The 18 feet of city-owned parkland that the San Diego City Council gave to developer Sunroad Centrum isn't free after all.
On August 1, San Diego Superior Court judge Timothy Taylor issued a temporary restraining order, preventing the developer from obtaining a certificate of occupancy. That, of course, is in addition to legal fees.
Sunroad is in a legal fight to keep the land the city council gave it. If they lose the case, the developer will most likely be forced to pay a large amount of cash to address the fire hazards and other environmental impacts caused by reducing the easements.
Looking for an advantage, after April of this year, Sunroad hired new in-house counsel, an expert on the case, former deputy city attorney Andrea Contreras. Before moving on to Sunroad, Contreras represented the city in defending its role in the parkland giveaway.
The lawsuit, filed late last year, stems from Sunroad's attempt to boost profits on its Kearny Mesa development by asking the city council to give away two nine-foot easements. Emails obtained by the Reader revealed the developer would lose $8,600 a month in revenue without the extra land. But it was the method the developer used in getting those easements that got them and then-mayor Bob Filner in trouble. Disagreeing with the city council's decision, Filner vetoed the giveaway. Following the veto, Sunroad executive Tom Story got to work, agreeing to donate $100,000 to two of Filner's pet projects, a bicycle advocacy program and a veterans’ memorial plaza in Ocean Beach.
City attorney Jan Goldsmith and city councilmember Scott Sherman soon questioned the donation. After several media reports, Filner was forced to return the donation. In the end, Sunroad took the easements free and clear...that is, until the lawsuit filed by attorney Cory Briggs on behalf of CREED 21.
Before taking the Sunroad job, Contreras admitted to misquoting case law and citing an unpublished court ruling in a legal brief for an unrelated case, a violation of the California Rules of Court.
"The error was due to negligence on my part and at no time did I have any intention whatsoever to mislead the court," read a February 3 declaration. "I misquoted a case in the opening brief by including some words in the quote that did not appear…. This error was also due to my negligence."
Briggs is now asking the court to impose sanctions on Contreras. The court has not yet ruled on the request.
At a hearing scheduled for August 22, Judge Taylor will decide whether or not to keep the restraining order imposed until the conclusion of the case.