The Sports Arena Redevelopment Proposal Mess

by on October 23, 2020 · 1 comment

in Election, Ocean Beach

By Geoff Page

The City of San Diego told the public that it received four proposals for redevelopment of the Sports Arena properties.  They said two of the four proposals were rejected as “non-responsive” leaving only two choices.

To begin with, that the city only received four proposals was an indication of a problem.  This is a billion-dollar redevelopment project.  This should have attracted more than four proposers.  When results like this are seen, it can mean several things, but suffice to say, the Request For Proposals (RFP) may have been badly crafted, or worse, intentionally crafted to discourage proposers.  The result was that the citizens of this city were only offered two choices, when the RFP probably should have been redone.

These kinds of proposals are expensive to put together and the process is also expensive.  When the city received only four proposals and rejected two of those, the project should have been pulled back.  The city should have asked the firms that did not submit proposals what their reasons were for not doing so.

The city did not explain why the two proposals were rejected, so a Public Records Request was submitted asking:

“There were four proposers for the Sports Arena development work. The city said two were judged to be non-responsive.

What were the names of the two proposers deemed non-responsive?

Why were the proposals deemed non-responsive.”

The response on the Public Records Act (PRA) site:

“Not a PRA request

This is not a request that falls within the scope of the Public Records Act.”

This reporter has made a number of PRA requests and what was surprising about this one was receipt of phone calls and emails explaining this. That had never happened before.  PRAs go to specific city departments for answers but the response received by email and telephone came from a Public Information Officer in the Communications Department.

This was the email:

“Please attribute the statement below to Ballpark Administrator George Katsikaris.

The two proposers deemed non-responsive were North Bay Village Partners (NBVP), which consisted of Shea Homes and Lennar, and Greystar Development West. NBVP’s proposal did not meet the minimum requirements under the Lease Terms of the Request for Proposal (RFP). In contrast, Greystar’s proposal did not meet the minimum requirements under the Redevelopment Site of the RFP, both of which make fundamental changes that would drastically alter the RFP’s intent.”

As anyone can see, that did not fully answer the question.  What was even odder was the response was being sent out, not by the person it was attributed to but by a second party.

A response to the communications officer’s email included a number of things – the first was a request to have this statement sent by the person who made it directly. Research into George Katsikaris showed he was an environmental inspector.  When “Ballpark administrator” was searched, it came up with his name as the administrator for PetCo Park. A question was posed about why someone with those responsibilities was involved in the selection process.

Additionally, the email voiced strong opposition to the city’s position that this was not a request that fell within the scope of the PRA.  This reporter wrote:

“I will also reiterate that I strongly disagree with part of the City’s response, relayed by you. Any city business is public business. The taxpayers have a right to know the entire process and have a right to know why two proposers were deemed unresponsive. This kind of thing is not to be decided in secrecy. I am making another demand for that information I would appreciate you passing on.”

This resulted in the following answers from the Communications Officer:

“George Katsikaris is a City of San Diego Real Estate Assets Department employee and serves as a Special Projects Manager and as the Ballpark Administrator for Petco Park. He facilitated the Request for Proposal process for the Sports Arena site.

Also, please note that details regarding the nonresponsiveness from the two bidders are exempt from disclosure under Govt. Code section 6255 and Michaelis, Montanari & Johnson v. Superior Court, 38 Cal. 4th 1065.”

At this point, it was increasingly odd that this information was being ferried through the communications department and that it was citing legal precedent.

Once the names of the two rejected proposers were known, this reporter wrote another, very specific PRA to which the same answer was provided, but this time through the PRA portal.  The second request was:

“Two of four proposals submitted for the Sports Arena development work were rejected as non-responsive.

This is request is for:

Any and all communication with North Bay Village Partners (NBVP) regarding the city’s decision to reject their proposal as non-responsive.

Any and all communication with Greystar Development West regarding the city’s decision to reject their proposal as non-responsive.”

The response from the PRA portal was:

“Per the Real Estate Assets Department, the records you requested are withheld pursuant to Government Code section 6255 [public interest in non-disclosure outweighs public interest in disclosure] and Michaelis, Montanari & Johnson v. Superior Court 38 Cal.4th 1065. The person making the decision to withhold the records is George Katsikaris, Ballpark Administrator, Real Estate Assets Department.”

The cited Government Code states:

“The agency shall justify withholding any record by demonstrating that the record in question is exempt under express provisions of this chapter or that on the facts of the particular case the public interest served by not disclosing the record clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure of the record.”

The city was using the part that says the public interest is better served by not providing the information.  To demonstrate that, they cited the court case.  The case involved proposals at LAX for a project years ago where a PRA request was made to see all of the proposals before LAX had a contract in place with the winning proposer.

This was clearly very different from a request to know why proposals were rejected.  The LAX case involved proprietary information during sensitive contract negotiations.  This reporter’s request did not involve seeing the proposals.  In fact, the communications officer related on the telephone that the two proposals were not even opened.

Why the city is working so hard not to provide the answer to the question is not apparent but the refusal to say why, when taken in conjunction with the rest of proposal debacle, just seems to smell.

Wednesday, October 21, an email was sent to the, so far, silent Mr. Katsikaris, pointing out that the reason cited for withholding the information was not sufficient because the case cited was not relevant.  Two emails were also sent out to the two rejected proposers to see what they have to say.  There will be a follow up when that information comes in.

In the meantime, people need to consider that everything regarding the redevelopment and the move to do away with the height limit in the Sports Arena – Midway area in Measure E has been far more clandestine than anything of this magnitude should ever be.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Frank Gormlie Frank Gormlie October 23, 2020 at 4:54 pm

This is some great reporting from Geoff Page.

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