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San Diego city councilman David Alvarez has been advised by the city's ethics commission he may not be able to participate in decisions regarding the so-called Dells Imperial project of the city's Southeastern Economic Development Corporation, because he owns a house there.

In an April 13 letter to Alvarez, Stephen Ross, program manager of the commission's technical assistance division wrote "For a number of years, SEDC has been evaluating Dells Imperial in connection with its potential designation as a redevelopment project area.

"The ultimate decision regarding whether or not to create this redevelopment project area will necessarily involve the Redevelopment Agency, and accordingly you have asked for guidance given the fact that you own real property in the area that will be the subject to the decision."

"Your ownership interest in your Dells Imperial residence exceeds $2,000. Thus, you are generally precluded from participating in or influencing any particular municipal decision if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect on your real property investment."

However, there may be a way out: Wrote Ross: "…if the facts establish that the decision will affect your property interests in substantially the same manner as it will affect the 'significant segment' (10 percent or more of the residential property owners in your district), then the 'public generally' exception to the conflict of interest laws will apply, and you may lawfully participate in the decision to create the Dells Imperial redevelopment project area."

The letter is here:

http://www.sandiego.gov/ethics/pdf/fa11_01.pdf

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