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Steve Cushman tasked with Kettner and Vine homeless housing

No longer Copley Symphony Hall

The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up.
The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up.

Old Gloria

San Diego Democrat Todd Gloria promised a new generation at city hall when he was running for mayor four years ago. But as he approaches his reelection battle this coming November, Gloria has quietly placed an old man of politics and influence past at the center of his administration. First among equals in the mayor’s crew is Steve Cushman, age 83, an establishment insider dating back to long before his days as an advisor to Republican ex-mayor Susan Golding. (He provided similar services to Golding’s GOP successors Jerry Sanders and Kevin Faulconer.)

Now, Cushman — who with his extended family has grown rich from Mission Valley real estate development, among a vast array of other San Diego property ventures — has emerged as the front man for Gloria’s controversial Kettner and Vine homeless shelter, which is feared by many to be likely to enrich Cushman’s fellow real estate developer Douglas Hamm at taxpayer expense. “I can tell you, the mayor is focused on finding a long-term home for 1000 beds. That’s the order of the day,” the onetime car dealer, identified in the item as “a consultant to Gloria and a board member of the San Diego Housing Commission”, was quoted as saying in a May 5 dispatch by Axios San Diego.

A Voice of San Diego post on May 4 had characterized Cushman as “a special assistant to Gloria,” quoting the well-connected octogenarian as saying, “Our priority is Kettner and Vine, and we continue to work on that, Everybody is working in very good faith.”

Steven Cushman: advisor to many mayors, some of them Republican.

Maybe so, but city records reveal that on February 7 of this year, Cushman filed a legally-required Form 700, showing that he became a consultant to the Office of the Mayor on January 29. His raft of real estate holding companies, valued at over a million dollars each, are said to include LC Mission Valley, Paseo del Rio, Ltd., and Mosaic Cush Plaza, LLC. The addresses of separately listed real estate assets included 1843 Hotel Circle South, 15822 Bernardo Center Drive, and 1150 Fashion Valley Road.

Small surprise that almost a decade ago, while Cushman was a “special assistant” to Faulconer, he was called out by then-San Diego Chargers consultant Mark Fabiani for trying to sabotage the team’s efforts to build a new stadium Downtown, rather than Mission Valley. “It’s an extraordinarily odd situation,” Fabiani was quoted as saying in a January 11, 2015 Union-Tribune piece, “that someone whose background is as a car dealer, and who has racked up such a staggering list of civic failures, continues to be assigned to important projects.”

Noted the U-T story, Cushman had been “involved in a messy coup that ousted the president of the Chamber of Commerce, scolded another time as untrustworthy for trying to run the convention center as a private fiefdom, [and] accused of a selfish power grab to remain on the port commission when his term expired.” The remainder of the piece went on to praise Cushman as a “civic fixer,” noting that “in a city long known as a place where things get decided behind closed doors, Cushman became the quintessential insider, a puppet-master of agreements large and small.”

In a photograph taken by the paper in September, 2022, Mayor Gloria was pictured with a bevy of shovel-wielding politicos and other dignitaries, including Cushman, at Cushman-owned 1150 Fashion Valley Road, a parcel which earned him at least $100,000 last year, according to his January disclosure report.

The group was breaking ground with Texas mega-developer Hines corporation for Mission Valley’s long-controversial $4 billion Riverwalk San Diego on 195 acres of Mission Valley property owned by the Levi-Cushman family. “Riverwalk is truly a poster child for smart growth,” Gloria told the gathering, per the U-T’s account, “and it will influence how we do business in other parts of our city. And yes, it does warm my YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) heart to see what Hines is doing on this important piece of property.”

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Mark Fabiani probably wouldn’t buy a used car from Cushman.

