Will Avalanche of Questions Stall Gloria’s Steamrolling of Midway Rising?

by on September 12, 2022 · 15 comments

in Ocean Beach

The question now is whether the avalanche of questions being raised will stall Mayor Gloria’s steamrolling of Midway Rising for council approval?

Over the weekend, the San Diego Union-Tribune joined a chorus of media and other voices in raising tantalizing questions and revelations about the redevelopment team led by Brad Termini  of Zephry Partners. For starters, reporter Jeff McDonald repeated the main claim (originally made by La Prensa and echoed by the OB Rag):

Before being selected to build a new sports arena and thousands of housing units in the Midway District, a developer and his wife made the two single largest personal donations to a political committee dedicated to electing Todd Gloria mayor of San Diego, records show.

Brad Termini and his wife, Stefanie, each contributed $50,000 to San Diegans from Every Community in Support of Todd Gloria for Mayor 2020, an independent expenditure committee sponsored by the Laborers International Union of North America, Local 89.

They also together gave at least $4,500 directly to Gloria’s mayoral campaign.

So, San Diego’s mothership of newspapers has now joined La Prensa and CBS 8 in continuing to question whether Midway Rising is the proper choice to lead the Sports Arena area development.

Here are some of the allegations, claims, and facts against developer Termini and Midway Rising, raised in Saturday’s U-T article:

  • Terminis’ political contributions were made in 2019 and 2020, months before Termini’s company, Zephyr Partners LLC, began preparing its bid;
  • Termini, an Encinitas businessman, is one of the biggest marijuana entrepreneurs in western New York and has been sued more than a dozen times for breach of contract and other claims;
  • He is the subject of a tax lien that has since been settled, and at least one persisting civil judgment.
  • In its disclosure to the city consultant, Termini’s firm acknowledged a prior “partnership dispute” but did not identify the case. According to San Diego Superior Court records, Termini and Zephyr Partners have been sued more than a dozen times.
  • Opponents of the mayor’s decision say the city did not perform adequate background checks on Termini and his company;
  • Plus they say Gloria was improperly influenced by the campaign donations and rushed the process;
  • Public confidence in the city’s real estate dealmaking has been marred by the several recent missteps, most notably the acquisition of the 101 Ash St. office tower.
  • Termini‘s company was selected as a partner even though it has never built a project as large and complex as Midway Rising; it has built smaller housing projects of a few hundred units;
  • the company has a history of selling its development rights to other builders once entitlements have been secured from local planning officials;
  • employees in the city’s real estate department say they have been sidelined in the sports arena redevelopment effort, and that the internal analysis had been dictated entirely by director Penny Maus and her top assistant, Lucy Contreras, who recommended Midway Rising to the city land use committee;
  • partners in the team, Chelsea and Legendsm disclosed past litigation in their filings but Zephyr Partners appears to have omitted some civil complaints filed against the firm;

The U-T quoted one city employee who wished to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation:

“Seems incredible to me that they haven’t done much background searching on the successful bidder. That is a huge red flag. And where is that due diligence?”

During the public comment period at the most recent city Land Use and Housing committee, speakers opposed the choice and complained that the process was rushed and lacked sufficient due diligence. Lori Saldaña stated:

”This is looking more and more like slot-machine development. You put $100,000 in, and you get millions back in development deals. San Diego is better than that.”

The committee voted unanimously to push the Midway Rising proposal to the full Council, which will meet on it Tuesday, September 13. If approved, the city would begin exclusive negotiations with the group to work out a detailed development plan for the next two years. Any agreement reached by the parties would return to the council for a follow-up approval.

If city officials move forward with Midway Rising, the parties would then negotiate a long-term ground lease for the 48 acres that would return to the council for consideration next year or in 2024.

Yet, so many questions have been raised — even a U-T editorial advising a slower process — that the city council will be well advised to carefully move through the next steps of the process.

Gloria obviously wants this — the redevelopment of the sports arena area — to be part of his legacy as mayor, but if the councilmembers don’t stumble in their stampede to rubber stamp his choice, then it will be part of their legacy too.

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

FrankF September 13, 2022 at 8:33 am

It’s a shame when a mayor with so much promise publicly implodes into a steaming caldron of play-to-play.

Even though the Sports Arena developer put $100,000 into a labor union PAC to elect the mayor to avoid donation limits, the mayor’s staff could have easily done the research via public sources and vetted this guy.

