San Diego City Council Approval of Ash Street Deal Just Tip of Iceberg of Kowtowing to Developers

by on July 28, 2022 · 18 comments

in San Diego

Gloria Did Make an Ash of Us All

By Mat Wahlstrom

In a city where corruption is standard operating procedure, the agreement approved Tuesday by the City Council on 101 Ash Street stood out as the most blatant screwing of taxpayers in living memory.

While in comparison the Chargers ticket guarantee and the pension fiasco were done in relative secret with the consequences only apparent later, our electeds proceeded in broad daylight under howls of protest to put their own interests above those of their constituents with immediate results.

Every week, new revelations indicate that, in 2016, former mayor Kevin Faulconer and former councilmember Todd Gloria conspired to overpay their property owner donors tens of millions for 101 Ash. And now that he’s mayor, Gloria is throwing more good money after bad to cover his ass.

As a reward for their part in the scandal, Cisterra Development gets paid $132 million — with money taken from parks and public projects — for property they couldn’t give away; and gets the City of San Diego to be its personal attorney on civil lawsuits for free. (Prepare yourselves now for sticker shock on that lawyer bill, as the claims by the workers remodeling 101 Ash exposed to asbestos continue to wind their way through the courts.)

In return, Cisterra promises to keep their mouth shut about how complicit Gloria was in the original deal — so long as they’re not under oath in a criminal trial.

That last part is key, because there is an ongoing criminal investigation, and this is all a desperate hope against hope that will fizzle so no one will ever know for sure just how dirty this deed was.

That this is all so obvious makes the council approving this by a 6-3 supermajority almost inexplicable. Until you realize that Southwest Strategies, Cisterra’s lobbyist, raised thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for each of them — as well as for the mayor and the city attorney.

Which makes the momentary willingness of even three councilmembers and the city attorney to buck their donors appear well-nigh heroic.

But sad to say, this is just the latest and most obvious low reached so far in our race to the bottom. And those who are courageous today are cowards the next.

On issues of land use across the board, our electeds continue to kowtow to their developer donors, agreeing to sweetheart deals and approving schemes that enrich them at the expense of residents.

They approve schemes like Complete Communities, which takes zones and codes to handle density fit to existing infrastructure and the built environment and throws those limits out the window — along with the fees needed to offset the burdens incurred.

They redefine ‘affordable housing’ and ‘naturally affordable’ to be devoid of meaning, increasing housing precarity and homelessness.

They set deliberately unattainable housing goals to pander any production as positive, and propose eliminating historic resources and protections against pollution to feed the growth machine rather than steward our future.

They pass a Climate Action Plan that actually increases greenhouse gases, both during the construction cycle to the emissions from concrete after, by endorsing unsustainable development.

They plan to absolve themselves of what little fiscal responsibility they’re held to by only bothering to approve contracts over $3 million — freeing up more taxpayer money for them to bankroll their favored lobby shops without oversight.

And this Monday, August 1, they’re set to accept Build Better SD, which will take all the fees developers have paid in the past and what little they will in the future and turn them into the mayor’s personal slush fund.

In short, although how who votes might shift now and then, there’s not a single initiative our electeds are moving forward that doesn’t renege on their duty to serve and protect our interests, but rather promotes their careers at our expense.

And the concern is that there will be nothing left to salvage should we ever find a way to undo the legalization of looting.

As Jesse ‘Big Daddy’ Unruh, the infamous Speaker of the California Assembly during the 1960s, told someone new to office who complained about his accepting lobbyists’ largesse: “If you can’t eat their food, drink their booze, $@#% their women and then vote against them, you’ve got no business being up here!”

If today’s politicians had his integrity, we’d all be better off.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Geoff Page July 28, 2022 at 2:13 pm

This was perfect, Mat, “there’s not a single initiative our electeds are moving forward that doesn’t renege on their duty to serve and protect our interests,”


Paul Krueger July 28, 2022 at 2:44 pm

Thx so much for this excellent analysis. Very much appreciate your contribution!


Mat Wahlstrom July 28, 2022 at 3:11 pm

Thank you both very much. I’ve keep trying to write about many of the these topics more in depth, but they’re so cynical at every level that I throw my hands up in despair. I have to suppose that’s also the point.


sealintheselkirks July 28, 2022 at 3:20 pm

A new addition of ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous!’ Sordid? You bet! They’re hoping this will all blow away because, you know, there’s the disgustingly dirty homeless to deal with and they’re going to rip down the 30 foot height limit and more trees out of OB/Pt. Loma and the cops will keep beating people and get away with it…the little things, eh, folks? This is Distraction as an Art Form.

Ya know something? There was a snide comment recently about how many of us commenting don’t live in OB anymore but I’m really REALLY impressed at how much San Diego politics has changed since I was delivering the Evening Tribune in 1968…NOT!

