Marco Li Mandri wants to change city law to make it easier to form assessment districts. He’s helped start 61 such districts around the country.
  • Marco Li Mandri wants to change city law to make it easier to form assessment districts. He’s helped start 61 such districts around the country.
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Residential property owners throughout San Diego might be finding an additional charge on their annual property-tax bills if a local businessman gets his way. The extra assessment would pay for enhanced services such as trash and graffiti removal, sidewalk cleaning, and promotional events, provided in specific neighborhoods through community benefit districts.

Since 1978, when Prop 13 was passed, declining tax revenues have forced cities across the state to cut programs and scale back on services. The trend is evident in San Diego’s neighborhoods, where street trees go untrimmed and abandoned couches clutter alleyways for weeks on end.

In response, beginning in the 1990s, some residents and community leaders have taken matters into their own hands, searching for creative ways to fund local improvement projects and prevent blight.

One popular tool is a maintenance assessment district, an area where an annual tax is levied on each property to fund maintenance services such as landscaping. Currently, the city of San Diego has 55 maintenance assessment districts, with more neighborhoods such as Barrio Logan looking to join the list.

But assessment districts have come under fire in recent years. Reports of flawed assessment engineer’s reports and allegations that the districts were illegally formed and ill conceived have made some residents rethink the benefits that maintenance assessment districts offer. In February, a judge ordered the dissolution of the maintenance assessment district in Golden Hill and South Park. Last year, residential and commercial property owners in North Park defeated a proposal to create a second maintenance assessment district. And downtown, after three years of waiting, residents still have not been refunded hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid in miscalculated assessments.

Marco Li Mandri, whose for-profit company New City America has formed 61 districts across the country, hopes to change the local law that regulates assessment districts so as to make it easier to establish them in San Diego neighborhoods.

The current law requires that to initiate the process, a petition must be signed by property owners who will be paying more than 50 percent of the total assessment. And once established, the district must be renewed by a vote of the property owners after five years.

Li Mandri proposes to create a new type of assessment district, a “community benefit district,” whose life would be extended to 20 years. And instead of a petition signed by property owners who will be paying more than 50 percent of the total assessment, a community benefit district would require only 30 percent to start the process. Li Mandri’s proposal also broadens the services that can be offered to include such improvements as parking facilities and kiosks and such activities as promotion of community events and furnishing of music in public places.

On November 2, 2011, Li Mandri appeared before the city council’s Public Safety and Neighborhood Services Committee during public comment to pitch his new ordinance.

His proposal was met with a glowing reception from councilmembers. “Assessment districts of all shapes and colors have been transformational in my council district,” said Councilmember Todd Gloria, “and Mr. Li Mandri is nationally recognized for his work on this issue. If there are suggestions to make it better, then I am all ears.”

And as city councilmembers and other city officials looked over the proposal, the same proposal appeared in the state legislature as Senate Bill 949, introduced on January 4 by Senator Juan Vargas.

Vargas’s bill, however, was met with resistance from constituents and taxpayer groups. “As it stands, we are taking an ‘opposed until amended’ position,” David Wolfe, legislative director for the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, said earlier this month. “We have concerns, mainly how the assessment is implemented.” In mid-April, Vargas pulled the bill from committee, and last week his spokesperson in Sacramento confirmed that the bill is dead.

The same month that Vargas introduced the bill in the state legislature, Li Mandri was busy studying state law and working on the local ordinance. At the end of January, he submitted an invoice for $10,000 to the Downtown San Diego Partnership, which administers the Downtown Property and Business Improvement District, where Li Mandri serves as a consultant. On the invoice, Li Mandri listed among his accomplished tasks “Work on Proposition 218, Section 36600, MAD [maintenance assessment district], CBD [community benefit district], Golden Hill packets.”

Li Mandri did not respond to a request for comment about his proposal.

Vladimir Kogan, PhD candidate at the University of California San Diego and an expert on assessment districts, has looked over Li Mandrel’s proposal.

“This is clearly a full-employment act for [Li Mandri], who would get a lot of new business as a consultant for forming [maintenance assessment districts],” wrote Kogan in an email.

“[Maintenance assessment districts] are terrible ways of financing local needs. It’s incumbent on those of us who don’t like [them] to identify an alternative funding source. Currently, there is none. The city can’t afford to do it and will not be able to afford to do it unless its revenue structure changes.”

Kogan prefers funding mechanisms “that allow all residents, rather than just property owners, to participate and don’t require expensive consultants like Li Mandri to take a substantial cut of the proceeds. They are really the people that benefit the most from the status quo.”

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downtownrealist April 25, 2012 @ 12:48 p.m.

Just to be clear, the Downtown San Diego Partnership paid LiMandri's $10,000 January invoice with public money, not from private Partnership funds. The Partnership's Clean & Safe program's bank account, which is used to pay all of LiMandri's $10,000 per month consultant contract invoices, is reimbursed monthly for all Clean & Safe program expenses from assessments paid by downtown property owners. (Assessments are supposed to be used for services of direct benefit to the properties that generate those particular funds.)


oldcitizen April 25, 2012 @ 1:31 p.m.

It wasn't only $10,000 in January. LiMandri has been paid $10,000 every month since May of 2011 with Public money. His invoices list a few "consulting" tasks each month. A lot of graffitti and trash could be picked up with this money.


nostalgic April 25, 2012 @ 2:23 p.m.

This is a Maintenance Assessment District or a PBID with another name and no state restrictions. What DOES the city get back from all these people? The amount of money that stays inside offices is staggering - the flower baskets are to make you happy spending it. Please, everyone who reads this article needs to keep an eye on the city's latest scheme.


madhatter April 25, 2012 @ 2:43 p.m.

Well, well well, the benefits that maintenance assessment districts offer are zero, if not look at the rightly dissolved MAD (Hey! where is our money?). People like Li Mandri and many like him exist thanks to are great representatives. So, my advice is, be careful for whom you vote in the coming elections.


