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Toronto real estate giant is funder behind killing height limit

Brookfield Properties supplies $402,205 of $513,404 Yes on E money

Measure A would lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena.
Measure A would lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena.

A secretive, Canada-based global development giant, backed by cash from Qatar among other shadowy investors, is the primary backer of San Diego's Measure E, a proposal on next month's ballot to lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena, potentially providing the firm with a multi-billion-dollar windfall.

"To unpack the Canadian group's accounts is to discover not so much a company as a giant, triangular jigsaw board that spreads across the world and covers assets worth $500 billion," says a February 2020 report by the Financial Times about Brookfield Asset Management.

Bob White, Craig Benedetto, Ben Haddad

"The pieces are hundreds of corporate entities, all locked together by elaborate contracts, which give 40 people at the top the right to rule huge sections of the puzzle almost as if it were their own."

So far, according to San Diego campaign filings, Brookfield Properties Development, LLC of Costa Mesa has supplied a total of $402,205 to the Yes on Measure E campaign seeking to raise height limits in the Midway area.

The Brookfield money makes up the bulk of the committee's $513,404 total contributions reported to the city as of October 23.

"Brookfield is a name that towers over the global investment industry, even if it receives less scrutiny or attention than rivals of similar size," notes the Financial Times.

The investment behemoth has received only limited examination in San Diego. Its behind-the-scenes maneuvering has complemented the famously non-transparent style of termed-out Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose secret dealings regarding a scandal-plagued downtown office project have only recently come to light.

Additionally, Faulconer's closed-door dalliance with principals behind the now defunct Soccer Cityplan for the site formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium featured secret meetings with Morgan Dene Oliver, who subsequently went to work for Brookfield Residential Properties, Inc.

In February 6, 2019, a partnership of Brookfield Residential and McMillan's development company abruptly withdrew a $361-million proposal to build a hotel and retail complex on Harbor Island owned by the Port of San Diego.

"As we discussed, Brookfield Residential/OliverMcMillan has decided to withdraw from the [Exclusive Negotiating Agreement] for Harbor Island," McMillan said in a letter to the port cited by the Union-Tribune.

"We want to wish you and your staff and the Port Commission the best of luck proceeding with Harbor Island."

In July of this year, Brookfield's similarly abrupt move to pull out of a Burlington, Vermont redevelopment project led that city's mayor to threaten a lawsuit.

"We made a lot of progress over the past three years, completing the assembly of the site and progressing approvals, but the long-term nature of the next phase of this development doesn't fit with our funds mandate," a Brookfield spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

In August of this year, Faulconer announced that he had chosen a partnership of Brookfield and ASM Global, a holding company of Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz, to redevelop the long-neglected city-owned Sports Arena.

The plan is tightly linked to the success in November of Measure E to raise height limits, allowing developers to greatly increase commercial and residential density to maximize their profits.

That move followed years of behind the scenes mayoral intrigue including an August 2019 Union-Tribune report that Orange County billionaire Henry Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks and its San Diego farm team, had won the sports arena lease.

Samueli's high-dollar lobbyists were Ben Haddad and Craig Benedetto of California Strategies, Sacramento's take-no-prisoners lobbying outfit founded by onetime Pete Wilson aide Bob White.

The pair was working for Soccer City when it was revealed that Republican councilman Chris Cate had leaked them a sensitive internal city memo regarding the proposal.

Cate later paid a $5000 city ethics penalty, and Samueli's purported deal for the Sports Arena never came to pass.

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Measure A would lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena.
Measure A would lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena.

A secretive, Canada-based global development giant, backed by cash from Qatar among other shadowy investors, is the primary backer of San Diego's Measure E, a proposal on next month's ballot to lift building height limits in proximity to the city-owned sports arena, potentially providing the firm with a multi-billion-dollar windfall.

"To unpack the Canadian group's accounts is to discover not so much a company as a giant, triangular jigsaw board that spreads across the world and covers assets worth $500 billion," says a February 2020 report by the Financial Times about Brookfield Asset Management.

Bob White, Craig Benedetto, Ben Haddad

"The pieces are hundreds of corporate entities, all locked together by elaborate contracts, which give 40 people at the top the right to rule huge sections of the puzzle almost as if it were their own."

So far, according to San Diego campaign filings, Brookfield Properties Development, LLC of Costa Mesa has supplied a total of $402,205 to the Yes on Measure E campaign seeking to raise height limits in the Midway area.

The Brookfield money makes up the bulk of the committee's $513,404 total contributions reported to the city as of October 23.

"Brookfield is a name that towers over the global investment industry, even if it receives less scrutiny or attention than rivals of similar size," notes the Financial Times.

The investment behemoth has received only limited examination in San Diego. Its behind-the-scenes maneuvering has complemented the famously non-transparent style of termed-out Mayor Kevin Faulconer, whose secret dealings regarding a scandal-plagued downtown office project have only recently come to light.

Additionally, Faulconer's closed-door dalliance with principals behind the now defunct Soccer Cityplan for the site formerly known as Qualcomm Stadium featured secret meetings with Morgan Dene Oliver, who subsequently went to work for Brookfield Residential Properties, Inc.

In February 6, 2019, a partnership of Brookfield Residential and McMillan's development company abruptly withdrew a $361-million proposal to build a hotel and retail complex on Harbor Island owned by the Port of San Diego.

"As we discussed, Brookfield Residential/OliverMcMillan has decided to withdraw from the [Exclusive Negotiating Agreement] for Harbor Island," McMillan said in a letter to the port cited by the Union-Tribune.

"We want to wish you and your staff and the Port Commission the best of luck proceeding with Harbor Island."

