— One of the most ostentatious houses on Del Mar's gold coast is up for sale with a hefty $50 million asking price. The 5200-square-foot mansion was custom built in 1999 along 120 feet of beachfront by local investment magnate Arthur Nicholas, cofounder of the Nicholas-Applegate investment firm. Designed by Ken Ronchetti, it features a ten-person Jacuzzi overlooking a "cozy fire pit" with "sunset views," according to the property listing, along with "health spa, theater, pool, tennis court, greenhouse and two guest houses." Worried about nasty winter storms wiping out your marine abode? "Complex sea walls, designed in conjunction with oceanographic engineers from Scripps Institute, are constructed with fiberglass, rebar and concrete in a continuous glass wall." Other amenities include "imported limestone flooring, classic oak sandstone patios and Getty stone accents." There's a "gourmet state-of-the-art kitchen," along with "disappearing glass walls, which create a tropical feel, melding the beautiful interiors with abundant landscaping." Beachgoers report that the lavish use of glass works both ways, as occupants of the house can be witnessed by public beach passers-by getting into bed on some evenings. The asking price represents a considerable jump from the current assessed value of $8,076,096. A real estate woman working for Nicholas, who owns a small part of the Boston Red Sox as well as one of downtown's biggest penthouses, said publicity about the jumbo listing, which has been widely circulated on the Internet, would cause a "security problem" and slammed down the phone when asked whether her client would give an interview.

Paper trail It's a story you might expect to see on the front page of a big daily newspaper: the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission files suit against a prominent local employer, alleging that it discriminated against a deaf worker by refusing to promote him. But in this case the employee works for the Union-Tribune. According to the government's complaint, filed this February, Gerard Mitchell was denied a promotion from the position of "packager" to that of "paperhandler/helper" in the U-T's pressroom. Three weeks ago, the commission filed a motion in which it accused U-T owner Copley Press of providing "boiler plate responses" to the government's charges. The company had previously rejected a settlement offer calling for it to pay Mitchell $75,000 in punitive damages, along with back pay, and give him the promotion. For its part, the U-T argues that Mitchell refused to discuss "the job requirements in relation to his limitations," and thus "Copley was unable to identify an effective accommodation" for him. "Mr. Mitchell cannot communicate with co-workers because he cannot hear, read lips, verbalize words, or speak with other employees," a lawyer for the company wrote. "It would have been an undue hardship on Copley to require it to retool the presses and paperhandler job equipment to accommodate a deaf employee." Mitchell rebutted the company in a deposition conducted with the aid of a sign-language interpreter, saying he had little trouble communicating: "If a person had just met me, they wouldn't be used to my speech, and I would teach them, and learn how to lip-read them....When I don't understand them and when they speak to me, I say, 'Can you please write instead.' " As part of its case, the government filed a statement by Jim Crouch, another U-T pressroom worker: "I know of one individual that is legally blind (Steve Smith). Someone reported his disability to Human Resources and he was demoted.... He was demoted from working on the color machine to the black ink machine." Crouch, who is also hearing impaired, added that an inability to orally communicate on the job "is no big deal since there are Hispanics and Vietnamese workers in the Pressroom who speak little or no English" and "most everyone wears earplugs because of the noise level caused by the presses."

Cash and carry As expected, big money has begun pouring into San Diego's mayoral and council political races, but some of it hasn't been legal. The San Diego County Apartment Association's political action committee was one of the earliest major donors, spending $4322 each on yard signs for Eighth District council candidate Ben Hueso and Second District hopeful Kevin Faulconer. According to the group's October 27 filing, members of the association, most of them landlords, gave to the PAC, including the San Diego Housing Commission, a taxpayer-funded public agency, which kicked in $878.50. Questioned by a reporter last week, a commission spokeswoman said the contribution was a bookkeeping error. The next day, the association said that a refund check was being sent to commission offices via courier.

Other contributions to San Diego pols included $4800 on October 25 from an outfit called California College Republicans, headquartered in Burbank, to San Diego's GOP Central Committee. On that day as well, San Diego Democrats picked up $2500 from Heat and Frost Insulators & Asbestos Workers in Azuza and $2580 from Commerce Printing Services in Sacramento; at the same time, the party reported spending $2580 on behalf of Lorena Gonzalez, running for the Second District seat vacated by Michael Zucchet. Not all the political money was spent in the city: San Diego's McMillin Management Services, an offshoot of developer Corky McMillin, reported giving $5000 to the Committee for Vital City Services in Tulare.

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