BlueSouthPark April 25, 2012 @ 2:53 p.m.

The killed Vargas bill, which Li Mandri apparently wrote, was a modified PBID that eliminated the biggest hurdle in the existing state Property & Business Improvement District law, the requirement that 50% of all property owners in a proposed district sign a petition asking to go to a vote on forming a district. Li Mandri and the City Council evidently think the reduced percentage, 30%, will fly in San Diego as an ordinance, because the private business groups that would benefit will rally in support. In 2002, when Li Mandri and Vargas tried to push a similar bill, AB2561, it was vetoed by the governor, who wrote:

...this bill offers no compelling reason why the assessment period should be extended so significantly, or for why the percentage of property owners signing a petition in support of such a [bill] is reduced from 50% to 30%. I am committed to the principles of smart growth and urban revitalization, but I do not believe that this bill provides the proper balance between these principles and those of fair and just taxation.

Vlad Kogan is exactly right: the types of property assessments that Li Mandri is always involved in creating are terrible. They are terrible because Li Mandri's self-serving fiefdoms do not address financing local needs, but, instead, address only the financing of luxuries and private groups. Li Mandri-style assessment districts finance private business groups (who will be the 30% signing the petitions and asking to be appointed managers), whose members in turn use the money handed over to them by the City for empowerment, personal leverage, and to finance their rent, office supplies, phone and computers, salaries for staff, directors, and managers, parking, lunches, promotions, retreats, and decorative luxury items such as flower baskets, decorator trash cans, and banners, not infrastructure. At least half, if not much more, of all of the assessments, which are public (taxpayer) money, are wasted on overhead. At the same time, the City, as administrator, is also spending money overseeing the business group contractor, more overhead.

Public-private partnerships are never economical, but are fiercely advocated by those who benefit financially from them and have come to expect them as a way of life in San Diego. The Downtown San Diego Partnership is a case in point: the board has no legal ground to allocate money to Li Mandri for the purpose of drafting state and local code. All of assessments are required to be spent on special and proportional benefits to the properties that are assessed.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:21 p.m.

Amen!!!! Beware of the public private partnership!!! It is being pushed by both sides as a great solution. its just a way to syphon tax dollars to special interests in a way that leaves citizens out of the loop. It always sounds good on paper. Who doesnt want to improve their neighborhood? look what the biggest public private partnership redevelopment has gotten us...unbelievable blight and enormous debt. he City is demanding 6.5 billlion dollars in state tax dollars for development projects. and there is no accountability and the gov is not standing up to them. So even though they are "dead" they created this entity to still have authority and there is nothing we can do about it. 1 more reason to vote no on any tax increases. doesnt matter what they say its for. it just goes into the giant sluch fund.


goodlead April 25, 2012 @ 3:40 p.m.

The City was stung by its very public defeat when the courts ruled it had violated the State Constitution in forming the Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District -- and probably other MADs as well. So it is striking back in the only way it knows how: by making it easier to form a MAD (or Community Benefit Disttrict -- a MAD by a different name) with fewer formation requirements (see the specifics in the article) that is presumably harder to challenge in court. City government officials learn only the wrong lessons from their defeats.

These districts are supposed to provide "enhanced" benefits. But as no one in the city knows what a basic benefit is, an "enhanced" benefit means whatever the person using the term means. Basically it means that people are being taxed twice, once in their general property bill and once in the special tax, for the same service.

No surprise that Todd ("Incredibly Proud") Gloria is a big fan. He's never met a tax he didn't like, and he really doesn't care how the money is spent. Let's hear him give some specifics when he says that MADs have turned neighborhoods around, and let's make sure that it was really the MAD that did it. Politicians used to run on the slogan "A chicken in every pot." Gloria's slogan is "A flowerpot on every corner."


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 8:50 a.m.

Great comment! North Park's MAD has morphed into a benefit mostly for Main Street Fund and it's Board realigned to make sure it stays that way!


JustWondering April 25, 2012 @ 3:43 p.m.

When was 30% of anything considered a majority. If anything it should be 50% + 1, the same standard for majority rule anywhere. But that would not into the model that Vargas and Li Mandri are trying to profit from. That's right profit off the taxes paid by citizens to support something government is suppose to be doing anyway.
I question the notion government is collecting less because of Prop 13. Government is just spending well beyond it means because no one is really accountable.


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 8:54 a.m.

The 30% rule should be a RED FLAG to all voters to SCREAM NO...

Any new taxes should Require at least a majority ... OF ALL THOSE AFFECTED .... NOT JUST THOSE THAT REPLY...

This is a MAJOR point in how these MAD's are formed...


InOmbra April 25, 2012 @ 4:22 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


InOmbra April 25, 2012 @ 5:10 p.m.

goodlead writes: "when the courts ruled it had violated the State Constitution in forming the Golden Hill Maintenance Assessment District -- and probably other MADs as well"

Bingo: The other identically formed assessment districts run by business groups and the Economic Development department are indeed equally illegal on unconstitutional grounds. They are:

  1. Little Italy MAD (formed and run by Li Mandri)
  2. Adams Avenue MAD
  3. Central Commercial MAD (formed by Hueso in 2000; Li Mandri was paid to do the setup)
  4. City Heights MAD
  5. College Heights MAD
  6. Hillcrest Commercial Core MAD
  7. Ocean Beach Newport Avenue MAD

It is going to be really interesting to watch the Council do the annual renewal on these illegal districts, coming up in about a month. What will happen to the City's favorite phrase: "Maintenance Assessment Districts (MADs) are legal mechanisms by which property owners within a specified district can vote to assess themselves..."?? Can't say that now!!!

