Steve Cushman, whose family’s Riverwalk Golf Course’s imminent conversion into condos and commercial space by Houston, Texas-based Hines development hinges on city hall approval, has just kicked in major money to this year’s reelection bid of GOP city councilwoman Lorie Zapf. The super dense Mission Valley development, per a report last July by then Union-Tribune reporter Roger Showley, includes as many as 4000 housing units in buildings as high as seven stories, a million square-feet of office space, and a sprawling new 140,000 square foot trolley station with added retail and residential. Eighty acres of open space would occupy land rendered unbuildable by the path of the San Diego River. “Our plan is to try to leave the river alone as much as we can,” said project manager Bhavesh Parikh. “In 1944 Cushman’s family agreed to lease the property for the Mission Valley Country Club, which opened three years later,” noted Showley regarding the parcel’s history, “It became the Stardust Country Club in the 1960s and the Riverwalk Golf Club in the 1990s.”
Two prior attempts by the Cushmans to develop the property have come up short, and proponents are said to believe that an all-out big money lobbying push is necessary to get this one over the top. On April 2, Cushman’s wife Marjorie came up with a total of $1100 for Zapf. Cush Enterprises operations manager Nikolas Parrish and Deborah Parrish each gave $1100. Lori Moore, another relation of the Cushman clan, also kicked in $1100 the same day. In addition, Hines has hired the Atlantis Group, an influence-peddling outfit, regarding “matters related to project entitlements for their Mission Valley project,” according to a February 2 disclosure.
Atlantis principal Marcela Escobar Eck, a controversial planning official under GOP ex-mayor Jerry Sanders, Hines and its employees, including Parikh, are also registered to lobby the project, says a March 26 filing. But that’s not all. In addition to Eck, Hines has hired Richard Ledford of Ledford Enterprises, ex-Sanders media aide Rachel Laing’s Laing Strategic Communications, along with the downtown law and lobbying powerhouse of Sheppard Mullin. Yet another Hines hired gun on the project is California Strategies and Advocacy, whose San Diego principals Craig Benedetto and Ben Haddad are enmeshed in an ongoing investigation by the state Attorney General’s office of a leak to them by councilman Chris Cate of an internal city document regarding SoccerCity, another Mission Valley project. All have contributed heavily to past city council candidacies.