

Flashback: Back in the day, City Attorney Casey Guinn issued a memo along the lines that Council Members weren’t allowed to talk to Planning Board Members, but could talk to developers. That was DEBUNKED by Donna Frye and Mike Aguirre!
Does Ed Harris really want to go down this road? This is a COMMUNITY Plan Update. The development of this plan is as COMMUNITY as it gets! Hundreds of people volunteering on OB organizations, and others participating in forums for over a dozen years, worked on this plan update. EVERY OB COMMUNITY Organization supports this plan update.
So how about the City THANKING all the volunteers that SAVED the CITY MONEY in writing this plan… And joyfully pass this Plan Update.


Marc Snelling June 18, 2014 at 8:29 pm

^ True this. Where I live now we are one of the few communities in our City without a Community Design Plan. If the City paid consultants to write a CDP it would be in the six figures.


Bill Smith June 19, 2014 at 2:30 am

You continue to act like a group of angry children on this subject. Your position has guaranteed you will lose this unsupportable fight. Your petition is full of lies and will be discredited prior to the council vote. Start telling the truth and act like adults.


gristmiller June 19, 2014 at 5:47 am

Be specific, por favor!


Tyler June 19, 2014 at 6:41 am

Didn’t Harris come to the rescue of Bay-Ho and Clairemont not even 2 months ago against increased density development? Would seem incredibly hypocritical for him to turn the other check on us after doing that.


Aging Hippie June 19, 2014 at 8:11 am

Is Bill Smith actually David Stebbins? Or is he an owner of one of the 3 view-blocking rain-shedding eyesores on West Point Loma Blvd? Or is he the owner of the apartments at Sea Spray and West Point Loma, frustrated that he cannot cash in by selling his property to someone to build a Miami Beach style condominium tower?


Geoff Page June 19, 2014 at 8:29 am

I’m with gristmiller. Just because you say a thing that doesn’t make it so. What lies are contained in the petition that you say are there? Well, actually, that question is a waste of time because if there were any actual lies in the petition, any intelligent person would have provided an example. Either there are no examples or the intelligence factor is missing. You tell us.


Aging Hippie June 19, 2014 at 8:45 am

^ This.


Geoff Page June 19, 2014 at 9:11 am

I think you need to change your moniker or avatar, Aging Hippie, because your brief “^ This” is very unhippie-like. Try a peace symbol if you want to stick with that name.


Aging Hippie June 19, 2014 at 9:25 am

Forum doesn’t support RTF or HTML or uploading graphics files, unfortunately.

I thought “^ This” might serve as evidence that I occasionally have a positive comment, a kind of proof of un-troll-ishness.


Dana Levy June 19, 2014 at 9:42 am

Maybe four asterisks would work and leave nothing to the imagination! **** this/ **** him! I feel the same way. What a let down and HE is temporary with supposedly no agenda but to do the right thing, for a change. And, why, under any circumstances, would HE ever recuse HIMSELF about a vote concerning HIS own district? I am confused by both his cancellation and that HE gave no reason, credible or not. I have come to expect this type of treatment from America’s Finest City’s weakkneed councilpersons but that doesn’t make it any more palatable.


Geoff Page June 19, 2014 at 9:43 am

Aha, now I understand. I guess that is the danger in using symbols. I had assumed that it meant a four letter word beginning with an “f” and ending with a “k” followed by “this.” I’ve never seen this before so I apologize for having incorrectly interpreted it. I’m guessing I’m not the only one.


Frank Gormlie June 19, 2014 at 9:27 am

In the blog world, the symbol “^” usually means the commenter agrees with the above comment.


nostalgic June 19, 2014 at 7:56 am

For everyone furious with Ed Harris, you will have Lori Zapf all too soon. Please give Councilmember Harris time to investigate what needs to be done and how to best support the community. Perhaps this item should be pulled from the City Council Agenda to give some time for the City Attorney’s office to state an opinion on all the issues. That is what they are there to do.


Geoff Page June 19, 2014 at 8:35 am

I think some people are being prematurely harsh on Mr. Miller. I’m sure he is aware of this discussion so let’s wait until we hear from him before we judge his actions. I would think he should come forward today and clear this up for everyone. If Miller ignores all this, well, that is an action we can judge.


Tyler June 19, 2014 at 8:53 am

Agreed. I just find it interesting how quickly everyone came to the aid of the Clairemont area re: new density/height limit proposal and yet here we are with no real clarity. Although I must say that we pre-election which will always have elected representatives acting in a quicker fashion.


Craig June 20, 2014 at 12:13 am

Everyone did NOT come to the aid of the Bay Park/Morena Blvd area, though it may have seemed so. The only “aid” was the flip-flop that Zapf did to save her skin before election and statement by B. Fulton that the 30 ft height limit would be maintained until Phase II of the Amendment Process which would take place in the fall. So, come this fall, 60 ft is back on the table. Harris was at that Bay Park meeting and it wasn’t pretty. Bay Park is being ‘micro-planned’ within the huge community of Clairemont Mesa. Though it’s touted that residents were given ample information about the Morena Blvd Station Area Planning Study in three workshops, most of that concentrated on the trolley itself, walking distances, pedestrian amenities and the like with little mention of height and density changes. The majority of the residents in the impacted area still do not know what this plan will do, which includes rezoning in order to go above the Clairemont Height Limit Overlay of 30 ft, an estimated increase of more than 4,800 multi-unit dwellings with reduced parking requirements and decreased lanes for Morena Blvd, just for starters.


Frank Gormlie June 19, 2014 at 9:28 am

Miller? Do you mean Harris?


Geoff Page June 19, 2014 at 9:45 am

Darn, yes Frank, I meant Mr. Harris not Mr. Miller.


SaneVoice June 19, 2014 at 9:34 am

Something’s definitely rotten in Denmark on this one. Is Stebbins going to be OB’s equivalent of Scott Chipman, PB’s fly in the ointment ? Follow the money.

I think I’m also changing my tune on the marshmallow war. I think it should be moved to the 5100 block of West Point Loma and we can “crown” David Stebbins as our Marshmallow King.


Aging Hippie June 19, 2014 at 9:42 am

^ This!

Sorry, Geoff, no peace sign. Maybe the Rag could upgrade its forum software?


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