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Today, a state appeals judge ruled that the City "improperly inflated" the voting in order to create the Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District back in August 2007. The court ruled the district "invalid."

Golden Hill's MAD has been a messy issue ever since it was formed. Some residents felt the City was charging an added assessment for general benefits while others felt the residents should have more say as to which projects should be funded.

In August 2007, some of those opposed to the MAD filed a lawsuit, accusing the City of overweighing the open-space vote. The lawsuit also claimed that the assessment did not separate general benefits from special benefits and that the City failed to roll over funds from the 2007/2008 assessment.

According to court documents, the City dismissed the claim that they improperly weighed the open-space vote, saying it "carried a substantial portion of the assessment burden, paying approximately $35,000 or more per year of the estimated $488,890 budget annually since its inception."

In the ruling, the judge dismissed the City's dismissal. "A local agency could view $35,000 in special assessment charges as a small price to pay to shift over $400,000 in costs for improvements and services that would otherwise have to be paid from its general revenues to the property owners in a special assessment district."

And because the vote was errant, the district is considered invalid.

I am waiting to hear back from the City Attorney's office.

Map from Wikipedia

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Comments

_Spark_ Sept. 22, 2011 @ 4:19 p.m.

Does this mean the assessment tax will be refunded to property owners?

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litalu July 30, 2012 @ 11:46 a.m.

Do you know if we need to file a claim, and with with whom, in order to receive our refund on the assessment tax?

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Jane Belanger July 30, 2012 @ 11:52 a.m.

Grant's Marketplace on Beech Street has instructions posted in their front window on how to file for a refund.

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nostalgic Sept. 22, 2011 @ 8:26 p.m.

The City of San Diego has its problems with the courts. The city has what seems to be limitless resources to small neighborhood groups. With jobs, families, and bills, the effort to fight city hall seems overwhelming. Congratulations to all who stuck with it - since 2007, and never wavered.

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 22, 2011 @ 9:39 p.m.

The assessed Golden Hill and South Park property owners have watched for 4 years as the City allowed the "nonprofit" (actually, bankrupt) boardmembers of the Greater Golden Hill Economic Development Corporation to steal and waste almost $500,000/year, taken from local property owners of one of the poorest areas of San Diego.

Everything, from T-shirts to toilet seats to cell phones to fast-food lunches to Ace Parking charges to minimum payments on a revolving charge account at Office Depot, have been paid for by assessed property owners, to the benefit of only a few GGH Economic Development Corp Boardmembers and their business community cronies.

The City, willfully blind, exercised zero oversight over the greedy, over-reaching people involved in "managing" this assessment district fund. The City did not care, no matter how badly the actual assessment laws, and the spirit of those laws, were violated.

The group of folks who scraped enough money together to file a lawsuit over what was blatantly dishonest from the very beginning were dismissed, disrespected, ridiculed, thwarted, and humiliated at every turn. Particularly insulting and dismissive were Councilmembers Hueso, Atkins, Gloria, and Peters and their staffers, and Bill Anderson's staff at City Planning's Economic Development division (Scott Kessler, Beth Murray, Luis Ojeda), and several Deputy City Attorneys.

Here is the appellate ruling: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D057004.PDF

The City will not be doing this again. If property owners want an assessment district to pay for something specific, the City will have to proceed honestly! Since honesty and transparency are not the current San Diego government's style, don't hold your breath.

Shame on all of you who participated in this fraud. Shame. Go find something real to do with your lives.

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InOmbra Sept. 23, 2011 @ 11:58 a.m.

One thing the assessment money paid for was the electricity for the Grape Street clock.

Submit your guesses now on what time this out-of-place, useless, New England 18th-Century village-style clock will stop again, once the monthly electric bill is no longer paid.

The last time the Golden Hill Development Corporation stopped paying the $15-$20 per month electric bill for their clock, it sat at 2:30 for about 10 years.

I'm betting it'll stop at 4:04 (I like the 404 Not Found error message!!).

The Golden Hill Development Corporation installed the Grape Street clock in 1991, promising the city that it would take care of the "improvement" forever through voluntary contributions "from area residents and businesses. The fund will be administered by the new Golden Hill Community Development Corporation." [City Council minutes, May 13, 1991]

After a year or two, it evidently was too burdensome to get voluntary contributions [yeah, right, a "fund"; the GH Development Corporation loves to administer other people's money, but can't even handle their own finances], so the clock stood there, not running, a monument to silliness. Only a totally inept group would find it too hard to get voluntary contributions of a few bucks a month.

Enough said.

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nostalgic Sept. 23, 2011 @ 5:06 p.m.