How much, if anything, Cushman is making from Gloria’s mayoral consultancy, is not known by the public. It is no secret that Cushman’s unpaid city hall advisory status has in the past placed him in close proximity to a long procession of San Diego mayors without requiring lobbying registration on his part. (A similarly unpaid consulting arrangement between Faulconer and Jason Hughes blew up into the multi-million dollar leasing scandal dubbed 101 Ash Street.) City campaign filings show Cushman and wife Marjorie gave Gloria’s 2024 reelection bid a total of $200 on June 21, 2023. In addition, he chipped in $750 on November 23, 2023, for Joe LaCava’s city council re-election bid, and the same for council incumbent Raul Campillo, on June 6, 2023.


No refunds

As the newspaper he once owned totters on the brink of extinction, honchos at the foundation left behind by David Copley when he departed the world in November 2012 have erased one more mark of his late mother’s once-unchallenged power. The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up. “The Fox was renamed Copley Symphony Hall in 1985 after Helen Copley, the now-deceased publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, donated $2 million to help the orchestra acquire the venue as a permanent performance space,” according to the story.

“Now, the David C. Copley Foundation — named for Helen Copley’s late son, who became the Union-Tribune’s publisher after her death — has given the naming opportunity of the hall back to the symphony. This will enable a new donor to step forward and provide a fresh infusion of funding for the orchestra.”

Intoned Dean P. Dwyer, president and CEO of the foundation: “In recognition of the symphony entering into an exciting new era, with the reopening of its renovated venue that will provide new naming opportunities to other community-minded philanthropists like Helen Copley, we are pleased to gift this naming opportunity back to San Diego Symphony in order to inspire a new generation of philanthropic support.” The imperious Copley might not agree, but, considering she died in August 2004, the point is moot.

Onetime director and president of the now-defunct Copley Press, Dwyer is now living out his days in well-compensated retirement, handing out chunks of the Copley foundation’s low-nine figure financial legacy to those who please him. In 2022, Dwyer made a tidy $50,000 as a director of the Copley foundation, while Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Koch picked up $161,000, according to the organization’s most recently available federal disclosure filing.

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up.
The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up.

Old Gloria

San Diego Democrat Todd Gloria promised a new generation at city hall when he was running for mayor four years ago. But as he approaches his reelection battle this coming November, Gloria has quietly placed an old man of politics and influence past at the center of his administration. First among equals in the mayor’s crew is Steve Cushman, age 83, an establishment insider dating back to long before his days as an advisor to Republican ex-mayor Susan Golding. (He provided similar services to Golding’s GOP successors Jerry Sanders and Kevin Faulconer.)

Now, Cushman — who with his extended family has grown rich from Mission Valley real estate development, among a vast array of other San Diego property ventures — has emerged as the front man for Gloria’s controversial Kettner and Vine homeless shelter, which is feared by many to be likely to enrich Cushman’s fellow real estate developer Douglas Hamm at taxpayer expense. “I can tell you, the mayor is focused on finding a long-term home for 1000 beds. That’s the order of the day,” the onetime car dealer, identified in the item as “a consultant to Gloria and a board member of the San Diego Housing Commission”, was quoted as saying in a May 5 dispatch by Axios San Diego.

A Voice of San Diego post on May 4 had characterized Cushman as “a special assistant to Gloria,” quoting the well-connected octogenarian as saying, “Our priority is Kettner and Vine, and we continue to work on that, Everybody is working in very good faith.”

Steven Cushman: advisor to many mayors, some of them Republican.

Maybe so, but city records reveal that on February 7 of this year, Cushman filed a legally-required Form 700, showing that he became a consultant to the Office of the Mayor on January 29. His raft of real estate holding companies, valued at over a million dollars each, are said to include LC Mission Valley, Paseo del Rio, Ltd., and Mosaic Cush Plaza, LLC. The addresses of separately listed real estate assets included 1843 Hotel Circle South, 15822 Bernardo Center Drive, and 1150 Fashion Valley Road.

Small surprise that almost a decade ago, while Cushman was a “special assistant” to Faulconer, he was called out by then-San Diego Chargers consultant Mark Fabiani for trying to sabotage the team’s efforts to build a new stadium Downtown, rather than Mission Valley. “It’s an extraordinarily odd situation,” Fabiani was quoted as saying in a January 11, 2015 Union-Tribune piece, “that someone whose background is as a car dealer, and who has racked up such a staggering list of civic failures, continues to be assigned to important projects.”

