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Secrecy shrouds Faulconer’s SoccerCity favors

City staff hands inside information to big-money developers

Qualcomm Stadium
Qualcomm Stadium

As Democratic Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a talked-of candidate for governor, bans city planning commissioners from meeting privately with developers, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, another putative aspirant to statewide office, is heading in the other direction, granting heightened secrecy and expedited treatment to favored projects and wealthy campaign donors who could boost his rise up the political ladder.

Kevin Faulconer

Such is the opinion of multiple inside observers of the ongoing battle for the city-owned Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, currently in the crosshairs of a super-rich group of La Jolla men known as FS Investors, seeking to grab the 165-acre parcel from public ownership to build a high-density commercial and housing complex, featuring a professional soccer stadium that may or may not include a new football venue for San Diego State University.

Records previously obtained from SDSU under provisions of the state's public records act reveal that San Diego's Republican mayor repeatedly held secret closed-door meetings over the past year with FS principals.

Morgan Dene Oliver

Aiding the talks, the documents show, was developer Morgan Dene Oliver, a longtime Faulconer campaign giver, whose OliverMcMillan development firm hosted a January 5 lunch prepared by Oliver’s personal chef in a dining room at his downtown offices.

In addition, records show repeated private contacts between Faulconer and the FS group in the mayor's office, including on May 9 and November 30.

Cybele Thompson

Now, documents newly released by the city following a February 21 public records act request reveal that Cybele Thompson, the Faulconer-appointed director of the city's Real Estate Assets Department, has also been in behind-the-scenes communications with FS and its consultants, providing inside information and non-public access to Qualcomm Stadium to aid the developers in their quest to obtain the city-owned property as quickly as possible.

"Our understanding is that there isn’t really a survey of the Qualcomm site available today," FS partner Nick Stone emailed Thompson on November 1.

"We were wondering if it would be possible to get your assistance to secure access to the location at convenient times to conduct the survey and potentially to ask for some help securing some old records."

Replied Thompson, "Hi, Nick – Sure, we would be happy to assist you with access to the site. Your primary point of contact at the stadium, Mike McSweeney, is copied here and his contact information is below."

Gary Hus

FS consultant Gary Hus emailed Thompson on December 1, a day after the mayor met privately with the developers in his office, asking for further assistance with the project.

"We have acquired a significant number of documents affecting the site," wrote Hus.

"I would like to include a review of the City Real Estate Assets documents to make sure that we have any off-record encumbrances that may have been filed with the city clerk’s office but not recorded."

In addition to Thompson, records show, Hus was also in regular contact with Greg Hopkins, deputy director of the city's engineering division.

"He mentioned that the city had put together some records recently for the site," Hus wrote Thompson.

"Is there someone I can meet with at your offices and take a look at what you have? I am flexible on time but sooner would be better if possible."

On February 15, Clif Williams, a land-use analyst with FS’s law firm Latham & Watkins, emailed Thompson with another request for expedited handling:

"We are trying to determine the end date for all leases of the Qualcomm Stadium site, including the end of all options for extension in those leases.”

Added Williams: "Can we get this information today."

Haste is not the norm at city hall, which often requires non-governmental parties to wait months for responses to public records act requests, note longtime observers of the city's development and planning processes.

Whether the repeated private contacts by the mayor and city staff under his control may draw legal fire or represent unauthorized costs to taxpayers that should be recovered from his campaign fund can't be determined until the city releases further promised details of the mayor's dealings with project developers,

The ownership of work product done with city advice and participation, including the FS site survey, might also be in question, say those with knowledge of the situation.

Meanwhile, would-be FS competitors for the land have expressed growing frustration at the way in which the FS project is speeding through city hall, thanks to the mayor's intercession.

"We just came up with this because we didn’t have much time since soccer came out of nowhere,” Perry Dealy, an aide to La Jolla's Doug Manchester, was quoted as saying in the Union-Tribune, adding, in the paper's words, that "instead of running with the FS plan, the city should stop, master plan the site itself and then invite more competition by issuing a request for proposals over the next two or three years."

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Qualcomm Stadium
Qualcomm Stadium

As Democratic Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a talked-of candidate for governor, bans city planning commissioners from meeting privately with developers, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, another putative aspirant to statewide office, is heading in the other direction, granting heightened secrecy and expedited treatment to favored projects and wealthy campaign donors who could boost his rise up the political ladder.

