If all goes according to plan, the district's Fifth Avenue headquarters will become a townhome development.
  • If all goes according to plan, the district's Fifth Avenue headquarters will become a townhome development.
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Plans are in motion to replace the Sweetwater Union High School District office and corporate yard in western Chula Vista with 135 townhouse units called the Cove.

The district has three pieces of property they are looking to sell after the groundwork is laid for them to become condo apartment conversions. The properties were all ostensibly purchased to become district-office headquarters. The properties are located on Third Avenue, Fifth Avenue, and L Street.

Sweetwater is currently moving forward with obtaining the entitlements, which entails maps, rezoning, and general-plan amendments, in order to put the townhouses on Fifth Avenue.

According to Janice Kluth, Chula Vista senior project co-coordinator, the Cove project entitlements will be done in phases. “The first phase [submitted in December 2013] includes a rezone and environmental review. Phase 2 and 3 will include a General Plan Amendment, further rezones, a Precise Plan, a Tentative Map, and Design Review.”

Entitlements for the Cove will take upward of two years.

Sweetwater pays the City of Chula Vista entitlement fees. According to Kluth, “the cost to entitle the project will be based on staff time to review the plans. The city collects deposits for each action (rezone, map, plan amendment, etc.) and the developer/applicant is responsible for keeping a positive balance on each account.”

Sweetwater paid approximately $85,000 for Third Avenue (the Colony apartments) entitlements. Fifth Avenue includes general-plan changes, so the fees will be steeper.

Kluth says the Fifth Avenue townhouse project will also include “an open-space requirement, so the plans include open space, landscaped areas and sidewalks, a tot lot, a pool, and a clubhouse. Additionally, park fees (calculated on a per-unit basis) will be due at the time of building permit issuance.”

Part of the Cove project process is to get public input. David Danciu, secretary for the Southwest Chula Vista Civic Association, was contacted by Kluth for this purpose.

Danciu writes: “Since we are the organization most aligned with residents of Southwest Chula Vista it was logical that a meeting with the facilitator-in-chief, Mr. Chuck Diamond, was set up. He [Diamond, Sweetwater’s consultant] will present development plans to residents and gauge the response while moving plans through the labyrinth of city approvals. The issue for us [Southwest Association] is how to contact and inform as many of the project neighbors as possible.”

According to Danciu, a tentative meeting is scheduled for mid-July. The group is hoping the meeting can take place in the district office.

Many believe Sweetwater could use new headquarters. The current office is a maze of cubbyholes, dingy hallways, and ancient bathrooms. The corporate yard’s correspondent bus traffic has never been well situated in the Fifth Avenue residential setting.

However, the district’s real estate gambol is fraught with problems — not the least of which is that there is only one locally elected trustee on the board at this time — John McCann. County board of education trustees fill the other four seats, which have been vacated due to corruption charges against the elected, former trustees, until November elections.

This factor becomes more urgent because the June 30 Sweetwater agenda has two items on it that are tied to the district’s real estate deals.

During Monday’s closed session, trustees will be asked to take up the question of acquiring office space for a new district office at 860 Harold Place in Chula Vista. County board members have already heard from some residents and teachers why they think this is not an appropriate location for the district office. One point made was that it is not centrally located, as the district also encompasses Imperial Beach and National City.

The sale of the district’s Third Avenue property is also on the June 30 agenda and is linked to the district’s ability to acquire Harold Place. The Third Avenue property has been entitled for a 162 multi-family apartment complex called the Colony.

But there are questions about the process the district used to get Third Avenue declared excess property.

Before a piece of property can be sold, it has to be declared “excess” by a 7-11 committee (called “7-11” because no fewer than 7 and no more 11 need to be appointed).

Some people have expressed concern that trustees, removed from the board in connection with the pay-to-play corruption case in Sweetwater, were the ones who appointed the 7-11 committee members.

As the Reader has reported, none of the 7-11 committee members submitted their conflict-of-interest 700 forms until after the group had concluded their business and declared the Third Avenue property excess. Superintendent Ed Brand vetted their forms.

One of the members of the 7-11 committee owns property within a block of the proposed Colony development, so if the Third Avenue vacant lot becomes an apartment house, his property will likely increase in value.

One of the committee members never attended a meeting — he was a teacher and a Latino, so there were never seven members and never a committee reflective of the community.

