News that Campland on The Bay, the legacy recreational vehicle park on the northeast corner of Mission Bay, is rapidly closing in on a five-year lease extension from city hall is casting a spotlight on the powerful influence of unseen big money contributions and insider political ties over city decision-making.
As reported by the Union-Tribune June 7, Campland is making a bid to the city council for continuing occupation of the choice bayfront property.
Additionally, the resort has its eyes on leasing a big chunk of the adjacent city-owned real estate formerly known as De Anza Cove, a 260-space RV park. Campland is seeking $8 million in lease credits for its trouble, per the account.
The notion is being sold by advocates, including city staffers, as a quick and easy way for the city to clean up the De Anza Cove site.
"Campland, on an interim basis, would take over operation of the Mission Bay RV resort," said company vice president Jacob Gelfand. "We would work with a specialist contractor to remove all the asbestos in the mobile homes and make them safe.”
But a look at the political money behind the developer provides a more nuanced story: the years-long battle between conservationists and Camplandover the public bayside property's fate has been lucrative for many city politicos.
During the past decade, as their lease has ticked ever closer to expiration, members of the Gelfand family of Rancho Santa Fe and Beverly Hills, proprietors of Campland, have kicked in more than $62,650 to boost the political fortunes of San Diego elected officials.
And a month after Democrat Jen Campbell ousted Republican Lorie Zapf in November of last year, Jacob Gelfand, whose home city is listed as Encinitas, gave the councilwoman's campaign $1100 on December 6.
In all, Gelfand family members have furnished $3250 to Campbell, the most recent donation of $550 made by 88-year-old patriarch Herbert Gelfand of Beverly Hills on March 1.
The Gelfand family has been a heavy backer of Democratic city attorney Mara Elliott, with a total of $6300. They have given $6150 to GOP mayoral incumbent Kevin Faulconer.
In May of last year, Campland LLC came up with $15,000 for Yes! for a Better San Diego, the political fund which bankrolled the ultimately successful petition drive to get a convention center expansion tax on the city ballot backed by Faulconer.
On a parallel front, Michael Gelfand of Rancho Santa Fe, who gave $2000 to ex-city councilman Todd Gloria's state Assembly campaign in 2015, has endorsed the Democrat's current bid to succeed Faulconer as San Diego's next mayor, and is expected to emerge as one of the race's fundraising heavyweights.
“We’re working our tails off to be able to stay where we are,” Campland general manager Marshall Wiseman told the San Diego Community News Group in 2012 as Campland's 2017 original lease expiration date approached.
Besides deploying their own cash, the Gelfands have retained two top lobbying talents that are prodigious political money players in their own right.
Well-heeled employees of Campland lobbyist Allen Matkins Leck Gamble Mallory & Natsis, LLP, have given more than $58,000 to city political causes and candidates over the past dozen years, including $4900 to council Republican Chris Cate.
A. Christopher Wahl of Southwest Strategies LLC, another lobbying outfit currently employed by Campland, has provided "compensated campaign-related services " to council Democrat Campbell, per the company's June 5, 2019 disclosure filing with the city clerk's office. Campland paid Southwest $11,000 during the first quarter of 2019, according to a May 3 filing.
Wahl and his father-in-law, Southwest founder Alan Ziegaus, were fundraisers for Campbell's fellow council Democrat Vivian Moreno, per the June report, and both lobbyists "provided compensated campaign-related services" to her as well.
Defeated council Democrat Myrtle Cole got similar "compensated campaign-related services" from Zieguas, and Wahl provided the same for council Republican Mark Kersey, a failed Assembly candidate, in the continuing saga of Byzantine political maneuvers by San Diego city hall's top influence peddlers.