For decades, C. Terry Brown and his father before him cast themselves as the stalwart guardians of San Diego Republican values, spending major sums derived from their sprawling Mission Valley hotel empire to back GOP politicos from Richard Nixon to Pete Wilson to Kevin Faulconer. Charlie Brown, a crony of later-jailed Republican financier C. Arnholt Smith, used his political power to build the Town & Country Hotel in the middle of the San Diego River floodplain, opening the once-pristine river valley to decades of devastating and costly development. “Hotelier Charles H. Brown had bankrolled the ‘Jobs and Growth’ campaign, but his real priority was aggrandizing his Mission Valley property values at the expense of downtown,” wrote UCSD historian Steve Erie.
After the death of his father at age 49 in 1966, young Terry poured cash to juice the growth of burgeoning Hotel Circle, and the Town & Country became famous for housing an iterant corps of young Republican campaign workers come each election season. His latest council campaign gift came last June 17 in the form of $1100 from him and his wife to the GOP’s Chris Cate. The couple furnished the same to Republican Lorie Zapf on June 16. Long affiliated with the family of Johnny Alessio, The mobbed-up Smith’s Caliente fixer, Terry pleaded with president Ronald Reagan in a 1988 letter to pardon Alessio’s son Dominic after the latter’s bribery conviction for arranging prostitutes for Johnny while he was doing a stretch at Lompoc’s federal prison for tax evasion.
But times change, and Brown, now 76, has acquiesced to a deal with Unite Here Local 30, the hotel workers union, to allow big labor into the non-union hostelry. Brown told the Union-Tribune that he and majority partner Lowe Enterprises had “agreed to what is known as a card-check neutrality pact, which means they will not oppose any efforts to unionize the workforce.” The deal greased approval by the city council, dominated by labor-backed Democrats, of Lowe’s plan to scrape the old Town & Country complex for a massive $70 million housing and hotel plan. Unite Here had been lobbying against approval for months on environmental and lack of affordable housing grounds but abruptly dropped their opposition last week. When the vote came last Tuesday, council Republicans joined the 7-1 majority for the proposal. The sole no vote was cast by Democrat Chris Ward, who noted that the developers had declined to promise to build any lower-income housing on the 40-acre site. “This is a project that is unwilling to even provide affordable rents — 840 units and all we’re given is the potential for affordable housing,” said Ward in dissent.