The Municipal Code Li Mandri wrote for Casey Gwinn in 1998 and 2003 created these! Will council now rescind these and try to use Li Mandri's new code? Why are San Diego's council and downtown pols hooked on shady characters? They never, never, never go away (like Madaffer). And the likes of Kehoe, Hueso, Atkins, Peters, Young, Faulconer, Gloria, and Marti Emerald, and, alas, now David Alvarez, love them.

San Diego could do so much better.


GHH2 April 25, 2012 @ 5:44 p.m.

Li Mandri is a schemer who, as owner of a private, profit making entity has no right whatsoever to put his hands into the taxpayer's pocket. If he has such good ideas he needs to market them AND SELL THEM TO THE PUBLIC...who can then decide whether they want to buy what he is selling, OR NOT. Doing it through property tax additions/manipulations is out and out piracy. And the council members who support this are co-conspirators and need to be held accountable. They are stewards of the public's treasure and have a duty to ensure that the public's money is spent wisely. When was the last time an audit was performed on where our Property taxes are spent and how? We need to have an audit to see if our public officials are acting responsibly and wisely. And if they are not, they need to be thrown out of office. Everyone is going through hard times and having to make hard decisions. Decisions on what are priorities and what are non-essential's. And I can see no reason whatsoever that our public officials be exempted from these hard times and hard decisions. if they can't come up with more efficient and creative ways to do their jobs then they need to stop sucking at the public teat and step aside to let other, more worthy people serve the public. Remember that. You are public servants, not rulers.


InOmbra April 25, 2012 @ 5:52 p.m.

San Diego council loves scoundrels like Li Mandri and Zucchet.

Why? Why can't San Diego pols and our council hall be the nexus of an honest, clean, transparent, demanding take-no-s*** government?

We could do so much with a reputation that transcends Enron-by-the-sea. The payoff would be HUGE!

Start now. This day, this minute.


news92101 April 25, 2012 @ 6:18 p.m.

Please continue to monitor SB 949... Juan Vargas is running for Congress.... and has for now let the bill be... but watch out.... after the November Election.... he could push for quick voting.... Your voice counts.... write your opposition to this Bill to Vargas office..


InOmbra April 25, 2012 @ 6:34 p.m.

And here's Marco!

Starting at 00:5:33, Marco...go on, and at and 00:6:15 and 00:06:50, see Marco's admissions that the code he wrote in 1998 and 2003 has "some problems." Ha ha!

Watch Marco nervously scratch and fidget. Watch Marti and Todd love them some Marco. Write your City Attorney and tell him what you think. And yes, if you keep watching, you see Marti talking to Hueso's brother about his taxi cab business.


goodlead April 27, 2012 @ 12:33 p.m.

Is this the correct link? I couldn't find Marco on it at all.


GHH April 25, 2012 @ 7:26 p.m.

JustWondering writes: "I question the notion government is collecting less because of Prop 13. Government is just spending well beyond it means because no one is really accountable."

Dan Walters, of The Sacramento Bee, wrote a piece on October 11, 2011, titled, "Financial facts don't back anti-Proposition 13 propaganda." His research is enlightening:

"In 1977-78, according to the State Board of Equalization, schools and local governments collected $10.3 billion in property taxes. The amount plummeted to $4.9 billion in 1978-79 as Proposition 13 cut the average property tax rate by more than half.
By 2010-11, however, property tax collections had risen to precisely 10 times as much – $49 billion per year – due to new construction and re-evaluation of existing property, even though the property tax rate was fixed at slightly over 1 percent.
During that same 33-year period, state general fund revenue, principally sales and income taxes, increased sevenfold – scarcely two-thirds the property tax revenue growth rate. Incidentally, inflation and population growth combined were about 400 percent during that same period, less than half the expansion in property taxes.
Obviously, the assertion that Proposition 13 has been an unconscionable barrier to revenue growth doesn't hold up."

Yes, JustWondering, our Government is - at all levels - just spending well beyond its means, and it has hog-tied us (five years in court to undo the illegal Golden Hill MAD), to prevent us from holding them accountable. Mr. Walter's article provides a healthy and very interesting dose of reality regarding the taxation frenzy of our California politicians. Read the rest of it at


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:32 p.m.

Its not prop 13, its that they allocated 5.5 billion dollars a year to redevelopment. People need to be outraged and we need the teachers to go after them rather than coming to taxpayers for tax hikes.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:33 p.m.

If they repealed prop 13 developers in redevelopment would collect a windfall because of the increase in property values. Thats why there has been such a campaign to repeal it.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:38 p.m.

Also do people realize CA has a program called CAEZ that gives millions to companies like Walmart. thats why you see this endless expansion of Walmarts. they are getting state tax dollars. according to a Sprawlbusters report its estimated Walmart gets $11,000 PER employee PER year in these "enterprise zones" that are all over California. its that corp america has found ways to syphon these dollars and create entitlements. And incidentally CAEZ did not make it to the cutting room. Why not? We are currently shutting down 70 state parks and selling of state park land to developers (see San francisco) and Walmart is STILL getting millions of our tax dollars?


GHH April 25, 2012 @ 7:27 p.m.

We need to clean house, and I don't mean merely voting the crooks out - they should all be prosecuted and jailed! Election cycles are too infrequent, and because of the millions of low-information voters, who'll pull the lever for the last grinning mug they see on TV before heading to the polls, politicians are never held accountable for their actions. They win elections merely by name recognition, after having had big bucks spent on their TV ads and glossy mailers - big bucks that their cronies throw at them to get them seated, for the purpose of ensuring years of highly lucrative paybacks.

Enough! Where is the San Diego City Attorney, the California Attorney General, or the Department of Justice...? Isn't it their job to protect the public from crime?... The courts ruled the Golden Hill MAD illegal - that means that a crime was committed. The hopeless CDC profited grandly from it, and the City councilors did too, since the MAD freed up money that was likely spent instead on further bloating their salaries, pensions and perks....