Noted the U-T story, Cushman had been “involved in a messy coup that ousted the president of the Chamber of Commerce, scolded another time as untrustworthy for trying to run the convention center as a private fiefdom, [and] accused of a selfish power grab to remain on the port commission when his term expired.” The remainder of the piece went on to praise Cushman as a “civic fixer,” noting that “in a city long known as a place where things get decided behind closed doors, Cushman became the quintessential insider, a puppet-master of agreements large and small.”

In a photograph taken by the paper in September, 2022, Mayor Gloria was pictured with a bevy of shovel-wielding politicos and other dignitaries, including Cushman, at Cushman-owned 1150 Fashion Valley Road, a parcel which earned him at least $100,000 last year, according to his January disclosure report.

The group was breaking ground with Texas mega-developer Hines corporation for Mission Valley’s long-controversial $4 billion Riverwalk San Diego on 195 acres of Mission Valley property owned by the Levi-Cushman family. “Riverwalk is truly a poster child for smart growth,” Gloria told the gathering, per the U-T’s account, “and it will influence how we do business in other parts of our city. And yes, it does warm my YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard) heart to see what Hines is doing on this important piece of property.”

Sponsored
Sponsored
Mark Fabiani probably wouldn’t buy a used car from Cushman.

How much, if anything, Cushman is making from Gloria’s mayoral consultancy, is not known by the public. It is no secret that Cushman’s unpaid city hall advisory status has in the past placed him in close proximity to a long procession of San Diego mayors without requiring lobbying registration on his part. (A similarly unpaid consulting arrangement between Faulconer and Jason Hughes blew up into the multi-million dollar leasing scandal dubbed 101 Ash Street.) City campaign filings show Cushman and wife Marjorie gave Gloria’s 2024 reelection bid a total of $200 on June 21, 2023. In addition, he chipped in $750 on November 23, 2023, for Joe LaCava’s city council re-election bid, and the same for council incumbent Raul Campillo, on June 6, 2023.


No refunds

As the newspaper he once owned totters on the brink of extinction, honchos at the foundation left behind by David Copley when he departed the world in November 2012 have erased one more mark of his late mother’s once-unchallenged power. The mighty Copley Symphony Hall is no longer, per a May 7 Union-Tribune write-up. “The Fox was renamed Copley Symphony Hall in 1985 after Helen Copley, the now-deceased publisher of The San Diego Union-Tribune, donated $2 million to help the orchestra acquire the venue as a permanent performance space,” according to the story.

“Now, the David C. Copley Foundation — named for Helen Copley’s late son, who became the Union-Tribune’s publisher after her death — has given the naming opportunity of the hall back to the symphony. This will enable a new donor to step forward and provide a fresh infusion of funding for the orchestra.”

Intoned Dean P. Dwyer, president and CEO of the foundation: “In recognition of the symphony entering into an exciting new era, with the reopening of its renovated venue that will provide new naming opportunities to other community-minded philanthropists like Helen Copley, we are pleased to gift this naming opportunity back to San Diego Symphony in order to inspire a new generation of philanthropic support.” The imperious Copley might not agree, but, considering she died in August 2004, the point is moot.

Onetime director and president of the now-defunct Copley Press, Dwyer is now living out his days in well-compensated retirement, handing out chunks of the Copley foundation’s low-nine figure financial legacy to those who please him. In 2022, Dwyer made a tidy $50,000 as a director of the Copley foundation, while Chief Operating Officer Kimberly Koch picked up $161,000, according to the organization’s most recently available federal disclosure filing.

— Matt Potter

(@sdmattpotter)

The Reader offers $25 for news tips published in this column. Call our voice mail at 619-235-3000, ext. 440, or sandiegoreader.com/staff/matt-potter/contact/.

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