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The judgment is final. Now, a group of residents in Golden Hill and South Park — who have spent more than four years fighting the formation of the Greater Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District — can rest, knowing the district will be dissolved.

Yesterday, the clerk for the San Diego County Superior Court filed a decision from judge Richard Whitney that found the assessment district to be "invalid."

The Golden Hill Neighborhood Association filed the lawsuit back in August 2007. The suit claimed the city tilted the ballot results in its favor by placing more weight on open-space land. The group's lawsuit didn't stop there. The group also accused the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation of mismanaging funds.

The amount of refunds to be issued has not been determined. An attorney for the resident's group plans to file a motion soon.

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Comments

nostalgic Feb. 10, 2012 @ 8:17 a.m.

Dorian Hargrove is a reporter who always addresses real community issues. He attended many of the early, bitter Golden Hill MAD Oversight Committee meetings. The Reader, as always, is addressing concerns of the people in what is published.

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madhatter Feb. 10, 2012 @ 8:45 a.m.

KUDOS to the Golden Hill Neighborhood Association for having fought for all of us the residents of this great community. Hopefully, this time, the bullies of the Golden Hill Community Development Corporation will understand that "the judgment was final." Please pack and bon voyage. Justice has been done.

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goodlead Feb. 10, 2012 @ 8:49 a.m.

Now is the hour -- to find out whether the City of San Diego will fulfill its legal responsibility to return the wrongfully collected assessments to Golden Hill poperty owners or try to weasel out of it.

Place your bets.

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BlueSouthPark Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:22 a.m.

Thanks for notifying the community of this, Dorian. The Reader has always been the first and best source, often the ONLY source, of the actual events surrounding this long saga.

For anyone who doesn't know what this was all about, it's simple:

First, the assessment district was not a legitimate MAD, such as those involving developer-created community parks and improvements, with Park and Recreation oversight, in the newer, wealthier northern county neighborhoods. That is the reason the lower court and appellate court both deemed the Golden Hill MAD unconstitutional.

The Planning Department-created Golden Hill MAD was what the City called a "commercial MAD"; the assessments did not provide the constitutionally mandated proportional and special benefit to each of the 3500 property owners. Instead, the money collected primarily benefited local business owners, almost none of which even owned the property housing their businesses.

Second, the Golden Hill MAD was the type of public-private partnership described in Paradise Plundered, where the City Planning Department worked in secret with a select business group and empowered them to forcibly collect property owner money, to use to "improve the property owners' quality of life" in any way the business group decided.

In this case, the Economic Development division took a cut of the assessed money but always looked the other way when the business group abused their power.

The City has fallen on its own sword, thanks to the scheming of the Planning Department and its self-interested business cronies.

In 2006, the Planning Department had plans to create more of these illegitimate MADs in the poorer, inner urban areas, but the 2007 lawsuit stalled the plan. The Western Pacific Beach MAD was abandoned in 2007. Amazingly, the City has started up again: the recently failed North Park Overlay MAD was illegitimate in exactly the same way as the GH MAD. The City is lucky NP residents failed to pass the new MAD, or there would have been another lawsuit, and the City would have lost again.

One note: The Golden Hill MAD's origin goes all the way back to 2000, when a survey circulated in the neighborhood, suggesting the need for assessments to pay for private security services. That survey was created by Marco Li Mandri and Scott Kessler.

There was recent news that Li Mandri has been hired (with David Alvarez admitting the City was behind the hiring) to survey some select Barrio Logan property owners, in order to create a Barrio Logan commercial MAD, paid for by assessing property owners.

And in East village, the newly formed EV BID is discussing (probably with Li Mandri) the formation of a MAD. That is very odd, since all EV property owners already pay into the downtown PBID.

The San Diego plunderers never sleep.

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himichael Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:39 a.m.

Take it as an example of how rotten local government is. The survey that led to the vote on the MAD was misleading. The vote was illegally conducted. It was, in fact, thinly disguised fraud. The use of funds was corrupt. It's a miracle and a testament to the persistence of a few that the scumbags behind this MAD are not still rolling in our tax dollars.

