Volusion reported that the COVID-19 “crisis disproportionately affects the 21.3 percent of American workers in retail, leisure, and hospitality” in San Diego, Chula Vista, and Carlsbad.
Buy low, sell high
The ostensibly humanitarian work of finding places for the city’s homeless legions to live during the COVID-19 onslaught may also be lining the pockets of some of San Diego’s wealthiest real estate owners. “There’s never been this much of an opportunity, and there’s never been this much of a need,” said San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer in an April 15 announcement of a plan by the San Diego Housing Commission to buy up a bevy of motels and small hotels to host homeless guests. “All of the things that we’re doing, what we need is capacity, is a place for people to transition. Done right, it can be a real game-changer.”
Cash would come mainly from federal and state grants, but so far, the wall of secrecy surrounding the putative deals is high. The agenda for the San Diego Housing Commission’s April 17 special closed session, held by teleconference, contained a list of 10 motels under discussion for purchase by the commission. Following the closed-door meeting, the board announced it had voted 6-0 to instruct its negotiators regarding the potential deals. But it furnished no other details.
Ashok Israni smells opportunity in crisis.
Two of the 1980s-vintage properties, the Days Inn & Suites at 3350 Rosecrans Street and a nearby hotel/motel at 3330 Gaines Street in the Midway district, are owned by Pacifica Rosecrans LP, closely tied to Ashok Israni, chairman of San Diego-based Pacifica Companies. The general partner of Pacifica Rosecrans, according to a September 1998 amended filing with the California secretary of state’s office, is Rosecrans Hospitality, Inc., whose president is listed as Israni. A February 2007 news release announcing Israni’s appointment to the board of the L.A.’s City National Bank, said Pacifica owned “hotels, office and industrial buildings, retail shopping centers, apartment projects, and single-family communities throughout the United States.” At that time, the firm had “about $2 billion in assets and employed more than 2,300 people.”
Georgette Gomez loves that sweet cash.
Formidable givers to city politicos, Israni and Pacifica employees have since 2006 come up with a total of $16,985, per online campaign finance disclosure data. The top recipient was Republican Faulconer, whose campaigns for city council and mayor took in a total of $3350. Council president Georgette Gomez received $2125, and councilwoman Vivian Moreno got $1100. In April of last year, the council defeated on a 6-3 vote — with Gomez voting with the majority — a controversial plan by Pacifica Companies to demolish Linda Vista’s Skate World for a shopping mall.
Closely held Pacifica has turned into something of a bottom-fisher during the coronavirus meltdown, paying just $12.35 million for a 172-unit senior living facility in Lantana, Florida. In July 2006, the 5.3-acre complex sold for $31.5 million, TheRealDeal.com of South Florida reported April 22. In September 2011, the San Diego Daily Transcript carried word that Israni and company had acquired La Jolla’s posh La Valencia Hotel, completed in 1926, for $41 million. Currently closed by the coronavirus shutdown, the hostelry’s famous Whaling Bar was eliminated by Pacifica in 2013.
Down the low-wage hole
San Diego, Chula Vista, and Carlsbad are the target of some harsh findings by a new nationwide survey of the impact of COVID-19 on the local workforce. “The crisis disproportionately affects the 21.3 percent of American workers in retail, leisure, and hospitality who not only face lack of work, but also suffer from long-standing, below-average wages,” says the report by Volusion, an Austin, Texas-based online sales and marketing outfit.
Placing ninth among the survey’s top-15 worst largest metros, the segment of San Diego area workers in retail, leisure, and hospitality is said to be a hefty 23.1 percent. Facing a cost of living 16 percent above the national average, 11.4 percent of employees are below the poverty level. The number one city in the survey, Las Vegas, was even worse, with 39 percent working in retail, leisure, and hospitality, and 13.9 percent living below the poverty line. One small consolation: the cost of living in the Nevada city is 2.5 percent below average.
Volusion has run into a rough spot of its own of late. Hackers stole thousands of credit card numbers from the company’s servers back in October of last year and put them up for sale on the so-called dark web, an underground network of nefarious activities. “Notifications are being sent directly to the potentially impacted individuals identified providing information about the incident and steps they can take to monitor and protect their personal information,” says an April 20 Volusion news release.