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 9:03 a.m.

Remember PLEASE that the Boards that "run" MAD's should be ELECTED by Sub Districts (of the Mad) and not "at large" since the money needs to be spent fairly though out the District instead of "just" in the Business District!

Too many times we have seen those friendly to the Council Person placed on Boards by the Friends of the supporters of the Council Person...

Another Safe Guard would be to have a different Sub District act as Chairman of the Board every year, to insure that no Dynasties are formed...


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 9:14 a.m.

TWO other Hidden Problems in all MAD's:

  1. The "Engineer's Report" that describes the "allowed" work to be done...

This is a document that has many legal interpretations and because different Lawyers have different opinions, this document can be "gamed" to allow projects that the original voters did not even consider when they voted on the issue!

Vague wording guarantees future abuse by those then in control of the money collected!

  1. The ADMINISTRATION COSTS for these MAD's need to be limited to no more than 10% OF THE WORK DONE, this will prevent huge sums being spent every years when nothing really new gets completed! Socking away money year after year for a big project, actually only benefits the Administrator since they get a percentage of that money for doing NOTHING!

news92101 April 28, 2012 @ 10:37 a.m.

Yes the Engineer report is created by a City Employee... his/her work is reimbursed by the MAD or PBID... and the report normally Asks for more Maintenance to be done, every single year.... In essence it changes the Original MAD or PBID agreement from the baseline Year 1.... All that at the expense of the Businesses/Reisdents through in Increased Contributions which is allowed at 5% per year.


news92101 April 30, 2012 @ 11:01 a.m.

You are so right... and if one checked any of those established one could see that the % is more likely to be close to 40%


sswvjt April 26, 2012 @ 9:15 a.m.

I find it just a bit more than coincidental that none of these proposals to supposedly benefit the "community" ever seem to be mentioned, let alone explored in any kind of depth, on any major news outlet. If people were more readily made aware of these schemes, then perhaps it might be a little more difficult for schemers like Mr. Li Mandri and his minions on the city council to pick our pockets. Just wondering also why people such as Mr. Li Mandri and his ilk are given these forums to further their own interests under the banner of serving the greater good? As stated in an earlier post above, let these people sell their ideas to the public. That's not likely to happen, because they already know the public won't buy them, so the next step is to get the government to shove them down our throats. This can only work if the government has sold out to special interests and the people are kept uninformed.


news92101 April 28, 2012 @ 11:11 a.m.

Yes... The CBD for Downtown is they need to Build a parking lot which would cost $30,000 per spot and the City does not have the $$... So it would be for the Community Benefit... and then guarantees the Maintenance for 20 years henceforth.... What is wrong with this picture?


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 9:25 a.m.

I strongly believe that ALL MAD's should have:

  1. A LIFETIME of no more than 10 years, that way voters know they will not be held hostage "forever", how many residents live in one spot for 20 to 30 years?

  2. A FIXED LIMIT on how much the MAD's Fee is raised in any given year, while it is common to "link" any requested increases to the CPI, what happens if the CPI goes crazy?

  3. A MAJORITY of residential Board Seats since the residents are the most often abused by the well funded business who have BID's promoting the Council Office for favors...

  4. All meeting should be "run" under the Brown Act, to keep behind Closed Door Decisions from happening!

  5. All engineering reports should be prioritized so that the most important projects get funded EVERY MONTH instead of some "favorite" project in one small corner of the MAD.


concerned April 26, 2012 @ 1:29 p.m.

Here we go again. Just when I thought I could take a breadth after the GGH-MAD was ruled illegal, I must return to being ever-vigilant. Our City politics is like whack a mole.......solve one problem, another one closely related pops's exhausting being a property owner.


dchand April 26, 2012 @ 3:11 p.m.

I have said over and over, do not let the government do things for you. Do it privately. It is cheaper and if you do not like the work, you can fire them easily. The GG MAD found that out the hard way. I am a good business man and family wealthy. Remember the city manager of Ball California got a salary of $800,000.00 plus benefits and pension and whatever he could steal. He was too greedy and got caught stealing. My son, who is a doctor told me of the director of a hospital north of San Diego whose salary is over $1,000,000.00 a year plus benefits and pension. I know what they do, they sit on their butt in an office and sign papers mostly. We cannot continue to print paper money. The Weimar Republic of Germany tried it and went broke and was over thrown. We are one step behind Greece and Europe. George Meany head of the AF of L CIO in the early1900s and FDR, a very liberal Democrat president said that government workers should not be allowed to unionize with collective bargaining rights. Well they did and all of the city, county, state and the Federal governments are bankrupt. We are one step behind Greece and all of Europe. I am a eight year graduate of a tough Catholic Jesuit University. I am not a Catholic. Those Jesuits are tough. I am a physician . I quit medicine on my 58th birthday. I could do better in business and not be called out at night. We are headed for a depression worse than the one in the 1930s Believe it.


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 3:29 p.m.

I believe it and think it will be within 4 years!


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 3:21 p.m.

Im not surprised Todd loves it. He loves building parking lots and putting in new meters everywhere so citizens will be hounded w/ parking fees everywhere they go. The provision about providing "parking facilities" scares me. seems that D3 has turned into 1 giant paid parking lot thanks to Todd Gloria. Land that could have been turned into community gardens...paid parking lots.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 3:24 p.m.

the crazy thing is Dumanis was given a pile of documents by the FBI, plenty to convict this guy and she decided the claim was "baseless" despite the FBI saying the contrary...

he should be in prison. Instead he is creating new taxes and putting himself on the payroll...kinda like Toni Atkins...should be in prison instead is proposing a bill that will cost taxpayers 1.4 billion dollars to go to MORE housing. This as our state parks are being sold to developers.


news92101 April 30, 2012 @ 11:03 a.m.

Dumanis lives in Little Italy... get the connection?


