Todd Gloria is Making a 101 Ash Out of You and Me

by on June 27, 2022 · 18 comments

in San Diego

King Gloria. Photo by Tom Mullaney

By Mat Wahlstrom

You may have heard that today, Monday June 27, the City Council is being called into a special meeting to formally approve a ‘settlement’ agreement possibly illegally negotiated in closed session just a week ago.

The original deal being ‘settled’ is the disposition of the 19-story building at 101 Ash St. Approved in 2016, it called for taxpayers to lease to own a building for $128 million that insiders knew was really only valued for $67 million — and that was before anyone outside their circle realized it’s a toxic vertical landfill.

There’s currently a lawsuit, likely to prevail, claiming this deal was illegal and so not only is it void, but all the millions paid to date in rent would have to be refunded. Not only isn’t this lawsuit costing the city a penny but, even if it were to fail, there are other lawsuits and remedies.

Yet rather than let that legal drama play out, Mayor Todd Gloria’s ‘settlement’ puts taxpayers on the hook for $84 million to buy this towering fiasco outright and inexplicably shield the sellers from any liability for wrongdoing.

Why would he snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? Many speculate that it’s to keep him from being deposed and having to testify about his involvement in the approval of the original bad deal in 2016 — or answer for his possible role in coverups about it since.

In fact this agreement is such complete crap that even a lawyer of usually dubious competence as City Attorney Mara Elliott is against it — and submitted a withering analysis of why it should be rejected.

In doing so, she joined in a rare display of division among our normally lockstep Establishment, in which only five of the nine councilmembers have signalled they’ll go along.

Or has she? And will they? Let’s start with Elliott.

Right now, her position is that she will sign off on this only “as to form,” that is, that she’ll approve only that it says what it says, not that she agrees with it.

But per the City Charter, if she is truly against this deal for the real and compelling reasons she states in her analysis, then her duty of care as *the* fiduciary for the City of San Diego requires her to withhold her signature and nix the fix.

It bears remembering that Elliott has defended her originally approving this agreement in 2016 as simply going along with what was already decided by others. Only days removed from serving as second in command in the same Office of the City Attorney that she was just elected to head, she has repeatedly begged off any responsibility for supposedly not knowing what she signed.

But now she can’t say the same. She knows where all the bodies are buried (hopefully metaphorically speaking), and may have some of the dirty shovels in her closet that she wouldn’t want found. If she were to go along with yet another bad deal but make a big show of her reluctance, somehow none of the dirt will end up on her.

Standing by Gloria’s side supporting him when this was announced was Councilmember Chris Cate and Council President Sean Elo-Rivera.

We can imagine Cate going along because, hey, he’s the only one still on the council that originally voted to approve this dirty deal. And he’s only got a few months before terming out and landing a cushy job in the private sector — possibly even with one of the big names involved in this scandal?

And we can believe Elo-Rivera going along because he’s got ambitions to follow in Gloria’s footsteps to political office, which would explain his yes-person performance on everything he proposes.

(As an aside: We can suspect Jen Campbell going along because of the deal she apparently cut to get Gloria’s dark money buddies to save her in the primary, virtually guaranteeing her re-election. But if there’s one thing we know about her, it’s that she’s relentlessly self-interested; and this deal is so rotten the stink could stick. Plus going back on her word once elected is really on brand, so who knows?)

Supposedly the incentive for everyone for making this ‘deal’ is that it is key to other possibly illegal negotiations with SANDAG and the state, whereby this and the surrounding properties get rolled into an even more complicated and dubious arrangement in which everyone gets a pony.

All of which is to say that absolutely no one in favor of this agreement has learned a damn thing from the City Auditor’s absolutely devastating report of the city’s refusal to correct how it keeps ending up in real estate doo-doo.

The title of this article is a riff on the old saying, “when you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME.”

But if Gloria gets the City Council and City Attorney to agree to spend almost $113 million total for a deal based on flop sweat assumptions that SANDAG and the state will play along with his Rube Goldberg real estate swap, then you and me are asses if we ever vote for anyone who approves it.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles June 27, 2022 at 11:09 am

The “deal” will probably go thru. Then watch what happens. The jockeying of the property as Mat has described: state, county, developers, SANDAG, etc. etc. will truly go after this. One thing it won’t be? Any “affordable housing”. It will be government palaces for the same folks I bet.


