Control of Liberty Station, obtained from the city of San Diego by the Republican mega-donor McMillin family during the controversial reign of GOP mayor Susan Golding in 1999, has quietly changed hands for more than $71 million, with nary a word to the public from mayor Kevin Faulconer or city hall staff.
The new owner, according to a grant deed recorded at the San Diego county Recorder’s office November 16, is a group of entities tied to Seligman & Associates of Southfield Michigan. Per the company's website, the family-owned firm's related company, Seligman Western Ventures, is based in San Francisco.
A "consent to assignments of and estoppel certificate relating to Naval Training Center ground leases" that was recorded with the deed was signed by city deputy chief operating officer David Graham and deputy city attorney Delmar Williams.
In connection with the transaction, records show, the group of Seligman-related entities executed a trust deed to JPMorgan Chase Bank, securing a mortgage loan in the amount of $117 million.
Seligman honcho Scott Seligman, son of company founder Irving R. Seligman and part owner of the San Francisco Giants, is not universally admired in the Bay Area.
"Seligman has been singled out as the ugly face of gentrification in San Francisco by non-other than Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the famed poet and owner of City Lights books," noted Pueblo Lands.
"Back in 2001 Seligman was in the process of evicting tenants from a building he controlled in the Mid-Market area (the same part of San Francisco now being colonized by Twitter thanks to a big tax break the Board of Supervisors gave the company). In a press release Ferlinghetti lashed out:
“A developer from Michigan, Scott Seligman, who runs Sterling Bank and Seligman Western Enterprises, wants to gentrify the Mid-Market zone. Not to make the City a better place but to make his bank account a little fatter. He wants a better class of tenant. No more photographers or poets or translators or editors or painters. No more small businesses serving the city. No more small nonprofits, like Streetside Stories, which publishes work by 650 middle school kids every year to foster a love of reading and writing.”
Seligman and company are likely to face similar resistance here regarding plans to turn the former Navy training station's historic North Chapel into a restaurant venue.
“Several members of the community, including Save Our Heritage Organisation, have been in contact with my office to express their concerns regarding the leasings by the McMillin Company (or a successor in interest) of the North Chapel to a commercial tenant, which they claim violates the Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties at the Naval Training Center,” wrote Democratic congressman Scott Peters in a letter to the mayor and lame-duck GOP councilwoman Lorie Zapf.
Since June 2009, Faulconer has collected a total of $21,999 in campaign funding from individuals associated with the McMillin family, which was the seller in this month's deal. Zapf accepted $9000 since March 2010 from the McMillins, records show.
Neither politico has appeared interested in pursuing the chapel conversion issue, leaving Democratic La Jolla city councilwomanBarbara Bry, - who along with Peters has been talked of as a candidate for mayor - to subsequently request the city attorney to look into the case.
As reported November 17 by the Union-Tribune - a day after the quiet closing of Seligman's deal to take over the property from McMillin - Faulconer spokeswoman Christina Chadwick released a statement regarding the calls for an investigation of the chapel matter.
“While we appreciate that an investigation could help this effort, the mayor has chosen a more direct approach to address the questions and concerns raised by the community and in the letter. Mayor Faulconer has directed staff to proactively work with the leaseholder to ensure that the chapel remains open to the public for assembly purposes and any future use respects and maintains its historic elements in accordance with the law.”
The possibility of McMillin transferring Liberty Station to a new owner was first reported by the Union-Tribune in an October 19 dispatch that quoted city spokeswoman Anna Vacchi as saying, “The city has been asked to review a McMillin proposal to sell their leasehold interest in various properties at NTC." She provided no other details and could not say when a deal would be done, per the paper's report.
“Under terms and conditions of the ground lease, the master developer can assign, sell or transfer a ground lease with the consent of the city of San Diego provided that a certificate of completion has been issued to the city,” the spokeswoman added.