Different century, all new faces, same exact corrupt crap in my first 33 years of life as after my second 33 years of not being there. Now I’m into my third 33 years and somehow I don’t think it will ever get any better adding in the politics and corruption with the bare fact that Lake Mead is about to turn into a ‘Dead Pool’ with currently only 5 of the 19(?) electricity-producing turbines still operating and the water hitting Tier 3 which means it is about to be shut completely off to anywhere outside of Nevada. Politics mixed with lack of electricity (woe is Phoenix at 115’F) and the taps facing going dry. And Covid ramping up so much that LA today is debating mask mandates again…and Trump still hasn’t been arrested.

Welcome to 2022. The Summer of Our Discontent no doubt.



Mat Wahlstrom July 28, 2022 at 4:00 pm

You said it, seal. It’s literally everything everywhere going to hell. A month into the pandemic, I predicted this time would be called the Great Immiseration. And slowly but surely that’s what seems to be happening.


Chris July 28, 2022 at 4:33 pm

Third 33 year increment? Damn you look pretty good for 99 and you still snowboard and river surf. Anyway let’s face it. Snide comments are what make internet life interesting.


sealintheselkirks July 28, 2022 at 9:08 pm

Snide comments? ME? HA! And EVERY single local candidate on the ballot I just mailed off was a Trump-voting GOPer. At least the state candidates were much more human and worth voting for… Yep, corruption is everywhere.

Chris, I’m INTO my third 33 years not finished with them. And add in that I skate a ’78 Bahne 27″ ‘Bullet’ model warp tail with ’77 Lazer mid-truks rolling on green Sims Mini-Comps pool-riding softie wheels when I go to town. And wake surf a Hyperlite HO-Series single wing swallowtail twinfin when I can find somebody with a boat that’ll take me out with them. Which isn’t often enough at all…

Oh, and not being snide but entirely into reality…two different thermometers (one digital, one mercury) was 111.6’F w/16% humidity at 5:30 this afternoon. The Heat Dome has fallen on me up here next to Canada’s border again this summer but a month later than last year.

One does NOT go to the lake in weather like this…or skate for that matter. Books, internet reading, curtains closed, windows closed, fans going…there are time I really miss living on my home beach!



Geoff Page July 29, 2022 at 10:47 am

It’s hard to imagine it being that hot up there. Like an idiot, I took my family in an RV to Lake Mead, in August. I stood in the water with a lifeguard’s hat on and the water near my lips. And it was still not comfortable. Hang in there.


sealintheselkirks August 1, 2022 at 12:37 am

Hey Geoff, it was 112.9’F today at 5pm, 110’F yesterday, 109’F on Friday. This is insane. The heat stress on the forest in these mountains is extreme but no fires yet unlike Cali and Oregon and Idaho. My stepkids are in Siskiyou County but S/E of the huge one burning up there…

By the way I’ve never been to Lake Mead soon to be known as the Hoover Dam puddle… Why would anybody take a vacation in a freaking desert is beyond my comprehension!



Geoff Page August 1, 2022 at 10:35 am

Wow, seal, it’s hard to imagine that heat so far north like that. I hope it breaks soon.

Yea, my Lake Mead trip was nuts. I had an RV with an air conditioner, so I thought I was fine. I wanted to go there to take the Hoover Dam tour, which was definitely worthwhile. But, I had no idea about how hot it would be. It was cool in the RV, about 80 degrees. We passed a thermometer in the shade on the way down to the water. It read 119 degrees. I will never live that one down.


Geoff Page July 28, 2022 at 5:22 pm

If there was an ocean in them tar hills, seal, I’d probably beat feet too.


Geoff Page July 28, 2022 at 4:05 pm

Keep on trucking, Mat, voices are needed and are helpful.


Chris July 28, 2022 at 4:21 pm

“In a city where corruption is standard operating procedure”. Yeah it’s bad here for sure. And having family member’s who’ve worked for the city for decades they can more than confirm this. But this is hardly unique to SD. Corruption is business as normal in pretty much all big cities. Some worse than others but nowhere is completely without corruption.


Mat Wahlstrom July 28, 2022 at 8:22 pm

Not going to argue that corruption is a new problem or unique to San Diego. It’s just that — like many things given our sunshine and climate — it thrives easier than in other places.


Sam July 28, 2022 at 4:25 pm

Having worked in the real estate dept for the city, it now makes sense why Penny Maus was hired from the Port – Development. She’s done nothing to improve the department, and never will. The taxpayers will continue to get fleeced on bad real estate deals for quite some time.


Chris July 28, 2022 at 6:18 pm

Here an interesting twitter page from “YIMBY Democrats of San Diego County”


Mat Wahlstrom July 28, 2022 at 6:49 pm

“Interesting” is one word for them,


Linda July 31, 2022 at 5:43 pm

Add him to San Diego’s Wall of Shame.


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