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City’s top planner and a waterfront museum quietly go bye-bye

Secret wheeling and dealing by Faulconer and Gloria aides highlight Navy-Broadway tale

IQHQ is the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway.
IQHQ is the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway.

How secret and conflicted is San Diego government? Two fresh revelations about life at the top show just how much of a black box city hall has become since voters threw out the longtime city manager system of governance in November 2004, replacing it with an imperial mayor.

A brief November 12 report in the Voice of San Diego notes the revolving door departure of planning director Mike Hansen - at one time Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer's chief of land use and environmental policy - from the stable of current Democratic mayor Todd Gloria.

Paola Avila appears on the list of officials lobbied for the project.

Before entering city hall to work for Faulconer, Hansen was a land-use lawyer and lobbyist for downtown influence peddler Sheppard Mullin.

Following his return to the private sector, Hansen intends to resume his lucrative practice of "land-use and planning," per the Voice's account.

But the municipal ethics law, if enforced, could keep Hansen on the sidelines at city hall. A one-year "cooling off" period, notes the city's ethics website, "applies to all former City Officials who were required to file a Statement of Economic Interests during their City service.

"It prohibits such persons from being compensated to lobby the City on any matter for one year after they leave City service.

"Employment with the City should not be seen as an opportunity to learn confidential information and build relationships that may later be exploited for private gain."

But there are several key loopholes, and longtime skeptics aren't counting on the city's low-profile ethics commission to crack down on the well-connected lawyer's activities any time soon.

For example, the ethics guidance tells ex-city workers, "You may lobby the City on any matter at any time if you are not being compensated to perform the lobbying activities." And "This prohibition does not apply if you are lobbying on behalf of another public agency."

In a further complication, the document adds that "It is important to note that the restrictions are narrowly tailored to prevent improper influence only in those circumstances in which the former official could exert influence through 'inside' knowledge of an issue or through access to decision-makers based on relationships developed during his or her City service."

"These provisions do not restrict the type of employment a City Official may secure after leaving City service, nor do they restrict someone from working for a private company after doing business with that company as a City employee."

Meanwhile, a November 12 dispatch by the Union-Tribune revealed that on October 27 of last year, Faulconer told IQHQ, the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway, it was okay to scrap a waterfront museum mandated by the state Coastal Commission.

"As part of a meet-and-greet meeting (with then-mayor Kevin Faulconer), one of (IQHQ's) requests was that the city just not accept the offer to lease the space for a museum," ex-Faulconer-era bureaucrat Brad Richter told the newspaper.

"That means by the time IQHQ made its formal offer to the city for 40,000 square feet of museum space, as required, the firm was already aware of the city's intent to turn it down," the story notes.

"The city lacks the financial capability to operate or administer the museum space based on the terms presented in the offer," said mayoral minion Erik Caldwell in a December 2, 2020, letter responding to IQHQ's offer, per the U-T's account.

The record shows that throughout 2020 IQHQ was busy lobbying the city regarding the project.

According to a January 21, 2021, lobbying disclosure filing with the city clerk's office, the downtown law and influence-peddling firm of Procopio, Cory received $5000 from IQHQ to lobby city officials during the final three months of 2020.

The topic was said to be a "use consistency determination regarding property located at Navy Broadway Complex in San Diego." Richter, Caldwell, and Faulconer aide Aimee Faucett were listed on the disclosure as city staffers lobbied.

In addition, Paola Avila, an ex-Chamber of Commerce executive and Faulconer insider who is now Democratic Mayor Todd Gloria's chief of staff, appears on the list of officials lobbied for the project.

Per the disclosure, Jessica Lawrence, an ex-Faulconer employee who is now Gloria's policy director, was also among those lobbied.

Gloria took office on December 14 of last year.

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IQHQ is the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway.
IQHQ is the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway.

How secret and conflicted is San Diego government? Two fresh revelations about life at the top show just how much of a black box city hall has become since voters threw out the longtime city manager system of governance in November 2004, replacing it with an imperial mayor.

A brief November 12 report in the Voice of San Diego notes the revolving door departure of planning director Mike Hansen - at one time Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer's chief of land use and environmental policy - from the stable of current Democratic mayor Todd Gloria.

Paola Avila appears on the list of officials lobbied for the project.

Before entering city hall to work for Faulconer, Hansen was a land-use lawyer and lobbyist for downtown influence peddler Sheppard Mullin.

Following his return to the private sector, Hansen intends to resume his lucrative practice of "land-use and planning," per the Voice's account.

But the municipal ethics law, if enforced, could keep Hansen on the sidelines at city hall. A one-year "cooling off" period, notes the city's ethics website, "applies to all former City Officials who were required to file a Statement of Economic Interests during their City service.

"It prohibits such persons from being compensated to lobby the City on any matter for one year after they leave City service.

"Employment with the City should not be seen as an opportunity to learn confidential information and build relationships that may later be exploited for private gain."

