San Diego Now that the name of ex-schools superintendent Alan Bersin is being bandied for a possible challenge to City Attorney Mike Aguirre's reelection bid, many eyes are turning to his personal financial statement, on file with the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority, where he is chairman of the board. Married to superior court judge Lisa Foster, daughter of the late downtown property magnate and garment industry executive Stan Foster, Bersin lists an impressive inventory of real estate assets, many of which could raise conflict-of-interest issues should he manage to beat Aguirre.
Among the problematic properties, as reported last week on Don Bauder's blog, is an office building valued at more than $1 million on the east side of Montgomery Field, scene of the big fight over the height of the Sunroad office tower on the west side of the airport.
In addition, Bersin's statement includes a long roster of condo property downtown, where his wife's family accumulated many acres of land during the time they operated the Ratner family clothing factory in what is now known as East Village (Lisa's mother Pauline is a Ratner). As reported in Bersin's disclosure, Lisa Foster owns a 22 percent member interest in the Foster-Downtown Group, LLC, which in turn owns 70 percent of OMF, LLC, which itself owns 100 percent of seven downtown real estate development entities, valued in the multimillions of dollars. The land lies within the downtown redevelopment area, governed by the City's Centre City Redevelopment Corporation in the name of the city council, which in turn acts as the city's redevelopment agency; the council's lawyer is the city attorney.
Bersin has long been a big booster of downtown redevelopment, which has helped to greatly increase the value of his wife's property interests. In July 1998, the then-city schools chief, a Democrat, appeared with GOP columnist George Will, a big baseball fan and onetime boardmember of the Padres, to advocate taxpayer subsidies of the new downtown baseball stadium then being promoted by the team's owner, John Moores and his JMI Realty. Bersin's presence was designed to reassure taxpayers that there was enough public money for both public education as well as $350 million to subsidize the ballpark. He did not disclose his wife's family ownership position. "One hundred and forty thousand students say San Diego can have renovated and rebuilt schools and a new ballpark," Bersin was quoted by the Union-Tribune as saying at the event, organized by George Mitrovich, a local political operative who worked for Moores. "We can have schools worthy of our children and a ballpark worthy of our children and our city."
In more than a bit of irony, the Moores stadium subsidy campaign was cochaired by none other than Bersin's fellow Democrat Mike Aguirre, who at the time was accused of seeing Moores -- a big giver to Democrats like ex-Governor Gray Davis -- as a future backer of his nascent political career.