U.S. Navy ship at NASSCO
Now that the date for voters to decide on the Barrio Logan Community Plan update is set for June 2014, the legal fight will resume.
Earlier this week, attorneys for the Environmental Health Coalition — which supports the plan to further divide industrial and residential areas and opposes the June referendum — filed a second lawsuit in hopes of stopping the referendum from going to the ballot.
The lawsuit was filed in response to a second signature drive brought on by a coalition of shipbuilders. The subsequent petition was done to ensure that the city council could not seek an alternative path in pushing the zoning regulations through.
On December 17, the council approved placing both referendums — one for the zoning and the other over the community plan — on the June ballot. Typically, when a referendum is set to be put before voters, elected officials wait to see the results. That's not true for one elected official; city attorney Jan Goldsmith.
The attorneys under Goldsmith must defend what some say was a petition drive steeped in lies and misinformation.
"Petitioners are informed, believe, and thereon allege, in order to persuade or influence voters to sign the Referendary Petition, the circulators intentionally misrepresented and made false statements concerning the purport and effect of the petition," reads the lawsuit.
One such statement was the claim that the Navy would leave San Diego in search for safe and less expensive harbor. The Navy, however, has remained silent on the issue.
In response to the first lawsuit, deputy city attorneys say they, too, have remained neutral.
"In regard to the validity or invalidity of the subject Referendary Petition and the appropriateness of the claims for relief in the complaint, the City respondents maintain their neutrality in this matter and submit to the Court's findings," reads a December 12 legal document filed by the City Attorney's Office.
Goldsmith's impartiality, however, did not keep him from meeting with executives and a lobbyist for the shipbuilders in the days before they submitted the first batch of signatures to the city clerk.
On October 29, Goldsmith met with lobbyist Chris Wahl and two executives from NASSCO to go over the referendum process. Goldsmith's office says the meeting was one of many meetings attended by the city's top attorney.
"NASSCO representatives came to the City Attorney’s office to inform us that the petition was going to be filed and ask about the City’s process. They were told that the City Clerk would outline the next steps," wrote Goldsmith spokesperson Tom Mitchell.
(corrected 12/27, 1:40 p.m.)