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 3:25 p.m.

Sounds like taxpayers need to create a ballot initiative to prohibit these things from happening.


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 3:30 p.m.

Yes, but first we have to get someone elected to push it!


Founder April 26, 2012 @ 3:34 p.m.

North park just missed getting another MAD, one called an Overlay MAD...

Much to the frustration of their BID (NP Main Street)!

They do not want to re-ballot the entire MAD because they are getting too much of a sweetheart deal with the original MAD... They pay in about 20% and get about 50% of the benefits...


Twister April 26, 2012 @ 4:56 p.m.

There should be no MADs. But there are other forms of public/private work that can avoid the disadvantages.

MADs are a way to collect taxes and divert them into contractor pockets. Bad times encourage people to go MAD. Because tax revenue declines and puts the squeeze on public service budgets leaving little in the way of plums for supporters.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:16 p.m.

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:30 p.m. Yesterday in a tentative ruling, the judge denied the City's bid and said the case should go forward. Scott Kessler says he was fired by the City for cooperating with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the San Diego Police in its investigation of possible corruption of Little Italy mover and shaker Marco Li Mandri and Paul (Joe) Mannino, a convicted felon. The Reader has previously reported that the Drug Enforcement Administration in New York City traced Quaalude sales to a Paul Mannino and found boxes of the drugs in his car. He was indicted in 1980 and convicted of violation of federal drug, firearms, and racketeering laws. He went to prison and after getting out, met Li Mandri around 2000.

There is more to this case than meets the eye. Under the Freedom of Information Act, civic activist Mel Shapiro requested more facts on the case from the FBI. He got very little, but what he did get was eye-opening. On the FBI report, the initials used in the title are OC/DI. Former FBI officials tell me that means "organized crime/drug investigation." Below are these initials: "LCN - Genovese." An FBI agent told Shapiro, and former FBI agents told me, that this means that the investigation focused on La Cosa Nostra, or Mafia, and the Genovese family, one of the five major organized crime families in New York City, rivaled in power only by the Gambino family and the Chicago outfit.

The FBI report goes on to state that the investigation was by the bureau and San Diego police, but the San Diego district attorney "declined prosecution of the above-captioned case." The Reader has reported several times that District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis did not pursue the case, even though it was exhaustively researched by the FBI and a San Diego police detective.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:46 p.m.

Also SD Pay close attention to WHO is running your elections!! I have been raising flags about this for years!!! We need to ensure we have an honest elect. We need to demand a handcount at precincts of at least a portion of votes to ensure accuracy. Many people dont realize San diego hired Micheal Vu from the Ohio election fraud of 2004 to RUN our elections w/ Deborah Seiler sales rep for Diebold.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:47 p.m.

"Seiler's hiring was the second decision by the county in the last month or so to raise questions from election watchdogs." Wired Magazine "Joining Seiler in the San Diego elections office is another election official beleaguered by controversy -- Michael Vu. Until recently, Vu was the elections director in Cuyahoga County in Ohio . He resigned in the wake of a number of critical reports depicting problems with how his office conducted elections and how machines made by Diebold performed. His resignation also followed the conviction of two election workers in his office who were found guilty of rigging a recount in the 2004 presidential election. Vu was recently made assistant registrar of voters in San Diego ." Wired Magazine


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 6:59 p.m.

The reason I cant give this story a thumbs up is because of the assertion that Prop 13 is responsible for our problems. As GHH points out that argument is fatally flawed. otherwise I like the examination of these shill agencies. Please look closer at the prop13 assertion. It is wrong.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 7:02 p.m.

SD Reader you guys are going a little crazy censoring comments. Come on!!! Your own article makes the connection between Dumanis and LiMandri. Viva free speech!!!!


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 7:08 p.m.

LiMandri is a public figure as is Dumanis. they cant sue for criticizing them.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 7:34 p.m. Per the above article on LiMandri and his relationship to Mannino 2 LiMandris are listed as soldiers of the los Angeles crime family including a "Marco". please see for yourself.


historymatters April 26, 2012 @ 7:35 p.m.

"marco" is listed as a San Diego solidier.


Founder April 27, 2012 @ 7:02 a.m.

Any elected Government can fail the Public's trust if those elected start thinking more about themselves and their Friends (those that helped them get elected) than they do about seerving ALL the voters equally, per their sworn duty!

San Diego's voters decided to shift to a Strong Mayor to try and rein in their City Council, but that has lead to even greater problems as the Strong Mayor courts the favor of the Ultra Wealthy and the Powerful Unions while promoting for Business over residents quality of life here in what used to be America's Finest City; all in the name of urbanization!

We have seen this happening for years in San Diego and also in Washington, DC.

This is why our Fair City and our Great Country are now in such SAD shape:

One Man One Vote has now become One Dollar One Vote!


Founder April 27, 2012 @ 11:45 a.m.

Is this is why San Diego will need many more MAD's: (Instead of raising taxes, we will just add MAD MONEY)

Mayor’s FY2013 budget to reduce police response times by 20%?

IMO PF&R (Police, Fire and Rescue) should never be over 50% of "our" budget!

This happens because their Union is Too Powerful in San Diego...


himichael April 27, 2012 @ 5:07 p.m.

Li Mandri is the sort of...character who thrives in the interstices between government and business. He sneered when I suggested at an early community meeting that the Golden Hill MAD was illegally instituted. People like him are shocked whenever we try to hold them to account. How dare mere taxpayers object to their dealings?


nostalgic April 27, 2012 @ 9:01 p.m.

When Golden Hill MAD had an elected oversight board who made decisions the City and the Golden Hill CDC didn't like, it was simply abolished. Pouf !! Gone. Replaced by a Committee appointed by the Golden Hill CDC. That is what you get under your scenario.


enjoyPB April 27, 2012 @ 6:32 p.m.