And if they did vet this guy and the mayor went ahead and backed this guy’s proposal, shame on him for being greedy and dare I say, crooked.

We expected so much more from Todd Gloria. Now he’s shown himself to be just another shady politician.

Editor Dude, why don’t you run for mayor??


kh September 13, 2022 at 9:59 am

This is Item S510, and is scheduled for 2nd on the 2pm agenda today.


To join by telephone: Dial 1-669-254 5252 +
When prompted, input Webinar ID: 161 170 3951


Frank Gormlie September 13, 2022 at 10:28 am

Thanks kh, it’s also in Mat’s post from today.


Don Wood September 13, 2022 at 11:24 am

As this article notes “the company has a history of selling its development rights to other builders once entitlements have been secured from local planning officials”. This is one of the biggest developer money making activities in San Diego. Buy up land, bribe crooked city hall politicians and planners to upzone the property, then sell the land, then worth many times your original cost, to other developers to build on. Companies and law firms who practice this scheme make millions without building anything. Just get their property upzoned, then sell it off for huge profits. It’s interesting that no local media outlets like the UT have never done investigative journalism on this local business. Maybe because the UT and other news outlets make a lot of their profits selling ads in their weekly real estate sections.


Mat Wahlstrom September 13, 2022 at 12:17 pm

Exactly, Don. Which is why rushing to give Zephyr the exclusive rights over this land is even more corrupt. Zephyr-owned subsidiary ‘Broadway Block Owner LLC’ was originally entitled to develop the parcel that — surprise! — was actually built by Bosa and Greystar, making what could have been affordable housing into a luxury project by adding costs without adding value, https://www.diegabybosa.com/


sandiegomateo September 14, 2022 at 6:55 am

The San Diego Union Tribune circulation is just north of 70,000 in a county of 3.4 million. Their last Pulitzer prize nomination came 16 years and 4 owners ago. The Union-Tribune is useless, nothing more than just worthless propaganda meant to prop up and distract the citizenry with Trumpsterfuge in order to run interference for the most corrupted and embarrassing City government in California.


Kathryn Burton September 13, 2022 at 11:55 am

Don Wood. Your comment is spot on. That is done all the time and is a total racket.


zonjon September 13, 2022 at 6:39 pm

How the heck is this allowed to go forward? Where’s the outrage?

Why does San Diego always go with the cheapest/lamest choices instead of dreaming bigger?

For instance why even rebuild a new sports arena at that location to begin with? Just because the old one is there? Look at Seattle where the sports arena and two sport stadiums are all located within downtown.

Why not do a mix of residential / local university / industry development there, and build a new sports arena downtown?

Also what’s up with 16,000 seats?

Feels LAME, typical San Diego…


Frank Gormlie September 13, 2022 at 8:02 pm

City council voted 7 to 1 in favor of Midway Rising.


sandiegomateo September 14, 2022 at 7:09 am

City Council blacked out City TV broadcast of yesterdays City Council meeting on all cable television. According to Spectrum Cable, the largest Cable TV provider in metropolitan San Diego, the City TV Channel abruptly stopped broadcasting shortly before the 10am City Council meeting broadcast on 9/13/2022 without notice and without any notification of “technical difficulties”. Despite notifying the City Clerks Office, the Mayors Office, Council Presidents office the City Attorney Office and the offices of the City Council members PRIOR to the 10am gavel. ALL City officials were fully aware and by rule should have postponed or rescheduled the proceedings.


Frank Gormlie September 14, 2022 at 8:49 am

The meeting was available on zoom. There was a link to it in a comment at one of the posts.


Vern September 13, 2022 at 8:04 pm

San Diego – always & forever, “Enron By The Sea”.


kh September 14, 2022 at 12:25 am

In an alternate universe:

“To avoid any possible impropriety relating to significant direct and indirect donations to my mayoral campaign from one of the applicants, I will refrain from making a recommendation and will rely on our esteemed city council to determine the strongest plan for the redevelopment of the Sports Arena property.”

-Todd Gloria

I mean come on, can you at least pretend it’s above board. It’s so flagrant it’s insulting.


Mat Wahlstrom September 14, 2022 at 8:24 am

Performative bullsh!t. Zephyr’s lobbyists held fundraisers for *all* of them, and Todd knows it.


Frank Gormlie September 14, 2022 at 12:04 pm

He really said this?? OMG!


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