Property tax bills are out. What? The city is ignoring a Court Ruling? Probably no comment from our city council members. After all, it's a court case, so they can't talk about it.

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TrueJustice Sept. 23, 2011 @ 10:05 p.m.

Only the City of San Diego would try to impose a transparently illegal MAD on Golden Hill/South Park, a community full of lawyers. Of course this is the same City Attorney who is suing the civil engineer for negligently forming Maintenance Assessment Districts (see City of San Diego v. SCI Consulting Group) and simultaneously representing to the Appellate Court that the same engineer's work is just fine. "We couldn't have won without their help."

Wonder how much money the City squandered on this pointless fiasco?

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 24, 2011 @ 12:20 p.m.

Yes, there are attorneys in the area. They are of a variety of backgrounds, and either live here in their own homes, or live elsewhere and have their practice in leased low-cost office space here, or live elsewhere but own investment properties here.

Some are retired, some practice real-estate-related or redevelopment law, and some practice progressive social or environmental justice law.

SOHO and the SD Unified School District boardmembers have a presence here, too; some are attorneys, but none of them cared enough about civic honesty to join the fight against the City's and the GH Corporation's corruption. Some of them profited from their association with the City and the Corporation. SDUSD's Scott Barnett directly profited: at the time, as the face of the "Taxpayers' Advocate," he was paid by the GH Corporation in 2007 to produce the most incredibly ironic and fraudulent pro-MAD mailer, urging taxpayers to tax themselves. It was a big, full-color, two-sided, bullet-pointed joke, complete with a large photo of Barnett's face. Shame.

The retired attorney who did all of the GHNA case research was a long-time local resident. He volunteered many hours of his time after retirement to help with environmental protection of Golden Hill. He did a fantastic amount of work on the GHNA case, despite failing health, and he never gave up.

Not one of the practicing local resident attorneys or social activists stepped up to the bat to help GHNA out. In fact, several of them were or are boardmembers of the Golden Hill Development Corporation and stood to benefit from application of the assessment funds to their sideline projects (you know who you are).

The GH Corporation also solicited, supported, and courted Felipe Hueso during his run for Council, blatantly hoping to continue benefiting from the Hueso fraudulent support at Council level. The Corporation was very unhappy with the Alvarez win.

Another of the Hueso brothers lives here and voted against the MAD, one of the more amusing and weird things that occurred.

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ghillguy Sept. 25, 2011 @ 8:11 a.m.

I've been urging Councilman Gloria to disand this illegal MAD since before he was even in office. I urge everyone to call or email him, since he is passing this off as a few people for, a few against the district. I reminded him last week the city got a disproportionate YES vote to form it, which they said they wouldn't do, then denied. And it's double taxation, because our property taxes didn't go down, so now we pay twice for many city services that we used to just pay for in our property taxes. The city will likely fight another court loss, since if this district goes away, others are likely to follow suit (so to speak). I told him the city has limitless resources for losing legal battles (like the SR 905 project in the early '90s which took a large landowner's land, barely compensated him, and ended up costing the city $90 million in the end). They have no problem spending $200 million and counting for a new library no one wants or needs, either (remember when it was originally $85 million?). I have an HOA in my new neighborhood which charges $40--A YEAR--to do tree trimming, pool maintenance, all sorts of things. If Gloria understands it's political suicide to keep supporting this MAD, maybe he'll change his tune. Keep up the pressure on him!

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concerned Sept. 25, 2011 @ 8:15 a.m.

I was gratified to read the court's ruling. For years, since before the vote when the City and the Greater Golden Hill Development Corporation advertised and supported the formation of the Maintenance District, my neighbors and I in South Park saw its illegality. With the City lacking the funds to repair such basic general services as infrastructure, I hope there is no intention to waste good money on yet another useless appeal. The people have spoken through the courts.......twice.

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himichael Sept. 25, 2011 @ 8:34 a.m.

I tried corresponding with Gloria on this topic. He was dismissive at best. This MAD was rotten since before day one. The very survey they used to get it on the ballot was misleading to the point of fraud. I'm a Harvard-trained lawyer, and it took me some close reading before I realized that it was a tax increase, as opposed to merely rainbows, butterflies, and unicorns.

Think about this: a tax levy that is very small and very local was still enough money to provoke greed, dishonesty, waste, and litigation. Just image what happens when billions are involved. Leviathan indeed. -michael christian

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 25, 2011 @ 11:59 a.m.

Atkins' office was contacted about the MAD in 2007; staffer Hill handled the questions when neighbors first heard rumors about forming the pending assessment district. Hill pretended to know nothing about the GH MAD formation, about MADs in general, or about laws on their formation. That wasn't true, which Hill later admitted.