And one of the 7-11 committee members was David Malcolm. Since pleading guilty to a felony conflict-of-interest charge in 2003 (which has since been expunged), the ex–port commissioner has found himself in the middle of at least one fishy real estate deal.

In 2010, Malcolm reportedly purchased a piece of Arizona property that the City of Glendale had been leasing and "repeatedly" had sought to buy from a third party. Malcolm managed to purchase the property from the owner for $5.5 million and sold it to Glendale the same day for $6.6 million.

Malcolm was appointed by trustee John McCann.

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joepublic June 29, 2014 @ 5:28 p.m.

Sweetwater's interim school board should act like someone you've asked to watch your house while you're away. They should see that it's safe and functional, but please, no sales or remodeling, thank you.


anniej June 29, 2014 @ 5:57 p.m.

Why have we, the taxpaying public, been left out of the process? A committee of 7 does not equate to community representation in my opinion.

A review of the Participation Agreement indicates that Diamond will end up with 1/3 of the net - DOES THAT SOUND AS THOUGH WE HAVE BEEN REPRESENTED? Where was the legal representative in all of this? Ah, there was no signature on that Participation Agreement representing the District other than Dianne Russo as 'interim facilities -'. No Board member signature - hmmmmm,,,,,

Brand brokers the L Street/Plan Nine deal and now is brokering this deal with E2ManageTech -

So weigh in here does any of this ring true to any of you.

Millions upon millions upon millions of OUR tax dollars wasted.

More to come ------


eastlaker June 29, 2014 @ 10:37 p.m.

The audacity is what gets me. Brand must think he has immunity from all prosecution. I have heard it said that he is confident of all his friends in high places, but could they really condone this?

Of course, it looks like they condoned the failed bank scheme, the educational foundation scheme, and all the rest of the Brand dishonest schemes--but really, giving away taxpayers' money that is for the schools?

A 1/3 cut? Just what did Diamond do that was worth that? Pinky promise to be Brand's BFF?

Time for quite a few depositions, I say.


Ensenadamaria June 29, 2014 @ 6:23 p.m.

The previous group were held accountable for expensive meals and favors this info of Annie's should be handed over to the authorities and an investigation should start right away. Why is Dianne signing a contract about real estate? Brand was almost snared back in 2006 but this appears much more serious.


Susan Luzzaro June 29, 2014 @ 7:52 p.m.

anniej, the problem here is that you know too much, you have done scholarly research on Sweetwater, and so many of us are trying to catch up. Some people don't remember the Ed2tech research that was hired to give entitlements to the properties. But, if I recall, the Ed2 group will have a sweet profit.


oskidoll June 30, 2014 @ 10:48 a.m.

Looks like a smoking gun to me. Anniej may just have the goods on Fast Eddy this time...wonder what his financial interest in Ed2tech might be...I believe there is the expectation that those who spend the public's money must have an 'arm's length' distance with the vendors.


eastlaker June 29, 2014 @ 8:38 p.m.

I had thought Fast Eddy would be plotting away, but this! Exceeds my most far-reaching imagination of what a corrupt leader might be up to.

A veritable hornets' nest of plots, schemes and deals--all done with taxpayer money, while he was claiming that there wasn't enough money to pay the teachers reasonable health care coverage.

Once again, Ruth Chapman has been proved right: If Ed Brand's lips are moving, he's lying!"


anniej June 29, 2014 @ 8:46 p.m.

Guess there is something to be said about being a broke down old woman, it gives you time and lots of it.

What leader in his right mind gives an entity 30% of the net? Interesting point, on most signed documents, especially ones dealing with millions of dollars, there is a date next to the signature. Trivial point, I don't think so. On top of the 1/3 E2ManageTech is receiving $7500.00 a month. Also,,,,,, THEY will have to approve the ultimate sale??????? Why did Brand turn over such control to a third party? Oh, but that is right, he did the same thing with L street when he turned it over to Plan Nine. The 2005 purchase price of L exceeds the current value by 12 to 15 million and the District has only made interest payments to the lender. It is estimated that over 6 million has been spent over and above the interest payments. Does this include the over 2 mill I found on Board Docs?

Was this an attempt to defraud the government/IRS? Has the IRS seen these documents? Inquiring minds want to know and will find out.


eastlaker June 29, 2014 @ 8:49 p.m.

So, anniej, do you think that Brand thought everyone would be fast asleep?