Kevin Faulconer

Such is the opinion of multiple inside observers of the ongoing battle for the city-owned Qualcomm Stadium site in Mission Valley, currently in the crosshairs of a super-rich group of La Jolla men known as FS Investors, seeking to grab the 165-acre parcel from public ownership to build a high-density commercial and housing complex, featuring a professional soccer stadium that may or may not include a new football venue for San Diego State University.

Records previously obtained from SDSU under provisions of the state's public records act reveal that San Diego's Republican mayor repeatedly held secret closed-door meetings over the past year with FS principals.

Morgan Dene Oliver

Aiding the talks, the documents show, was developer Morgan Dene Oliver, a longtime Faulconer campaign giver, whose OliverMcMillan development firm hosted a January 5 lunch prepared by Oliver’s personal chef in a dining room at his downtown offices.

In addition, records show repeated private contacts between Faulconer and the FS group in the mayor's office, including on May 9 and November 30.

Cybele Thompson

Now, documents newly released by the city following a February 21 public records act request reveal that Cybele Thompson, the Faulconer-appointed director of the city's Real Estate Assets Department, has also been in behind-the-scenes communications with FS and its consultants, providing inside information and non-public access to Qualcomm Stadium to aid the developers in their quest to obtain the city-owned property as quickly as possible.

"Our understanding is that there isn’t really a survey of the Qualcomm site available today," FS partner Nick Stone emailed Thompson on November 1.

"We were wondering if it would be possible to get your assistance to secure access to the location at convenient times to conduct the survey and potentially to ask for some help securing some old records."

Replied Thompson, "Hi, Nick – Sure, we would be happy to assist you with access to the site. Your primary point of contact at the stadium, Mike McSweeney, is copied here and his contact information is below."

Gary Hus

FS consultant Gary Hus emailed Thompson on December 1, a day after the mayor met privately with the developers in his office, asking for further assistance with the project.

"We have acquired a significant number of documents affecting the site," wrote Hus.

"I would like to include a review of the City Real Estate Assets documents to make sure that we have any off-record encumbrances that may have been filed with the city clerk’s office but not recorded."

In addition to Thompson, records show, Hus was also in regular contact with Greg Hopkins, deputy director of the city's engineering division.

"He mentioned that the city had put together some records recently for the site," Hus wrote Thompson.

"Is there someone I can meet with at your offices and take a look at what you have? I am flexible on time but sooner would be better if possible."

On February 15, Clif Williams, a land-use analyst with FS’s law firm Latham & Watkins, emailed Thompson with another request for expedited handling:

"We are trying to determine the end date for all leases of the Qualcomm Stadium site, including the end of all options for extension in those leases.”

Added Williams: "Can we get this information today."

Haste is not the norm at city hall, which often requires non-governmental parties to wait months for responses to public records act requests, note longtime observers of the city's development and planning processes.

Whether the repeated private contacts by the mayor and city staff under his control may draw legal fire or represent unauthorized costs to taxpayers that should be recovered from his campaign fund can't be determined until the city releases further promised details of the mayor's dealings with project developers,

The ownership of work product done with city advice and participation, including the FS site survey, might also be in question, say those with knowledge of the situation.

Meanwhile, would-be FS competitors for the land have expressed growing frustration at the way in which the FS project is speeding through city hall, thanks to the mayor's intercession.

"We just came up with this because we didn’t have much time since soccer came out of nowhere,” Perry Dealy, an aide to La Jolla's Doug Manchester, was quoted as saying in the Union-Tribune, adding, in the paper's words, that "instead of running with the FS plan, the city should stop, master plan the site itself and then invite more competition by issuing a request for proposals over the next two or three years."

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Comments
18

Who would have thought I'd ever agree with Manchester! This site is producing a greater than usual stink of corruption, and it's not coming from the river.

Kev-Boy is a small man whose graft exceeds his reach, and needs his grubby hands slapped hard.

March 10, 2017

Slapped? Hardly. The door needs to be slammed shut, preferably on the Mayor's sticky fingers, until a full evaluation of the site and its potential can be properly evaluated. Then open the bidding process and fully vett the participant.

So far this so called soccer city proposal reminds me of the NTC redevolpment and the sweetheart deal given to Corky McMillan crew. It's years later and many of the public components of that project are still unfinished.