I'm working with the group that's focused on a CBD or MAD in Pacific Beach. There were a lot of good points brought up here and in the comments. Right now we're forming the arguments to secure a consultant with experience such as Mr. Li Mandri's.

It seems such districts could be useful because the city frankly doesn't have the money or will to clean up our neighborhoods. I’m not entirely convinced all this stuff is their job either.

If the district was fairly created, had an escape clause, only commercial retail/service business properties would be assessed along with other controls over administration costs - would you agree this could be a good thing for our neighborhoods?

I'm looking for pros and cons. I definitely hear and appreciate all the criticisms (being an original protestor of PB's and GH's districts) but, my question is - is there a realistic solution or, should we just let the place remain trashed? What if a district included terms such as:

.. Minimum 50% +1 vote by commercial (not commercial-residential) property owners on a weighted scale where each linear foot of frontage is equivalent to one vote (existing MAD guidelines for instance)

.. No public property counted

.. No one property owner has more than X% of the vote - i.e. to avoid a single person carrying a majority of the vote should we have a ceiling whereby this vote plus a minimum X weighted-number of votes totaling 50% +1 would carry the action?

.. Seated board members assigned geographically vs. by weight (i.e. two for each of the major business areas).

.. Residential members of the Board - elected by vote of residents (i.e. four districts throughout all of PB same vote-weight of other members)

.. A permanent three year cycling sunset whereby a majority of assessed property owners voted to continue or discontinue the district?

.. Administrative costs cannot exceed X% of the gross collections

.. Meetings and all business follows Brown Act.

.. Single three-year term limits (it doesn’t take rocket scientists to run this)

.. Businesses assessed on their actual impact on the business district... i.e. a fast food joint who's customers trash the surrounding 300' around their shop would pay more than a non-food retailer? [This is a difficult one]

.. Prior to such an agreement being enacted a contract with the city for X services would be required (i.e. so they don’t gradually waft away leaving us with the entire responsibility)

.. Not to be facetious but, Isn't a democracy a mechanism where property holders can gather, agree to assess themselves and thereafter have representation?

p.s. I shudder at the mention of a 20-year term. Cable companies spent hundreds of millions for infrastructure in a market where low fixed-rates can be charged against a fixed market area. Long-term sunsets were given to reward the risk of the entrepreneurial cable company. There is near ZERO risk here.


BlueSouthPark April 29, 2012 @ 5:06 p.m.

enjoyPB: What you describe sounds ideal: "only commercial retail/service business properties would be assessed" - but that is not the goal of Li Mandri or the City, and that is not what the proposed municipal code that Li Mandri wrote seeks. Or will ever seek. Good luck. Residential assessments are desired by Li Mandri and the City's Economic Development division. Without assessments on residential properties, the City and the business groups don't feel the amount they can collect is enough, nor is that much greater than is already collected by BID assessments. Also, the whole driving force for the latest scheme focuses on near-urban areas in conjunction with the community plan updates that have as a primary goal infill. And infill means large mixed-use buildings and that means residential. That is why Barrio Logan is now targeted, with the mixed-use, high-density Mercado under construction. The Reader revealed the CBD scheme for Barrio Logan last January, when an under-the-radar pro-CBD "survey" created by Li Mandri (and paid for by someone...unknown) was circulated exclusively to the commercial power-players in BL, unbeknownst to the major grass-roots BL advocates who would oppose assessing residential property. Also, I disagree with your premise that the City doesn't have enough money to "clean up" our neighborhoods. I don't know what you mean by "clean up" but the City has annually contracted with Urban Corps for the past 5 years, at ~$0.5 million/year, for citywide graffiti removal. That's enough money. And that includes areas where property owners are being assessed via the illegal MADs and via the PBID for private graffiti removal. If by "clean up"you mean powerwashing sidewalks, really, that is a stupid wasteful process. It doesn't make concrete look noticeably better, doesn't remove after study has shown how ineffective powerwashing is. It is a luxury, a means of spending and justifying a way-too-large assessment.


enjoyPB April 27, 2012 @ 7:19 p.m.

Um, look up your last name on the net and I'll bet there's some real doozies who've done some real boneheaded things out there with the same surname. Being Italian is not a crime and accusing someone of being in organized crime without evidence is libelous.

Just because Mr. Li Mandri was investigated does not mean he's a criminal. Sure, the suggestion is there and I've thought of it myself but, anything outside of fact is purely speculation (read: worthless).

Apparently Mr. Li Mandri is a very successful businessman but, in this case he should be judged on the merits of his work and not because of his heritage right? That's how you would want to be treated isn't it? Just sayin...


TrueJustice April 27, 2012 @ 8:17 p.m.

Back to the Golden Hill MAD. The City is launching a vindictive attack against the entire community. First by creating as many blocks to refunds as possible. SECOND, taking the position only MAD's can provide these services. On the trash can front, their position is property owners who want to assume responsibility for a trash can must agree to maintain them but also must get an annual permit to do so (fee attached). This seems more like a war than government by the people. Syria anyone?


Founder April 29, 2012 @ 7:11 a.m.

Suggest that you contact the TV stations and get them to do an ongoing story on the Refund that was never paid!

Make it a Mayoral election question!


nostalgic April 27, 2012 @ 8:36 p.m.

These assessment districts, no matter what you call them - MADs or CBDs - collect a lot of money to rent offices for the friends of friends who manage them and collect salaries most of us would love to earn. $10,000 a month for part time work? Mr. Li Mandri is not the problem. The weighted voting is the problem. Any district can be rigged to win. Americans fought the revolution to be free of the landed gentry. Of the people, by the people, and for the people..... you don't hear much about that anymore. We have been brought up to believe "one person, one vote." Now we have corporations directly voting to tax individuals in their homes. That is not what this country is about.


tiibear April 28, 2012 @ 8:02 p.m.

