The Trails at Carmel Mountain West project seeks to redevelop the old Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club golf course, shuttered since July 2018.
Jesus is boss
South Bay political powerhouse Jesus Cardenas came under fire in 2019 by then-county supervisor candidate and state senator Ben Hueso for “gaming” the San Diego Democratic Party central committee, resulting in the endorsement of Hueso’s foe, Nora Vargas. She ultimately won the election. Now Cardenas, the new chief of staff for San Diego city councilman Stephen Whitburn, has filed his legally required statement of economic interests for last year, revealing that his Chula Vista-based political consulting outfit Grassroots Resources is valued between $100,000 and $1 million and grossed between $10,000 and $100,000.
Ben Hueso lost the support of the local Democratic party overlords, and then lost his election for supervisor.
During the period, Cardenas borrowed between $10,000 and $100,000 from the company, per the filing. Single income sources over $10,000 to the firm included Whitburn for City Council, Nora Vargas for County Supervisor, the San Diego County Democratic Party, and the Association of Cannabis Professionals. The only losing client listed as paying Grassroots greater than $10,000 was Kelvin Barrios, forced out of a San Diego city council race due to an ethics scandal. Laborers Local 89, a union where Barrios works, also provided Grassroots more than $10,000. Additionally, Cardenas received between $10,000 and $100,000 in salary from Mike Bloomberg’s ultimately failed Democratic presidential campaign.
Whitburn’s deputy chief of staff Codi Vierra also hails from local Democratic politics. Last year, she picked up between $10,000 and $100,000 as campaign manager for La Jolla congressman Scott Peters’s reelection drive, her January 11 disclosure filing shows. Meanwhile, Juan Reyes, Democratic Mayor Todd Gloria’s state and local government affairs manager, reports he received between $1000 and $10,000 in the form of a “win bonus” last year from Gloria’s mayoral campaign.
Mat Wahlstrom: California’s Fair Political Practices Commission is “a sham and a fraud.”
Photograph by Matthew Suárez
Turkeys and diapers
San Diego Mayor Todd Gloria’s 2020 Assembly reelection campaign fund, which drew a 2019 lawsuit after it became apparent he wasn’t running for the Assembly but instead campaigning for mayor, had a $68,276 cash balance on the final day of 2020. According to a January 21 disclosure report, during the last two months of the year Gloria used the fund to provide $171 worth of unspecified “items for Asm [Lorena] Gonzalez Turkey/Diaper drive,” and $262 for “items for Assembly Staff Dinner via Zoom (8 total).” A judge delayed a final ruling on the lawsuit, but the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission subsequently fined the then-mayoral candidate $200 for what Gloria said was an inadvertent late filing. Gloria critic Mat Wahlstrom of Hillcrest has called the commission a “sham and a fraud.”
Stuck in the bucks
A housing project that promises to transform San Diego’s Carmel Mountain Ranch is barreling through city hall in what may be the first test of the city council’s new Democratic majority regarding how it treats newly minted political benefactors. “It’s a development that’s in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Troy Daum, the founder of Carmel Mountain United, told TV station KGTV last month about the proposed 1200-unit development by New Urban West, Inc. of Santa Monica. Called the Trails at Carmel Mountain West, the project seeks to redevelop the old Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club golf course, shuttered since July 2018. “We aren’t against development,” Daum told the Union-Tribune. “We understand we need affordable places for people to live. But we believe the idea of changing golf course property over to dense urban projects is not really a smart way to develop.”
New Urban West is no stranger to handling such controversial makeovers, having stepped into the old Escondido Country Club redevelopment following years of bitter warfare between the local citizenry and the original sponsor. That was an outfit called Stuck in the Rough, run by Republican donor Michael Schlesinger of Beverly Hills. A major donor disclosure report, filed with the City Clerk’s office on January 22, shows that New Urban West spent $47,950 on political causes in California during 2020, including $10,000, its single most significant expenditure, for the San Diego County Democratic Party, which in turn successfully backed the election of the present council majority...The Committee to Recall Jennifer Campbell is officially registered with the City Clerk as of January 20, with John Thickstun as its principal officer. The La Jolla attorney has been at the head of the battle against short term vacation rentals. “John was the glue that held us together,” Sue Hopkins, a UC San Diego professor, told the Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins in July 2018 regarding Thickstun’s role in Save San Diego Neighborhoods, a group battling Airbnb and similar operations. Campbell has proposed new regulations, but the plan “does not have an enforcement mechanism that will keep platforms from engaging in bad behavior,” Mission Beach Town Council past president Gary Wonacott recently opined.
— Matt Potter (@sdmattpotter)
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