Garrett Harris 8 p.m., Aug. 28
Solar Trains Hired Guns on Loft Project
It's no secret that Solar Turbines has been doing everything it can to stop the 232-unit Fat City Lofts from being built across Pacific Highway from the firm's bayfront industrial plant, leased from the port district.
Yesterday brought an editorial in the newly renamed U-T San Diego, now owned by developer and hotelier Doug Manchester, himself no stranger to port district lease troubles.
"Some 1,800 good-paying manufacturing jobs in the heart of San Diego will be on the line beginning next week," the paper gravely intoned.
The problem, said the editorial, is that "Solar produces pollutants that are closely regulated by a host of governmental agencies," and "Permanent housing, such as an apartment complex, falls under the closest scrutiny by regulators."
According to a letter from the San Diego County Air Pollution Control District cited by the paper, “While Solar Turbines’ risk level to the public is currently within acceptable levels, that could change if a residential use is located adjacent to the Solar Turbines facility. ..."
The editorial didn't say what kind of risky emissions are involved, or why the hazard would rise if lofts were built nearby, but the paper was firm in its resolve to keep the factory in place: "Clearly, the threat to Solar is real."
In addition to the U-T, Solar has enlisted two of the city's top lobbying firms--one of which has also been employed by Doug Manchester--to stop the residential development.
According to city lobbyist registration records, on June 15 of last year Solar retained the law firm of Hecht Solberg Robinson Goldberg & Bagley, LLP to represent it.
Among the firm's partners is Paul Robinson, a longtime Republican stalwart with remarkable influence at City Hall and, in particular, the office of Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Robinson is also on the board of the regional airport authority that runs nearby Lindbergh Field.
As we've previously reported, Hecht Solberg is also employed by Doug Manchester regarding city permit problems at Manchester's Grand del Mar resort.
(We made a public records request to Mayor Sanders's office for city documents regarding the Grand del Mar permits back on November 30, 2011.
(In a December 8 response, mayoral aide Haida Massoud-Mojdehi said the mayor's office was in "need of additional time to complete our investigation" before it could come up with the records.
(She added "We will notify you of the results shortly," but as of this afternoon the city has yet to produce any documents.)
According to Hecht Solberg's December 28, 2011 filing, its lobbying mission for Solar is to "Guard against residential development in Little Italy."
On July 5, Solar hired California Strategies & Advocacy, LLC, the Sacramento-based politics and influence shop founded by Bob White, onetime aide to San Diego mayor and California Gov. Pete Wilson.
Back in 2008, the firm was hired by the city's Centre City Development Corporation to help in the development of now still-born new city hall building favored by Sanders.
In its October 31, 2011 statement, California Strategies reported it was lobbying on Solar's behalf for "Denial of permits that would allow residential development in close proximity to client's manufacturing facilities."
Multiple contacts between the lobbying firm and Sanders staffers were listed, including with the mayor himself.
In a separate stament filed on Decmeber 5, California Strategies disclosed that it had sponsored a fundraiser for GOP mayoral candidate and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher on August 18 that raised $4740.
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