Oh geezuz please!!! Now we have a new scum cronie hired by the City for 10K/month to reinvent the MAD into a CBD!!! He must be the new Scott Kessler ...who was ousted for fiscal chicanery. But wait...this cronie is a consultant with brilliant ideas about how to reinvent the failed MAD scam so that must make him more official or more likely...a mechanism for deferral of liability for the City. So I wonder, being a consultant myself, how [he] managed to lump sum a 10K/month contract with the City??? That means that he really doesn't have to worry about performance because the City accepted the 10K/month salary whether [he] produces or not. Then again, given the City's MAD weighted vote scam has already been perpetrated multiple times, [his] utility is really almost completely unaccountable and unnecessary!! The 10K/month is certainly not based on time and materials as it should be. Especially given he's an outside contractor. What a complete joke and travesty this is...again!!!! And a waste of taxpayer's money. .


Founder April 29, 2012 @ 7:18 a.m.

Great question, usually these contractors are on an approved City list so they do not have to "endure" a RFP which is the best way to select anyone for public work!

Unless these folks are chosen by a publicly selected review Comm. their is way to much room for financial error!

BTW The Kessler Case is still being delayed (probably until after the Mayor is out of Office) at which time the City will have to pay BIG bucks.

HEY Dorian, how about an update on that case....


Dorian Hargrove April 30, 2012 @ 5:09 p.m.

Hey Founder, the City settled with Kessler for $200,000. Here's a link to the minutes from the November 15 city council meeting:

Also, a link to Don Bauder's blog post a few days before the settlement was approved:


Founder May 1, 2012 @ 11:49 a.m.

Thanks! I'm really surprised at the "sum"...


BlueSouthPark April 29, 2012 @ 6:11 p.m.

I believe that this article raises disturbing questions:

  • Why is a business owner writing Municipal Code?
  • Why is the Mayor, the City Attorney, and what used to be City Planning (now Economic Growth) relying on, and seemingly beholden to, the business community, particularly a person who has been investigated for conflicts of interest, to write Municipal Code?
  • Why is State Senator Vargas willing to introduce a bill written by a local businessman?

I can't think of any answers to these questions that make good sense. But something is really, really wrong in this town. Recent revelations about the lobby group ALEC, and how ALEC members have written entire bills for many State and Federal legislators, show that voters have no voice in government, unless they are part of powerful groups with money to give or withhold. San Diego has its powerful business groups and lobbyists - especially Southwest Strategies in the downtown and near-urban areas. To paraphrase one interpretation of this (

The problem with [this] isn’t that [businessmen and lobbyists] write ... legislation, or that legislators use that legislation, it’s that the legislation they write sucks and their ideas are generally bad for the public interest. ... journalists should continue to do a good job of being vigilant in monitoring whether proposed bills have ... ties, and whether legislators who propose them are being forthcoming about the fact that they’re introducing business lobby-written legislation.

In San Diego, we've had sparse investigative journalism on this; only The Reader covered the following events:

  1. Li Mandri co-writes Muni Code in 1998/2003, "allowing" the City Council "legally" to approve formation of MADs that assess residential properties for business services.
  2. The last of these illegal MADs formed results in a lawsuit that the City loses.
  3. Within a month of the court decision, Li Mandri goes before the Public Safety & Neighborhood Services Committee, "as a citizen," presenting the need for a new way to impose assessments, because of "problems with the municipal code" that he authored, which resulted in the lawsuit that the City lost.
  4. At the same time, Li Mandri is being paid by the City to do solve their PBID and MAD "problem," including contacting the powerful commercial owners (and David Alvarez) in Barrio Logan and lining up their support for his CBD ordinance.
  5. The PS&NS committee is ecstatic to receive Citizen Li Mandri's CBD Municipal Code, yet no action is taken locally.
  6. Li Mandri's CBD Municipal Code appears in January 2012 as Senate Bill 949, with language modified only to make it a State law, rather than a local ordinance.

When and if this mayor or council, or the next ones, and/or Vargas, or Hueso, Atkins, or Kehoe, try to subvert perfectly adequate State law embodied in the restrained, existing Property & Business Improvement District law, be ready to fight. I will.


BlueSouthPark April 29, 2012 @ 6:42 p.m.

enjoyPB -On residential assessments being the focal point of the CBD ordinance, if you need convincing: Li Mandri was instrumental in working with his friend Gavin Newsome to create multiple CBDs in the early 2000s. Here is the San Francisco ordinance in Business and Tax Regulations Code, Article 15, Business Improvement Districts Procedure Code, verbatim link text:

a) State law provides procedures to form property and business improvement districts. This Article provides authority for the City to invoke those state procedures and in addition to apply those procedures to residential property that would not be covered were the City to follow the state law exclusively. This Article incorporates the state law and then specifies how the Board of Supervisors may choose to augment the state law provisions by choosing to: (1) reduce the percentage of petitions required from owners in order to initiate formation; (2) have the district encompass and assess residential property; or (3) extend the term of the district to a maximum of 15 years, unless a longer term is authorized by state law; or (4) authorize the district to recover through assessments the costs incurred in its formation.


Founder May 2, 2012 @ 8:54 a.m.

As our political coverage continues to get "dumbed down" we hear lots about "fluff" subjects and almost nothing about the bigger issues facing San Diego UNTIL IT'S TOO LATE!

Where are the side by side comparisons of the candidates on things like:

Pensions Pay reductions Lobbyist gifts taken Taxpayer-Funded cars and other "perks" Additional Taxes like MAD's Crime Additional alcohol permits...


nostalgic May 2, 2012 @ 3:19 p.m.

San Diego collects an astonishing amount of money in special assessments. For seniors (people who have owned their houses for a long time) these costs can equal or exceed their Property Taxes. So much for Prop 13! Howard Jarvis ? He never dreamed this could happen.