-michael christian (yeah, that's my real name, and i live in golden hill.)

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ghillguy Feb. 10, 2012 @ 9:49 a.m.

I've lived in Golden Hill for 20 years, and attended the earliest meetings about the MAD. I was initially in favor of it IF the MAD assessments were offset by lower property taxes, since the city would not be providing services covered by the MAD. But no, it was double taxation. Not only that, the map shown to me at the Broadway and 24th meeting showed boundaries that clearly did not include GH Park, 28th Street Park, or the SE corner of Balboa Park down by Pershing. But the final boundaries were much different, which gave the city a huge vote. Even then, the illegally-formed district barely passed.

When Todd Gloria was running for office, I met him at the South Park street fair, and told him the MAD would be a huge issue. He promised to look into the various problems with its formation and fraudulent administration. Instead, he became its biggest fan, ignoring GH taxpayers like me, and ignoring two court orders to disband the MAD. Now I'm sure they'll drag their feet on reimbursing us for all that money we wasted on new logos for the MAD/CDC's buddies. Now that the MAD is gone, I hope someone runs against Gloria and sends him packing, too.

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Dorian Hargrove Feb. 10, 2012 @ 10:51 a.m.

Motions have not yet been filed in regards to refunds. I corrected the story. Sorry for the error.

--Dorian

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GHH Feb. 10, 2012 @ 10:54 a.m.

It's no wonder that people today don't trust our government - at any level. This MAD was simply the city fraudulently imposing additional taxes on property owners – blatantly flouting Proposition 13 - to provide services that are already covered by our property taxes. Property owners were having to pay not once, but twice, for civic services, only to have their money usurped for other things.

The MAD tax money confiscated from Golden Hill property owners was nicely serving the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation - for marketing itself, and for God knows what else, given that the organization appeared to be totally unaccountable to anyone. Cronyism? Incompetency? Corruption? All three? You bet!

May those who perpetrated this outrage be shown for the crooks that they are, and pay dearly in their standing within this community, so that they can never again be elected to rule us, rather than represent us!

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pbSpirits_dot_com Feb. 10, 2012 @ 12:18 p.m.

Hurray for most of the citizens of Golden Hill (excluding those that tried to impose this MAD on their community). From my recollection, this isn't a case of the city imposing its will on the residents and businesses as much as it's a case of a group of citizens who manipulated the system and worked through loopholes (perhaps ones the city could've prevented yes) to do this. Who was involved? Who was trying to spend the money against the community's will? What are they doing now? Congrats to the stubborn few who saw this through! You were right after all :)

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concerned Feb. 10, 2012 @ 2:13 p.m.

I was overjoyed to hear that the GGH-MAD is OVER. I was an opponent from the beginning because I sensed its illegality. While it took 4-5 years winding through the judicial system, it was worth the wait and I agree with the comments posted before mine.

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GHH2 Feb. 10, 2012 @ 2:23 p.m.

What concerns and angers me is that there are no consequences to those officials who abused their power and fraudulently imposed this tax. The lesson they will take away from this is to go and try it again, under some other guise or half-truth, requiring the rest of us to spend valuable time watching them like hawks and then going through the same arduous fight again. It's like being forced to constantly play "Whack a Mole" to make sure things stay on the up and up. I think officials who abuse their power like this should be prosecuted and jailed, sending a clear message to others who might be considering playing this game to think twice. Politicians/elected representatives need to realize that the public trust is a priceless commodity and should not be toyed with.

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TrueJustice Feb. 10, 2012 @ 4:51 p.m.

Yes!! Thank you for being the only media source to cover this slimy little misuse of government powers.

Congrats to the few who tenaciously fought to bring out the truth and force the City to do the right thing. The City will have yet another chance to show its character by the way it handles the refunds. If they do not man up and send the money back, we will organize 1500 small claims actions. And of course, there is always a class action lawsuit.

