A well-heeled Chula Vista landlord known for funneling millions of dollars towards city ballot measures and city councilmembers is now suing the city over a controversial development on Third Avenue and K Street in downtown Chula Vista.
The landlord, Earl Jentz, and resident Gloria Gonzalez say city officials ignored environmental requirements and failed to comply with the city's general plan when it approved the Vista Del Mar condominium project which was ultimately approved in August of this year.
If built, the proposal from developer Hamid Mani calls for the demolition of three 1950's commercial and retail buildings along Third Avenue in order to make room for a five-story 71-unit apartment complex with a fitness center, lobby, and 616 square feet of commercial space.
As reported by the Reader's Susan Luzzaro, many residents objected to the development for its height and for the increased traffic it would create. Others, however, viewed the residential development positively as a way to bring more affordable housing to downtown.
One of those opponents is Earl Jentz. Jentz fought Vista Del Mar since the outset. In June of 2016 Jentz appealed the city's planning commission's approval of the project. According to the complaint, the city and its elected officials were steadfast in their support. During an August 16 city council hearing, the complaint alleges that residents were not allowed to make a presentation in favor of the appeal nor to rebut any issues raised during the hearing.
"Rather, city staff presented first, followed by all speakers in support of the project and opposed to the appeal," reads the complaint. "Appellants were not allowed to present anything until over three hours into the hearing. Then, at the conclusion of the public hearing, the applicant, but not any of the appellants, was allowed a rebuttal."
The alleged one-sided affair from the city shows a desire to bring more residential units to downtown Chula Vista. According to Luzzaro's December 2015 report, the developer Mani was not shy about the city's persistence in getting him to build a large residential tower.
“The city needs money," Many said during a December 2015 community meeting.
"The city has economical problems. There is a university that the city is working on, so the city needs availability. There are jobs here. They need homes. The people of Chula Vista need help. I can go develop in National City or Hawaii if I want. Some people from the city came to my office today at 4 o’clock saying we are running out of apartments.
“I have 101 employees in Chula Vista. I am adding another 100. These people are living in Tijuana or National City. Two or three people disagree with development. I’m going to stand above it. I love Mexican people. I have 101 Mexican-American employees, and I’m going to stand for what I’m doing.”
The opposition seems equally intent on stopping the project. They appear to have the money to see it through. Jentz, according to a 2010 profile in the Union-Tribune, is well known in city politics. Jentz owns nearly 50 residential properties in Chula Vista. He is said to have bankrolled current city councilmember Patricia Aguilar's city council campaign in 2010 along with a number of propositions and a failed attempt to replace city attorney Glen Googins in the 2010 election.