Proposed site of One Paseo project
While looking for city approval to build their One Paseo mixed-use development in Carmel Valley, Kilroy Realty has spent money on public relations campaigns, hired expensive lobbying outfits to grease the wheels in City Hall, and thrown pizza parties for residents in exchange for project support.
In all, the Los Angeles–based developer has spent millions of dollars on One Paseo before breaking ground on the development.
Kilroy Realty isn't the only property owner in Carmel Valley to spend lumps of cash on the project. Donahue Schriber, owner of the Del Mar Highlands shopping center across the street from Kilroy's plot of land, has also paid large sums of money to kill the project.
According to recent lobbying disclosures filed with the city, since 2010, Donahue Schriber has spent over $1.1 million on three of San Diego's most influential lobbyists — Sheppard Mullin, Southwest Strategies, and John Ziebarth Associates.
As reported previously, Donahue Schriber has also provided the seed money needed to launch One Paseo's opposition website; What Price Main Street. Since launching the website, the grassroots group has kept their distance from Donahue Schriber and tried to minimize their relationship.
However, as the project is set to be heard by the city council later this month, What Price Main Street has ramped up its efforts, sending mass emails debunking Kilroy's claims about the project. The so-called grassroots group has even hired a public relations firm to help package their message. Representatives for Kilroy have little doubt that their neighbor Donahue Schriber is behind the newly concerted opposition.
"It is not about how 'What Price Main Street' was created, it is about how it's being used," writes Rachel Laing in a January 30 email to the Reader. "Today, the group's role is clearly akin to a dark-money political campaign to help its sole contributor, Donahue Schriber, kill a project they’re afraid will compete with their own shopping center."
But, the residents opposing One Paseo say that Donahue Schriber has had little to do with the group other than help bankroll their efforts.
"Our committee consists of about 8 to 10 local residents who have spent years attending meetings and reviewing documents, working to educate the community about the costs of constructing such a large development in Carmel Valley," writes resident Ken Farinsky.
"Yes, we have benefited from Donahue Schriber's decision to increase their lobbying efforts as Kilroy's One Paseo project goes before the Planning Commission and the City Council. However, I don't believe that negates the fact that the [What Price Main Street] group is a grassroots organization founded and run by community members to fight for an appropriate development in Carmel Valley. The question you'll have to decide is, if a grassroots organization decides to partner with a local business to better achieve its goals, is it still a grassroots organization?"
Farinsky adds, "I guess the answer to that question depends on how that partnership works. If the local business takes over the grassroots 'shell' and converts it into something that it never was, then it's no longer 'grassroots.' However, if the local business is simply funding the existing organization without making demands or changing the message, what is the difference? We're still the same eight local community members running the show, we still decide the message. Why shouldn't we be considered 'grassroots' now?"
By Farinsky's account, Kilroy Realty has spent over $74 million on One Paseo so far; a lot of money, considering city council has yet to discuss the project.
Laing, however, says the large sum of money is misleading and can be attributed to the fact that Kilroy has "about 40 local office employees in addition to its facilities maintenance and operations employees. It’s highly invested in San Diego as it owns and manages many millions of square feet of office and commercial space in San Diego."
In Laing's view, it's Donahue Schriber who is the real outsider.
"They've paid high-priced consultants to strategize the best way to do that, and they’ve driven [What Price Main Street's] agenda by paying for an entire [public relations] machine around it. Does anyone believe that the corporation paying the cost of direct mail, newspaper ads, sign wavers, paid signature gatherers, precinct walkers and lobbyists has no control over the message or strategy of the effort?"
Farinsky does admit to being on the same team as Donahue Schriber. "[What Price Main Street] recently decided that if Kilroy was going to accuse us of being funded by Donahue Schriber regardless of what we did, we might as well work together to get our message out. This has not changed our message, and [Donahue Schriber] has not been given free reign to say whatever they want under our name. We control the message, but the two of us work together towards a common goal."
Council will eventually have the last word in a February 23 vote.
For more, see these earlier stories:
January 20, 2014
April 24, 2014
May 29, 2014