In July of this year, Brookfield's similarly abrupt move to pull out of a Burlington, Vermont redevelopment project led that city's mayor to threaten a lawsuit.

"We made a lot of progress over the past three years, completing the assembly of the site and progressing approvals, but the long-term nature of the next phase of this development doesn't fit with our funds mandate," a Brookfield spokeswoman told the Wall Street Journal.

In August of this year, Faulconer announced that he had chosen a partnership of Brookfield and ASM Global, a holding company of Denver billionaire Phillip Anschutz, to redevelop the long-neglected city-owned Sports Arena.

The plan is tightly linked to the success in November of Measure E to raise height limits, allowing developers to greatly increase commercial and residential density to maximize their profits.

That move followed years of behind the scenes mayoral intrigue including an August 2019 Union-Tribune report that Orange County billionaire Henry Samueli, owner of the Anaheim Ducks and its San Diego farm team, had won the sports arena lease.

Samueli's high-dollar lobbyists were Ben Haddad and Craig Benedetto of California Strategies, Sacramento's take-no-prisoners lobbying outfit founded by onetime Pete Wilson aide Bob White.

The pair was working for Soccer City when it was revealed that Republican councilman Chris Cate had leaked them a sensitive internal city memo regarding the proposal.

Cate later paid a $5000 city ethics penalty, and Samueli's purported deal for the Sports Arena never came to pass.

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Comments
8

"We are proud that this effort did not originate with big developers or corporate interests. Measure E was created by the community, for the community."

Thank you for this excellent reporting exposing the claims of the 'Yes on E' spoxes as the shameless lies they are.

Oct. 27, 2020

Not sure how my comment violated the usage agreement. It literally was nothing more than a link to a quote from an editorial by the spokespersons for 'Yes on E' published in the Union-Tribune on September 29, with a statement that this report reveals as being verifiably false.

I respectfully request it be restored and/or the violation alleged be stated. Thank you.

Oct. 29, 2020

Just in time, we hope, for Reader-readers to VOTE NO on Proposition E and to spread the word. Prop E is not about affordable housing for San Diegans or shiny new sports venues. .Prop E is about politicians doing the bidding of big Canadian developers. and everybody who's in on the deal making a killing.. Why are we still surprised? Matt Potter tells us Canadian developer Brookfield is behind the Prop E campaign to gut our long-standing coastal zone height-limit, enacted 48 years ago as a people's initiative, to protect San Diego beaches from becoming walled-off enclaves, as in Santa Monica or Honolulu. But ambitious officeholders at City Hall, always looking for deep corporate pockets to finance their political next-steps, personally voted to put Prop E on the November 2020 ballot, along with an exemption from the city-wide 30-foot coastal height-limit law. Councilmember Jen Campbell led the pack, knowing her Midway/Sports Arena strip-mall snarl would become dramatically densified and much taller, if it were exempt from the coastal height-limit. But if Prop E should pass, legal precedent will have been eroded and the coastal height-limit law, which has protected beach areas from the Del Mar border to Laurel Street since 1972, will be washed away in a torrent of profit-taking and overbuilding everywhere. Fight back, San Diegans. Protect our height-limit in the coastal zone that protects our beaches. Vote No on Proposition E.

Oct. 27, 2020

Gee, mongahan, are you saying bad things about Canadians? Doesn't everyone know that they run their country is a kindly, clean and open way? Maybe we need to go back to the days of Ernie Hahn and his developments, such as Horton Plaza Mall, and how well they met the needs of the population. If the San Diegans who actually read, get informed, and vote for long-term benefits were most of the voters there would be no need for this. It would be turned down by a ratio of 80:20. But that is not the usual San Diego voter, and bombarding them with ads of all sorts can make them think that any well-financed campaign must be right. It will be interesting to see how this one goes down.

Oct. 27, 2020

I appreciate Canada and its national temperament, envy their education system and admire the handsome prime minister and wide open spaces. I guess I didn't know Ernie Hahn of UTC fame and the briefly glorious Horton Plaza was Canadian, but I do know Bosa was/is Canadian and he sure developed the heck out of sleepy downtown San Diego. Maybe San Diego is the playground for snowbird Canadian developers. How can San Diegans know what lies behind the numerous propositions that appear before us at election time? Two intelligent diligent citizens in the last week told me they were flummoxed by the language and true intent of many of the propositions on this 2020 ballot -- informational pamphlet notwithstanding. One was an 18-year old first-time voter and the other was an 80-year-old naturalized Briton with a doctorate in astrophysics from Cambridge University. It's really hard to be "informed" when campaign cash is king and journalists like Matt Potter (and Jeff McDonald at the U-T) are few and rare. But now that we do know the score, we must be sure to Vote No on Prop E.

Oct. 27, 2020

You point up one major deficiency in ballot props and that is that a "yes" vote can mean "no" and vice versa. When an affirmative vote means that you favor overturning a law, or when a negative vote means affirming it, no wonder that folks are confused. Then the pattern of writing ballot titles that obscure the intent, rather than revealing the intent and effect of the measure in a way that can reverse the desire of the voters, is most pernicious. But, know what? Being an informed voter, which requires effort, can overcome all of the difficulties and actually make issues clearer. Yes, Matt is a gem and is one of few real journalists to take the role seriously, dig deep, and expose the chicanery.

Oct. 28, 2020

Great sleuthing, Matt! This is information that should have been reported long ago by the media cheerleaders in favor this massive land grab.

It puzzles me to no end why the city hands the task of redeveloping entire chunks of land over to for-profit developers while bemoaning the cost of housing.

Oct. 30, 2020
This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.
Oct. 31, 2020

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