Doing research, neighbors found that District 3 already had some business-association-run MADs, and that Atkins (later, Gloria) were boosters of this City Planning/Economic Development scheme to fund business associations. They loved the idea of giving property taxes to their friends in the Adams Ave, College Heights, Hillcrest, and City Heights business groups.

Not surprisingly, Ben Hueso started the first commercially oriented MAD (Central Commercial MAD), giving property assessments to Hueso's business friends to use; this was in D8 in Logan Heights in 2000. It's not a coincidence that Hueso soon landed a job in Economic Development (years before being elected to Council). That pattern repeated in 2006, when the new Economic Development deputy director, Kessler, was hired. He had been a boardmember and President of the GH Development Corporation and had tried but failed previously to form the GH MAD in 2000. [cont]....

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madhatter Sept. 25, 2011 @ 9:03 a.m.

Since the first meeting in 2007, my husband and I remember very well how the soon to be "board-members" of the Greater Golden Hill Development Co. stalled all discussions regarding the legality of this imposed MAD. Of course, they were more than helped s by Councilmember Hueso (Ms Atkins conveniently had other things to do, so she didn't show up). Though it's not the correct word, we are very happy that it has been a LEGAL stop to the uncountability and the non-services and waste of money provided by the GG Development Co. Yes, it's time for all these "boardmembers" to look (seriously) for a real job instead of taking advantage of all of us, property owners. And hey! Democracy is one person one vote, no?

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 25, 2011 @ 12:03 p.m.

[cont]...

The insufficiently supportive petition responses presented in 2007 were almost identical in number and percentage positive responses to the ones in 2000! Figure the odds of that, given the demographic changes in the Greater Golden Hill area over 6 years!!!

A preserved 2000 petition shows it is slightly different in only one regard: it has Marco Li Mandri's name (and his company's name, "New City America") on the bottom. Li Mandri was paid to create and promote the 2000 MAD petition and effort. He and Kessler were amigos in the Adams Avenue business community, before they became enemies.

The point of Atkins' staffer pretending MAD ignorance was to keep public information to a minimum. The U-T wouldn't touch the story about the pending district formation, nor would VoSD or CityBeat. There was a total shutdown on reporting what was happening, except for The Reader. Oh, there was one timely pro-MAD "opinion" piece in the U-T on June 14, 2007: it was about what a wonderful paradise Logan Heights had become since 2000, thanks to Hueso's creation, the Central Commercial assessment district. Previously, the U-T had only mentioned Hueso when they were calling him a slumlord. Right after the laudatory opinion piece, Hueso orchestrated a shouting mob against Aguirre. Get it?

One note on the assessment formation petitions: by law, a minimum of 30% of all community property owners must express positive support for proceeding with assessment district formation. The best Kessler and the GH Corporation ever claimed (and not allowing public examination of the petitions to validate the truth of their claim) was ~15% overall response to the petitions; only a percentage of that was positive, so that at best, there was only ~7% overall positive response. A few GH Corporation members and their PR hire showed up only once at the GH Planning Committee in 2007, presenting their wish to form a MAD but admitting they needed 30% overall response and didn't have it. They never came back to the Committee, but just proceeded with formation anyway, thanks to Kessler's ability as a City employee to put the paperwork through to Council. At the first Council session seeking approval to proceed with formation, the GH Corporation members obfuscated the petition results, claiming they had over 75% approval. What they were reporting (and that was never validated) was the supposedly positive percentage of the ~15% of returned petitions. Community members objected to these false data; the Council ignored the community.

Phony from beginning to end.

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nostalgic Sept. 25, 2011 @ 5:35 p.m.

Just so you know exactly what the Court said: " We conclude that the Association's challenge to the vote establishing the District is meritorious and that the trial court correctly ruled that the required engineer's report supporting the District assessments failed to adequately separate general benefits from special benefits as required by article XIII D. Accordingly, we direct the issuance of a writ of mandate vacating the resolution establishing the District and invalidating the assessments levied by the District."

Cut and pasted out of the ruling. Some people may not find this to be clear.

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 25, 2011 @ 7:11 p.m.

In the Appellate Court opinion, what is definitely clear, quoted verbatim:

..."mandamus proceeding by property owners [Golden Hill Neighborhood Association] challenging as constitutionally flawed the formation of an assessment district and subsequent levy of an assessment on the real property in the district... The City appears to interpret the judgment in favor of the Association on the mandamus cause of action of the 2007 complaint as invalidating the formation of the District and not as simply invalidating the assessments imposed for fiscal year 2007-2008."