But there are several key loopholes, and longtime skeptics aren't counting on the city's low-profile ethics commission to crack down on the well-connected lawyer's activities any time soon.

For example, the ethics guidance tells ex-city workers, "You may lobby the City on any matter at any time if you are not being compensated to perform the lobbying activities." And "This prohibition does not apply if you are lobbying on behalf of another public agency."

In a further complication, the document adds that "It is important to note that the restrictions are narrowly tailored to prevent improper influence only in those circumstances in which the former official could exert influence through 'inside' knowledge of an issue or through access to decision-makers based on relationships developed during his or her City service."

"These provisions do not restrict the type of employment a City Official may secure after leaving City service, nor do they restrict someone from working for a private company after doing business with that company as a City employee."

Meanwhile, a November 12 dispatch by the Union-Tribune revealed that on October 27 of last year, Faulconer told IQHQ, the developer of the mammoth Navy-Broadway complex at the corner of Pacific Highway and Broadway, it was okay to scrap a waterfront museum mandated by the state Coastal Commission.

"As part of a meet-and-greet meeting (with then-mayor Kevin Faulconer), one of (IQHQ's) requests was that the city just not accept the offer to lease the space for a museum," ex-Faulconer-era bureaucrat Brad Richter told the newspaper.

"That means by the time IQHQ made its formal offer to the city for 40,000 square feet of museum space, as required, the firm was already aware of the city's intent to turn it down," the story notes.

"The city lacks the financial capability to operate or administer the museum space based on the terms presented in the offer," said mayoral minion Erik Caldwell in a December 2, 2020, letter responding to IQHQ's offer, per the U-T's account.

The record shows that throughout 2020 IQHQ was busy lobbying the city regarding the project.

According to a January 21, 2021, lobbying disclosure filing with the city clerk's office, the downtown law and influence-peddling firm of Procopio, Cory received $5000 from IQHQ to lobby city officials during the final three months of 2020.

The topic was said to be a "use consistency determination regarding property located at Navy Broadway Complex in San Diego." Richter, Caldwell, and Faulconer aide Aimee Faucett were listed on the disclosure as city staffers lobbied.

In addition, Paola Avila, an ex-Chamber of Commerce executive and Faulconer insider who is now Democratic Mayor Todd Gloria's chief of staff, appears on the list of officials lobbied for the project.

Per the disclosure, Jessica Lawrence, an ex-Faulconer employee who is now Gloria's policy director, was also among those lobbied.

Gloria took office on December 14 of last year.

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Comments
5

I'm not a philistine, but If there were no particular type of"museum slated for the Navy-Broadway complex, I don't see why it matters if it's dropped -- even though the Coastal Commission mandated a museum be included in the redevelopment. I would say in this instance the revered and embattled CC has overstepped. I am open to being scandalized by this happenstance, but I will need to know why this is not an apparent nothingburger.

Nov. 13, 2021

I disagree, I’d love to see what the people of San Diego decided the new museum should display or perhaps it could have been a rotating exhibit with other museums Worldwide? Something GREAT Downtown besides more rental and Convention space, which does nothing for the PUBLIC GOOD, just wealthy well connected Developers!

I hope the City gets sued over this because we deserve much more from Redevelopment, instead of insider deal after deal after deal.

Case in point, when the North Park Project Area Committee (NP-PAC) administrated by the SD Redevelopment Agency was scrubbed by the Governor, all the millions of dollars specificity slated for redevelopment, as directed by the locally elected NP-PAC, was taken and shifted to CDC and spent Downtown…

Nov. 14, 2021

No Museum = Big $ Office Space

Where is the public “good” that the museum would have provided?

All income (forever) from this high rent space should be split between all the existing museums in Balboa Park and the San Diego River Park Foundation because they benefit the public, not just the City Mayoral Coffers.

Nov. 14, 2021

Thank you for answering my question. There was no original :"vision" for a particular museum, so nothing substantive was lost. Vague solutions like splitting income in perpetuity from the site that was slated for a museum there among Park museums seem desperate rather than serious, even if "fair"-sounding. There are unworthy amateurish clinker museums in the Park and there are others, like the Mingei, whose founding purpose of displaying folk art sadly seems to have been eroded and commercialized since its years-long closure, remodel and recent opening.

Maybe give those proceeds to the San Diego River Park Foundation. Tell us what it does, has done or hopes to do? I've lived here a long long time and don't know.

What I'm really saying is that "redevelopment " is a developers' game and, as far as I can tell, has never benefitted the public, so there's no point to eleventh-hour rear-guard actions after the closed-door deals have been struck. Let's move on.

Nov. 14, 2021

Methinks the museum concept was tossed in by Doug Manchester to sweeten the deal, and make him look like a solid citizen for offering that public showcase. It appears to have been a charade from the get-go. At least the new design from IQHQ is much improved over Papa Doug's awful architectural offering.

Nov. 15, 2021

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