He has had a few months to work on these tricks, what with one excuse after the other to cancel board meetings. Reminds me of that film title of a few years ago, "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels". Except without the humor.


anniej June 29, 2014 @ 10:29 p.m.

I mistyped it should have been 1/3 not 30%.

Now according to Calhoun the Third Avenue property up for sale - I believe asking price is around 7million. He is saying our piece of the pie will be 1 million. How is that possible on a 7 million dollar property? Well, once everyone is paid off, including the broker who is NOT E2ManageTech, and then the E2 guys collect their 1/3 that leaves us with a mere 1 million.

Again I say something simply is not right here, this definitely needs to be looked into. Kind of reminds me of a 60 minute segment I saw recently.

Just when I was planning to retire Brand goes and pulls this A7 on us. Not a good idea to poke the bear, looks like I will be there tomorrow after all, retirement from SUHSD will now have to wait until this property deal is cleaned up.


eastlaker June 29, 2014 @ 10:39 p.m.

No wonder we could never get Brand to talk about actual educational matters, he has been far too busy with real estate schemes.

No wonder the district is in almost 100% program improvement.

Someone should explain to Brand that for him, "taking care of business" is supposed to mean running the schools, not trying to be the new MacMillan rival.

Furthermore, McCann needs to come clean regarding why he named Malcolm to the 7 - 11 committee. Do we really need more wheeler-dealers draining the coffers for us?


anniej June 30, 2014 @ 6:56 a.m.

While Brand may attempt to distance himself and put all of this on Dianne Russo, sources are allegedly saying 'oh CONTRAR'. What was his role? How deep does this go? Who were the players? How will the truth be exposed ......

Think it goose like this:



oldchulares June 30, 2014 @ 8:11 a.m.

This is sizing up to be a bigger deal than the corruption pleas. Hope Tom and Dianne get it they are being set up to take the fall. When they are asked those questions they had better fess up or they will loose their pensions. How can I get my hands on a copy of these contracts?


Visduh June 30, 2014 @ 8:28 a.m.

Now some inexplicable things come into focus. Eddie is staying on until Oct to try to put this matter to bed. He likely thinks that if the whole scheme is history, nobody will care enough to dig. Yes, it is shaping up to be bigger than the "pay to play" pleas. Those were always just low-hanging fruit, and stand-ins for the real deep-seated corruption.

But now, where is Bahnee D? If her prosecutors could come up with over a hundred felony counts on the first round, they surely could find out all the chicanery that went into this, and come up with some real crimes. And, guess who would be accused in that scenario? We all have speculated about the FBI, and whether they were looking. Maybe they have been, and we will learn about that. Well, shucks, we can hope, can't we?

The bad news could be for the five former board members who now figure their cases are closed. If/when this thing blows up, they could be back in court, looking at a whole new round of charges, having little or nothing to do with the previous ones. And who knows, might have some real worry about prison.

This time around, I make no predictions. I did pretty well last time, and would prefer to quit while I"m ahead. The one point I missed was that a couple of these baddies actually got jail time. They all SHOULD have had some, but I never expected any, and was pleasantly surprised when Sandoval and Gandara left court in bracelets on their way to the county slammer.


eastlaker June 30, 2014 @ 10:14 a.m.

The fact that Brand is asking for $400,000 for additional attorney fees might indicate that he senses something in the offing.

What we need is someone in the Justice Dept. who really believes in justice. Do you think such a person can be found?


shirleyberan June 30, 2014 @ 10:26 a.m.

Will they ask the last to be discovered criminal superintendent why he needs so much money for an attorney? Looking guilty.


oskidoll June 30, 2014 @ 10:51 a.m.

or perhaps its to pay the legal freight for Gandara, Sandoval, Quinones, Ricasa, Cartmill etc to buy their perpetual silence.


eastlaker June 30, 2014 @ 3:37 p.m.

Downpayment, then?

Maybe they will all be given a townhouse or two?


oskidoll June 30, 2014 @ 2:59 p.m.

I recall hearing something that before a public entity can sell property it owns (and the public has paid for over the years) that it must be declared 'surplus property' that the district no longer needs for educational purposes. Does this sound familiar to anyone? If this is so, is the Plan9Partner arrangement and other 'titles ' (such as the Ed2 tech arrangement) used a smoke screen and sneaky way around the law requiring the declaration of surplus property? I believe the declaration of surplus property is supposed to be done at a public hearing (could be part of a board meeting but still needs to be done.)


eastlaker June 30, 2014 @ 3:41 p.m.