Mat Wahlstrom June 27, 2022 at 11:45 am

Let’s just say it’d be a surprising show of backbone if it doesn’t go through. We can only hope for the sake of whatever is left of civic trust that it’s so.


Mat Wahlstrom June 27, 2022 at 12:00 pm

And just like that, the item was pulled from the agenda and sent back to staff. Seems there are cold feet aplenty.


Frank Gormlie June 27, 2022 at 12:19 pm

Are you saying what I think you’re saying? There is no “special meeting”?


Mat Wahlstrom June 27, 2022 at 12:30 pm

The special meeting went on as planned, it’s just that the item on the agenda that made it “special” was pulled, leaving three other mostly housekeeping items.


DENISE LARSON June 27, 2022 at 1:33 pm

Heard from some higher ups at the county there will be criminal charges…

don’t forget the building department just shut down a whole month too, that is a huge loss for those of us in construction/architecture.


Geoff Page June 27, 2022 at 2:00 pm

What building department are you referring to?


Denise Larson June 27, 2022 at 2:20 pm

Development Services Department had a short stint in the defunct building. They left under emergency and left behind a ton of plans, mid-processed. We couldn’t get building permits for a month.


laplayaheritage June 28, 2022 at 12:43 am

Great article. Great writing style.


Mat Wahlstrom June 28, 2022 at 7:55 am

I really appreciate that, Katheryn. Thank you!


Christy June 28, 2022 at 6:22 am

Further, the City has no plans for Ash, and no funds to do the work in the building to make it habitable (Fire/Life Safety, HVAC, Elevators, etc.) In addition, CCP has major deferred maintenance needed (The $4.9M elevator modernization is stalled out, and the contract price was $3M, with Public Works oversight charging over $1M for their services). Not only that, the departments in CCP aren’t even paying market rent, they are being charged based on the monthly lease payment, with no annual OPEX reconciliations, and there isn’t anyone in the Real Estate Department that has the skill and experience to handle that task.


Mat Wahlstrom June 28, 2022 at 8:22 am

Yep. And the U-T yesterday noted the ‘deal’ proposes $46M for CCP when it was appraised for $45M in 2015 — not including the costs you detail.

Also the chutzpah of Elo-Rivera saying the public should use the extra month to “dive into the Independent Budget Analyst’s consultant review as they seek to weigh the pros and cons of the proposed settlement.” It’s the same damn consultant IBA used to review 101 Ash back in 2016!

They couldn’t be more insulting of our intelligence.


Christy June 28, 2022 at 10:32 am

City Council members are spoon fed information from the Mayor’s office and department staff. There have been situations where department staff weren’t allowed to take calls from certain past council members, so how can they really do their job effectively?

Why aren’t the council members asking Dept of Finance about these funds?


Frank Gormlie June 28, 2022 at 10:07 am

To those readers who’ve been following this story, you heard it first yesterday from Mat about Gloria’s postponement of the city council vote on the settlement.


La Lola June 29, 2022 at 1:14 pm

Best description of the deal, courtesy of La Prensa SD:
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria finally fessed up this week to having negotiated a backroom settlement deal to bail out his developer bros (and to end pesky legal cases that were uncovering all of the misdeeds of both his and his predecessor’s administrations) by doubling down and paying over $84 million for a building that requires visitors to wear life-saving hazmat suits in order to enter.

But, that’s not even the worst part.


Mat Wahlstrom June 29, 2022 at 5:14 pm

La Prensa San Diego has been doing absolutely fantastic work — especially on this topic. I highly recommend everyone check them out,


Frank Gormlie July 1, 2022 at 10:21 am

Thanks Mat, I reposted the first part of it this morning.


Mat Wahlstrom July 26, 2022 at 5:27 pm

And right on cue, the council voted 6-3 to approve. The only members with any integrity on this were Vivian Moreno, Monica Montgomery-Steppe, and Marni Von Wilpert.

Wonder if Elo-Rivera got extra campaign contribution pledges for having outside attorney Semerdjian answer questions during councilmember discussion, rather than our sworn to protect San Diegans elected attorney?

Now it remains to be seen if Mara Elliott will have the courage of her convictions and refuse to sign this fraudulent agreement. Because if we needed any more evidence of how crooked this deal is, look no further than this provision: “Beginning on Aug. 9, the city will be hit with $7,000 a day in late fees for 101 Ash, and more than $4,300 a day for Civic Center Plaza, each day that it does not consummate the deal.”


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