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— Despite the reputedly hot market in downtown condos, sales of those pricey units atop the Omni Hotel next to the new downtown baseball stadium are coming in at a trickle. As of early this week, according to county records, just eight condos have closed escrow, and at least three of those have been sold to parties having close attachments to developer John Moores, the Padres owner, University of California regent, and corporate-fraud case defendant. The most famous buyer is arguably Padres player Ryan Klesko, who plopped down about $2 million for some well-appointed digs on the 29th floor of what is called The Metropolitan, which occupies the 11 exclusive floors just above the 21-story Omni. Next comes the Copley Press, holding company for the Union-Tribune, which campaigned hard for the big taxpayer subsidies that made the project possible and heavily touted the project last August in a lengthy piece by writer Roger Showley, who reported, "The Metropolitan has required no advertising to sell homes.... So far, 22 homes have been sold and 11 remain." In reality, the first sale didn't record until mid-April of this year, and one of the buyers heralded in Showley's story has thus far failed to close his deal. The Copley Press paid about $3.1 million for two units on the 26th floor, plus four parking spaces in the basement parking garage. Then there was La Jolla's Wayne Green, who picked up a 23rd-floor condo for about $2.1 million, along with Coronado lawyer Daniel Boatwright (unit 2803 for about $1.9 million) and downtown patent lawyer Stephen Beuerle (unit 2301 for about $1.2 million). Sarah Yee Jung purchased two units on May 7, records say. Klesko has previous experience buying and selling luxury property. Back in August 2000, the ballplayer purchased a $1 million bluff-top house in Cardiff from baseball fan and strip-club owner Michael Galardi, who has since pled guilty to federal charges that he paid three members of the San Diego City Council to water down the city's dirty-dancing laws. Klesko sold the house about a year later ... Neighbors are beginning to complain again about those huge billboards for the Union-Tribune looming over the parking lot at Qualcomm Stadium. Back in March 2000, the City of San Diego, which owns the place, agreed to give away the signage rights on the back of the stadium's "Tri-Vision" scoreboards to the Padres and the Chargers for free. As long as the Padres remained in the stadium, that team got 62.5 percent of the rental income and the Chargers got the remaining 37.5 percent. Now that the Padres have gone on to greener pastures downtown, the Chargers will collect all the money. City officials didn't even bother to ask how much the sign rental might be worth, and the contract doesn't require the Chargers to disclose what the Union-Tribune is paying the team for the advertising space. The paper itself has never told its readers about the hush-hush arrangement.

Money-saving cancellations According to the latest report from the newspaper industry's Audit Bureau of Circulations, some crucial numbers are sliding at the Union-Tribune. According to a report last week in Editor & Publisher, circulation for Monday- Wednesday "experienced a steep decline of 18,070 copies," from 346,387 down to 328,317. Sunday sales reportedly fell .08 percent to 444,527. U-T circulation manager Bill Nagel was paraphrased by E&P's website as saying, "Many customers are choosing to subscribe in the later part of the week [saving themselves some money] because that's when the paper has the most features and advertising." Nagel was also quoted as saying, "I think we will continue to follow what the customer wants, and we will continue to offer more choices. I would say right now, we are focused on the later part of the week, and I wouldn't say we are overly alarmed." Thursday through Saturday copies did increase by 2500, E&P noted, though, overall, Monday through Saturday circulation was reportedly down 2.1 percent compared to 2003. By contrast, the North County Times grew by .56 percent in the Monday-Saturday period, to 94,360, while Sunday numbers rose .81 percent to 96,368. "I think this is the result of steady improvement in the quality of our news report," the paper quoted publisher Dick High as bragging. Another big winner was the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which added 1.97 percent to its Monday-Saturday circulation (191,802) and posted a .27 percent gain on Sunday, to 191,290. Despite a strong local economy, daily circulation at the Union-Tribune has been falling for years. A decade ago, in May 1994, daily circulation was reported by the Audit Bureau as 372,983, which represented a loss of 17,348 from the previous year. Fourteen years ago, in 1990, the year before its merge with the Evening Tribune, which didn't publish a Sunday edition, the Union's Sunday paper boasted a circulation of 443,788, just under the 2004 numbers despite years of regional population growth. Monday through Saturday results at another Copley paper, the Torrance Daily Breeze, also fell this year, from 73,940 to 70,347, E&P said.

-- Matt Potter

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