Yes, exactly, but you must remember we are in the Twilight Zone of Ed Brand's Sweetwater here, where the usual rules seem not to apply, and right-thinking people are at an extreme disadvantage.

Can you name anyone less worthy of trust than Ed Brand? How about seemingly-willing lackey John McCann, who has yet to speak out honestly about anything--though he likes to tell people he has done the right thing!

If so, John, when and where?


eastlaker June 30, 2014 @ 3:43 p.m.

Ed must have promised cuts to many people if he pulls this one off. But there must be someone who is ready to call a halt to this madness, someone who knows things have going too far, and that this school district needs to return to the business of educating young people.


eastlaker June 30, 2014 @ 4:15 p.m.

Maybe Ed hasn't realized it, but that street in Socorro, TX that was named Jesus Gandara Street has been renamed.

Why do I bring this up?

Because it is a demonstration that people can think they hold all the power, but then, things change. Power can go away.


anniej June 30, 2014 @ 11:29 p.m.

Brand was put on Administrative leave til his contract ends -


Please know anniej is going to pursue the property issues. I believe there are major issues on our properties. It is alleged that Brand is blaming the Participation AGREEMENT on Dianne Russo - while I am not defending her I will say, in my opinion, she would NEVER have signed that agreement unless she was directed to do so by Brand. With friends like Brand Ms. Russo needs NO enemies!


Visduh July 1, 2014 @ 7:30 a.m.

This move was unexpected, to say the least. If it gets him out of the office and insures that he can exert no influence on the admin staff, things might start to happen. Just when we all were ready to give up on this interim board, they got some smarts, and made a baby step in the right direction. It would have been better to just accept his resignation last night and end his obscene salary immediately. I don't know about you, annie, but I'll take what I can get.

Speaking of his $21K a month salary, every two months it costs the district enough to pay the salary and benefits for another teacher that Eddie claims the district cannot afford.

While we are hoping, let's hope that the new board chair has quietly asked the sheriff and DA (and maybe even the FBI) to start investigating the property deals and Brand's role in them, going back to the beginning.


shirleyberan July 1, 2014 @ 8:17 a.m.

Thank-You Anniej! He can do no more harm. They will see what kind of person he really is. We already know.


anniej July 1, 2014 @ 8:21 a.m.


My take is the new Board will focus on doing what they can regarding education, but I doubt if they would want to get involved with any legal issues. HOWEVER, please know a certain few remain diligent in shining a bright light on these property deals, which will include involving the authorities. The amounts of monies involved MILLIONS

While some would ask why pursue it? My answer - the message needs to be loud and clear the So Bay community will no longer tolerate use and abuse of our tax DOLLARS. I want an accounting of the property deals. I want to know who gets what, and I want to know if there are any 'Caspers' (ghosts) who will benefit.


Visduh July 1, 2014 @ 8:29 a.m.

annie, I fully agree with you that this needs to be pursued to the end. The only way the endemic culture of corruption in the area can be rooted out is to expose it for what it is, get criminal convictions of all the crooks, and whenever possible, get restitution from those who profited illegally. This isn't about educational philosophy, as in most county districts. The Sweetwater (and SWC and San Ysidro) scandals have been about greed, and about totally forgetting why those districts exist. You and the others in the So County who want to clean it up have a long and likely lonely trek ahead of you, one that could take many years. Keep up the good work.


anniej July 1, 2014 @ 8:29 a.m.

shirleyberan - I am but one, many many others have worked extremely hard.

Shirley, I must take this opportunity to THANK all of the unsung heroes, employees who have been brow beat for years. Good Administrators who were overlooked for promotions simply because they did not want their nose to change color. To them, all of them - I say The reign of terror is over!!!!


eastlaker July 1, 2014 @ 11:49 a.m.

One more thing--thanks so very much to the Bond Oversight Committee, the members of which worked tirelessly to document the many problems in Sweetwater--while being openly ridiculed and undermined by most of the people seated on the dais.

They showed great courage under pressure, integrity, wisdom and intelligence to continue to go forward while the board and Gandara and then the board and Brand tried to call a halt to their efforts.

McCann voted repeatedly NOT to pay expenses for this group, so people paid out of their own pockets to carry on with the business of reporting honestly what was taking place.

To borrow from David Letterman, I have seen weasels behave better than some of our Sweetwater officials and administrators.


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