It is important to note the Courts essentially held the MAD was never formed because of the rigged election. That is different from dissolving a MAD. It means all this time the City has been spending General Fund dollars and not property assessments. And then there is all the money they squandered on the unsuccessful, silly defense of obvious illegality. We are talking millions of dollars. And, Todd Gloria (remember Prop D) says the City needs more money.

Would like to see a Reader follow up on how much money the City has spent on the GGH MAD and its defense.

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nostalgic Feb. 10, 2012 @ 7:58 p.m.

Certainly the city will NEVER willingly give money back to the citizens. It isn't the San Diego way. And what will happen to all the stuff? The $7000 worth of flower pots (before flowers), the banners, the dog-poo bag dispensers, the banners, the trash cans? Plans are being made to work out how these things will effectively be transferred back to the City, who presumably will have paid for them out of the General fund by then.

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sswvjt Feb. 11, 2012 @ 10:46 a.m.

MADHATTER thanks for keeping us all informed. It appears justice has prevailed in this case, although in the face of much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the Greater Golden Hill Community Development Corporation and the City. I suppose it's too much to ask, since they illegally took my money (=stealing), that they give it back.

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MadAsHell Feb. 11, 2012 @ 4:09 p.m.

My deepest gratitude to The Reader for covering this ugly story and to my neighbors who have fought the city tooth and nail for all these years. Can't wait to see if/when we get a refund of our misappropriated taxes.

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joehunt Feb. 13, 2012 @ 8:50 p.m.

Well I don't know where to begin. Actually Yes I do. I'll initially say "Thanks Hal Tyvoll for your unwavering devotion to seeking resolution to the San Diego municipal corruption that was exemplified by the GH MAD". And may your efforts serve as a precedent or continuing resolution against other such travesty's. There howz that?? Rest in peace Hal. Rest in peace.

Beyond the vindicated efforts championed by Hal's legal expertise and the myriad support of community members like Ms. B, I remember the beginnings of this lopsided chicanery of injustice and trampled citizenry at the Balboa Golf Course clubhouse. Sorry for the long run-on sentence btw. I remember Steve Kessler's grumbled looks when folks would call him to the carpet and the emphatic displays of recalcitrance proffered by citizens against the gerrymandering of District 8 and the redistribution of wealth which is all part of the same dark MAD/and other pot. Call it what you will...a red herring or otherwise...but I see it all as part of the same rampant and multitentacled subsidization problem that exists today. A City that was/is strapped for funding and that is constantly robbing Peter to pay Paul through duplicate taxation. Shades of "Don't tread on me" and/or "No taxation without fair and equal representation". Yes that's right Founding Fathers. You know, it's that old thing called the American Constitution.

Anyways, looks like that trampled snake finally reeled up and bit em' and injected enough venom into those arteries to keel and collapse the Beast under the weight of American justice and decency. Something the GHMAD certainly never stood for and was guised from the beginning as a wolf in sheep's clothing and a perfect example of deceit and corruption at it's finest. It's good to know that it does come back to bite ya!!! Take that Steve!!!

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area51 Feb. 13, 2012 @ 8:52 p.m.

Many thanks to the people who have worked so hard to bring about justice to the property owners of Golden Hill and South Park involved. Hal, many thanks :) and Ms B you are a champion.

My husband and I had just moved to GH in 2006, happy to purchase a home with no HOA. Then we got hit with this GGH MAD BS.

What a learning experience to realize and understand that your own elected officials and government actively work against you, the tax payer, in order to benefit themselves and their cronies.

We were double taxed for the same benefit.

Well, ok we also got those great cough Clean Green and Safe banners and those nice logo embroidered polo shirts for the contractors given our funds to come and... um, swept a few bits of dirt off the curb in front of our home which is already swept by the city each week. When I actually came home mid day and saw the waste of my funds for this I was appalled. Further I was appalled that my "special" tax money was going to fund new/existing city employees who also required a taxpayer funded pensions and perks... the city seems to grow it's own need for expansion into our pocketbook.

My jaw dropped to read that the city hired Marco, wow.

Thanks to all!

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