Sketch of proposed Ferris wheel off Harbor Drive
Charles Black, a key figure in the drive by Rancho Santa Fe mega-millionaire and ex–Padres owner John Moores to build the team’s Petco Park, has copped a plea with San Diego’s ethics commission for failing to disclose lobbying activities on behalf of Bosa Development, a high-rise condo builder.
After San Diego taxpayers coughed up the cash for the ballpark in 1998, Black, once Padres president, found other clients, including, in 2011, the City of Escondido, then trying to build a tax-funded stadium for a Padres farm club that eventually wound up in El Paso. In 2015, Black pitched a proposal with David Malmuth and Sea World to install a massive Ferris wheel on the port of San Diego’s G Street Mole. Then a year ago last month, Black signed on to work with the developers of Metropolitan Airpark, a venture to remake the city’s Brown Field municipal airport near the Mexican border into an industrial and commercial center.
Bosa hired Black in late 2014 “to provide consulting services in connection with several projects located in the downtown San Diego area,” says a stipulation agreement reached with the ethics commission last month by Black’s firm, C.B. Urban Development. Though Black “had his first lobbying contact with a City Official on behalf of Bosa on May 5, 2015,” he didn’t register as a lobbyist until more than a year later, on July 1, 2016. Black continued to lobby for Bosa through September of last year, also failing to file disclosure reports regarding the activity until this July. In part because Black “voluntarily provided information concerning the firm’s lobbying activities that was not available from any other source,” the ethics stipulation says, he was fined just $1500.
The delinquent filings show Black was paid $11,000 by Bosa to gain approval of development at “880 West Broadway and 8th and B.” City officials lobbied included Stephen Puetz, chief of staff for mayor Kevin Faulconer, along with mayoral development honcho Mike Hansen. The filings also reveal that Black worked for the city itself during the same period, pulling down a cool $45,000 for “project management services” from the Public Works Department.
Based on campaign finance reporting records, Black is a loyal friend of the city’s current powers-that-be, coming up with $950 for Faulconer’s mayoral cause, as well as $500 for the failed city attorney campaign of Robert Hickey (also backed by Moores); and $250 for Ray Ellis’s unsuccessful try for city council; as well as the same for incumbent GOP councilman Scott Sherman. Hickey once worked for Moores and JMI, defending the Padres project from lawsuits attacking its legal legitimacy.