The term "mandamus" in this case means to "refrain from performing a particular act."

Thank you, City. Refrain now!!!!

Please remove the assessment from the property taxes of 3569 taxpayers. Now!! The County property tax bill is due no later than 12/12/2011, and if we are forced to pay the assessment again, we know you will NEVER reimburse us.

Do not illegally take our money again. You are suing the so-called engineering company that produced the flawed document that you relied upon to tax us. We will not sit by while you hope that you win, years from now, a suit against the company that wrote the report, which you happily employed, because we already know that you were as happy as clams with the flawed report until it was proved to be a sham.

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tiibear Sept. 26, 2011 @ 9:14 a.m.

Will saints amazingly be praised!!! Finally a shining light of justice amidst blatant San Diego municipal corruption. After the absolute travesty of the City overweighting open space votes based on land area; the ousted Scott Kessler and his band of crooks; a despondent, worthless, and unsympathetic City Council; Hueso in his pin-striped suit, Atkins, Gloria and rest of that Rat Pack; City puppeteerrs playing smoke and mirrors with taxpayer monies; and paying 60K/year to some GHMAD manager to sit around and lick stamps, the City's plan of concocting the GH MAD against the citizenry is now on the run and hopefully kaput!!

Talk about fleecing the citizens!! More like City redcoats devising a legal money laundering scheme against the colonists under the guise of purported legitimate taxation. Sorry crooks but the U.S. Constitution is alive and well thanks to an independent state appeals judge. "No taxation without representation" and "Don't tread on me" are still apparently alive and well.

And to Hal Tyvoll, may you rest in peace and thank you for your tireless crusade and legal tenacity/expertise amidst failing health. We miss you and we hope you are smiling!!

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 26, 2011 @ 6:57 p.m.

Well said! Yes, loving thought for Ty. He's smiling.

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BlueSouthPark Sept. 26, 2011 @ 7:19 p.m.

The Cost of Being Dishonest:

From signonsandiego.com (City Pays $1.9M to Settle w/Axon):

"Through July 12 [2011], the city spent $13.1 million handling claims and fighting lawsuits, compared to $13.2 million for the entire year in 2010. It spent $25.5 million on claims and lawsuits in 2009, the biggest year of the eight years analyzed."... "Donna Frye, who cast one of two votes against awarding the computer consulting contract to Axon in 2007,..."

Anyone have data on $$ wins/losses/settlements?

And Donna, you got it right more than once:

From Council minutes: On approving the resolution to form the GH MAD (R-302887) that has now been ordered dissolved:

Items 203a,b,c, July 30 2007: Approving Budget, Establishment, and the Assessment Engineer’s Report for Greater Golden Hill MAD, R-302887 Vote: District Councilpersons 12478-yea; [Frye] 6-nay; [Atkins the faint-of-heart] 3-recused; 5-not present

Donna, have you started law school yet?

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 25, 2011 @ 1:26 p.m.

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 25, 2011 @ 1:29 p.m.

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Why_Be_Dishonest Oct. 27, 2011 @ 8:18 a.m.

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mad2 Dec. 3, 2011 @ 9:01 a.m.

Congratulations to Golden Hill residents! I live in the North Orange County City of Yorba Linda. We have a similar situation here - only the Landscape Assessment was set up in 1980. Our HOA maintains all of the slopes on the public streets throughout and surrounding our community, including the major arterial streets, while we are paying into a special assessment fund that maintains the private property of others, including a large HOA across town who has been relieved of landscaping maintenance costs - including the water bill and infrastructure repairs. This is a MAD gone terriby wrong - with the few specially benefitted being subsidized with tax dollars from the whole.

I am watching your case to see if San Diego ever compensates the assessment payers. Good Luck!

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Founder Dec. 3, 2011 @ 12:04 p.m.

Lucky Golden Hill Residents!

  1. I've seen first hand how MAD's can be overtaken and shifted into "PRO" business entities that fails their original mission of doing "good" for all the area residents, not just the business district...

  2. Another factor to consider is that what these MAD's can do is written down in their "Engineers Report, a document which can have many interpretations by those in City Hall and or in the Council Office!

  3. The makeup of the MAD Board is yet another KEY issue and it is often composed of folks friendly to the Council Office which again leads to inequitable treatment of the entire area! Ideally, the Board would be composed of representatives of each sub area which would insure that each area get equal treatment...

BTW: North Park just voted to not approve an overlay MAD to increase "benefits" in a segment of the existing MAD, near 30th and University Ave.

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