March 10, 2017

You'll get no argument from me. And as I said in an earlier post, I'm also getting déjà vu of Liberty Station from the same rogues gallery and flim-flam promises here.

March 10, 2017

Corky McStealin

March 10, 2017

Is there any doubt San Diego is on the path to yet another expensive lesson on the economics of sports shows?

By manipulating information and access, and with the eager assistance of TV news, the UT, and boosters, the oligarchs with suck money from the city coffers directly into their own pockets. Anyone opposing the theft is labeled "obstructionist".

...and in twenty years, another massive hole in the accounts of the city must be backfilled with tax payer money, further reducing services and safety for the public.

That's exactly what happened with the stadium and ballpark in the late nineties. You can draw a direct line to today's infrastructure and retirement deficits to John Moores, Jack McGrory, Susan Golding and subsequent mayors putting sports before the public good, and turning a blind eye to blatant corruption.

Literally, Jack and Susan stopped paying into the pension fund to give the money to John Moores, issued flawed ballpark bonds, and vilified anyone who called their scam into question. (Jack McGrory, former City Manager who prostituted himself to John Moores was quoted in the UT calling me an "urban terrorist" for saying, in council chambers during public comment, that he was corrupt...I wish he had sued me for libel so I could have shown the evidence to a judge, the coward!)

The bright smile with a hand up his throat who passes for mayor today is following this shameful tradition. Now it's soccer that's going to lift the city to the stars, while tunneling away the subterranean foundations of future prosperity and eroding democracy.

So predictable, so sad, and so on, and on, ad nauseum.

March 10, 2017

Well if Doug Manchester says it, its got to be true!

March 10, 2017

As an aside, it seems as if Kev gets to surround himself with really good-looking women. Start with his wife. Now there's Cybele Thompson. Some guys just have a knack for that sort of thing. Do women think he's that attractive, or is is something else?

March 11, 2017

As of 2015, Thompson received total pay and benefits of $181,495. It's probably more now.

March 11, 2017

The reason for all this haste to redevelop the site is probably that Kev-boy wants to have some major "accomplishment" to point to when he makes his bid for another political office. He may not have much chance at landing the governorship, but he could end up as the replacement for Ronnie Roberts on the board of supervisors, or he might make a bid for a state senate seat, or a local congressional seat. Then there's the possibility of a cabinet appointment in this or future administration, or even a crack at the presidential nomination. Think that's improbable? No more improbable than Obama was a year prior to the 2008 race. Ya' nevah know.

March 11, 2017

Since he was formerly in PR for years, maybe Faulconer should replace the bumbling/lying Sean Spicer as Trump's press secretary.

March 11, 2017

When was there ever a presidential press secretary who had any sort of career after serving in that dead-end job? No, Kev-boy has his sights set on something far better and long lasting. Just what that is we can only speculate. But I guess that it is big, and he needs big stuff on his resume.

March 11, 2017

Well, my comment was not serious. Should have used ;-), I guess. George Stephanopoulos got a great career on ABC, and now makes $millions. He had only a short run for Pres. Clinton; then Dee Dee Myers took over.

March 11, 2017

Obama's Jay Carney didn't do too badly either. I forget where he went. Was it Apple? No, Amazon, I think. Anyway, let's hope Sean Spicer goes the distance. Melissa McCarthy's version of Spicey was so funny I would hate to see him leave.

March 14, 2017

This whole affair appears to be an obvious case of favoritism and corruption. I can understand that developers need to have information to create the best proposal for the Qualcomm site. But all activities should be done with a public record available so that the taxpayers know that the process is fair and the deals made are in the best interests of San Diego.

Another possible explanation for the secrecy is that secret deals exists that Faulconer doesn't want made public. FS Investors seems to know that there are contracts and leases that are not publicly recorded. I wonder if there are some political bombshells he's hiding.

As mentioned, Liberty Station is a good example of how bad a deal this could turn into. Developers getting rich and San Diegians getting robbed.

March 12, 2017

That should read...Developers getting rich(er) and San Diegans getting robbed again!

March 13, 2017

We may see that happen again if/when the old Sports Arena is torn down and developed.

March 13, 2017

I'm looking forward to that happening, no matter who does it. Maybe the guys who want to destroy small human-scale Seaport Village could move their projects to the Sports Arena site.

March 14, 2017

Don't let them sell public property. Once its gone, it cannot be used for the public good.

March 13, 2017

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