Founder May 3, 2012 @ 8:17 a.m.

We need to make sure that this topic becomes a Mayoral discussion point for just that reason. Any Ideas? Thanks


Founder May 3, 2012 @ 9:17 a.m.

How do we as a City deal with Venality on so many different levels?

venal |ˈvēnl| adjective showing or motivated by susceptibility to bribery : why should these venal politicians care how they are rated? | their generosity had been at least partly venal.


BlueSouthPark May 3, 2012 @ 11:45 a.m.

nostalgic - you mentioned that a lot of money is collected in special assessments. Well, it is, but mainly only in the poorest areas. Look at this little old house on National Avenue:

link text

Would you guess that the owners pay $420.24/year to the Central Commercial MAD? They do. They should at least get a banner in front of their house, no? Similar huge assessments are seen for poor little houses in City Heights

Central Commercial MAD was started in 2000 by Hueso and Li Mandri with the helpful votes of a couple of commercial property owners who live in La Jolla and Del Mar. The La Jollan and Del Mar guys have been the main management all these years. The total assessment collected every year is about $218,000, on ~430 properties. In the most recent IRS filing from this MAD's La Jolla office, here's how some of this money was spent:

  1. Exec Dir pay, $18,000
  2. Management pay, $17,508
  3. Accounting cost, $3300
  4. Travel cost, $7941
  5. Insurance cost, $4623
  6. Banner Design $14,464
  7. Event Expenses $41,522
  8. Payroll taxes $3424

An audit report in 2009 link text concerning commingling of funds from property assessments and grants from an afterschool music program that the MAD management runs stated:

... expenses exceeded program revenues by $13,108 which were paid for ...from property owner assessments which raises the issue of whether these are authorized expenses.

And so it goes. This is an Economic Development-run MAD. Just like the Golden Hill MAD was.


Founder May 4, 2012 @ 6:47 a.m.

Great Post of why all these "additional" taxes need to be rein in...

These "extra" fees and or taxes can in effect remove the Prop 13 protections that so many in CA depend upon, to remain living in CA...


nostalgic May 4, 2012 @ 6:03 p.m.

 "Let everyone sweep in front of his own door,
  and the whole world will be clean."
         --Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, quoted in the Motreal Gazette, 
            quoted in this week's The Week

Advice from 1800 - a different solution from the one proposed by Mr. Li Mandri with his CBDs..


Founder May 5, 2012 @ 7:35 a.m.

In Germany property owners are responsible for cleaning the sidewalk and even out to the middle of the street in front of their property!

Businesses Owner, Smokers and especially Dog Owners should be required to clean up all their trash, even if the litter is dropped some place else...

Then we would be America's Cleanest City!


tomjohnston May 5, 2012 @ 8:46 p.m.

In San Francisco, the anti litter laws require you to remove all of the litter and other urban detritus that ends up on your sidewalk. It doesn't matter if it's yours or not. Pick it up or faces possible fines ranging from less than $100 up to $1000. In 2009, the SF BoS approved a $.20 surcharge on a pack of cigarettes to help fund the cost of cleaning up tobacco litter. The also passed an ordinance ordinance requiring businesses and residents to separate recyclable and compostable materials from their garbage. Any one who doesn't can be fines up to $100. The city provides city to have three separate color-coded bins for waste and has a stated goal of having nothing sent to landfills or incinerators by 2020. Does San Diego have anything like that?


nostalgic May 8, 2012 @ 2:12 p.m.

San Diego City Council meeting today: City Attorney announced new form for getting refunds for Golden Hill MAD assessments. Not available quite yet; Dorian Hargrove will get the news when it happens, I'm sure.


Why_Be_Dishonest May 13, 2012 @ 12:38 p.m.

Courts cited GGHCDC MAD as illegal and unconstitutional; both Courts ordered the vacating the MAD; thus the returning of all assessments [money] illegally TAKEN by the city.


Citizens need “HELP” in getting the word. City of San Diego Employees, Attorneys, Politicians, and GGHCDC are again playing dilatory games of bureaucratic doublespeak, foot-dragging, misdirection, and not accepting responsibility for their illegal deeds; this believe/design to greatly reduce the amount of claims by “running the clock” on the citizens!

County Tax Collector acted in good faith by sending an information letter, and sent all the collected 2012 money back to property owners without any hesitation or bureaucratic BS! However, since November 2011, the City of San Diego employees and/or GGHCDC have refused to “act” by notifying property owners officially in writing how and when the illegally taken monies are to be returned for 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011. They are “running the clock!”

“TODAY” before the six months time period runs out; this to protect your rights and to be able to pursue actions in equity for the return of these taken monies, the property owners must mail or fax an Official Claims Form to City of San Diego Risk Management Department (within six months). Pursuant to state code, upon receipt they assign a control number, notify you in writing of the claim’s receipt and action person’s name, and is required to respond approving/disproving the claim within a short time period. []

We are now asked to trust the same “exact” people [Gloria & Murray] that “ESTABLISHED” the illegal and unconstitutional GGHCDC MAD; who fought hard against the “Citizens” to keep it and expand it the last 5-years! There is said to be a very recent email being passed around, from Todd Gloria with a totally different unofficial claims form to be mailed to Beth Murray’s Department.

Doesn’t seems honest, truthful, or correct, especially since councilmen/women and bureaucrats have so easily lied to us countless times before - without conscience. It is not on an Official City Letterhead with the City Attorney’s signature directing property owners to do contrary to published State Code, regulations, City policies, and procedures (Risk Management).

It doesn’t seem to protect our rights under State LAW by sending Wrong document to Wrong City’s Agent for Claims/Service. [Experience indicates to not trust their word - Consult your legal council – it’s important to submit OFFICIAL CLAIM to Risk Management when/if we have to pursue future actions in equity to have monies returned. Ask why they just don’t send you a check like the County Tax Collector?]


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