According to a recent UT article and a recent San Diego County-wide count the homeless increased by 3.3 percent compared to last year. http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/2011/feb/14/san-diego-countys-homless-numbers-rise/#

Allegedly, The Point-in-Time Count, conducted on Jan. 28, counted 8,802 homeless compared to 8,517 last year. The number of homeless on the streets, according to this study, rose 3.5 percent, from 4,599 in 2010 to this year's count of 4,758.

I say "allegedly" because there is an enormous amount of money to be made solving the problem: so more homeless equals more money for State Assembly Leader Toni Atkins and her wife's private business contracted to do a study.

The article boasts a photo of State Assembly Leader Toni Atkins leading the charge of more than 550 volunteers searching for homeless people with her flashlight.

Sounds great, right? until you look a little deeper and see that Atkins' wife makes $225 an hour doing this "study" on homelessness and doing work that should be done by the Housing Commission especially amid all the chatter about "deep, painful budget cuts" and Atkins proclamation that there are "no sacred cows" that will be spared from the chopping block. The total charge to the city for this "study" is $464,750....464,750 dollars of state allocated redevelopment funds. Perhaps this is why in another UT article interviewing the State Assembly Leader she says this:

"The gaping budget deficit is waiting, but so too are issues involving improving the small business climate, affordable housing and health care, Atkins said.

Q: Besides the budget, what are your top priorities?

A: I’m an affordable housing advocate, homeless issues, certainly. Health care will be on the radar. But clearly it’s all going to be secondary to jobs and the economy."

$464,750 seems like alot of money to pay for something that an existing city commission is already supposed to do. I wonder how many libraries we could keep open a few more hours for $464,750 or how many potholes we could fix or how many community gardens we could create for that money? And sure "its redevelopment money" so thats "different" money.....exactly.... (that's why we need to support Brown in ending these sham agencies, because that money will go back to real services).

I have always been in awe of Toni Atkins and her partner, now wife, Jennifer LeSar, and their brazen audacity in enriching themselves with tax dollars and government connections. I thought for sure they would be terrified that the feds would finally start paying attention and indict them and they would stop this behavior.

I give props to CityBeat for acknowledging the suspect conditions surrounding Atkins wife Jennifer LeSar receiving the very lucrative contract to conduct a homeless study. I have been trying to get media publications to investigate the questionable impropriety of Toni Atkins and Jennifer LeSar profiting off their connections in local government and profiting off of these sort of social problems for years!!!

January 27th I wrote this blog questioning why Atkins was still working for LeSar Development Consultants after she was elected to State Assembly. Look at the date on the pdf. Was Atkins one of the "consultants" paid to do the CCDC study under LeSar Development Consultants? http://www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/ive-got-issues/2011/jan/27/why-is-toni-atkins-still-working-as-a-lobbyist-for/

I don't know why the media has been so quiet on this issue for so long. After all Atkins was one of the Council members that gave the pristine and very valuable prime 17 acre NTC site to developer Corky McMillin for 1 dollar a year in an astounding Redevelopment deal that stunned and enraged citizens. Then Corky McMillin turned around and hired LeSar as a consultant....sound like quid pro quo? http://www.blogofsandiego.com/BlogArchives/2007-2nd-Quarter.htm#06/06/07 Here is the lease.. http://www.blogofsandiego.com/DSD/NTC/Memo_of_Lease.PDF ....and it is a Delaware LLC by the way that very conveniently hides who the actual investors are. That makes me wonder if the mayor or other city officials could actually be investors.

Here is the CityBeat article scrutinizing the LeSar consulting deal... http://www.sdcitybeat.com/sandiego/article-8792-more-scrutiny-please.html

CityBeat reporter Kelly Davis said that since 2010 former redevelopment official and current wife and life partner of Toni Atkins, Jennifer LeSar, received $235,000 to provide “technical assistance” on efforts to house the homeless. CityBeat goes on to say "on Tuesday morning, the City Council extended that contract through September, upping the payment to $464,750".

Jennifer LeSar was on the Board of Directors of the Centre City Development Corp. (CCDC) from 2002 to 2009. She started her development consulting business in 2005 consulting many of the same developers she was working with on CCDC. http://lesardevelopment.com/about-us/ CCDC recently asked the City Council to approve the contract extension with redevelopment money, yes that same redevelopment money that Atkins as State Assembly WHIP will vote on in Sacramento....sound like a conflict of interest?

"According to the contract, LeSar bills CCDC at $225 per hour for her own work. She hired an affordable-housing expert at a cost to CCDC of $175 per hour. A third employee, a former reporter, bills for $90 per hour". $90 per hour!!!!!! for a study on homelessness? $225 an hour for her time? Is this a joke? Did those 550 volunteers know they were working for free while LeSar was profiting off their work? How is it that Atkins and LeSar have evaded Federal investigation?

And not to worry, once this very expensive study is complete LeSar has many private clients that will pay her to get them the very lucrative homeless shelter contracts. She is a 1-stop shop when it comes to "solving affordable housing and homelessness", a business that has made her millions.

CityBeat's article goes on to say this about LeSar's responsibilities: "The scope of LeSar’s work—essentially cobbling together demographic information about the homeless people who live Downtown and cajoling various agencies to work cooperatively on getting them housed—sounds a lot like what former San Diego City Councilmember Brian Maienschein is supposed to be doing on a regional basis."

No doubt the solution will be to build giant monstrosities with 4,000 units to house San Diego's homeless, but will this even work?

Solving homelessness is a complicated problem that requires an in depth knowledge of environmental psychology and architecture, as well as sociology and psychology. So why is the consumate professional hired to "study" this problem not educated in any of these things? She is a real estate developer and apparently deserves $225 for her extensive expertise at solving homelessness.

Homeless people carry an enormous amount of shame with them but they also carry an enormous amount of pride. They spend their lives looking for places to hide. The last thing they want is someone to make a big production out of their life's failures and some pseudo benevolent do-gooder offering them a new apartment if they meet a checklist of requirements (and of course there would need to be a checklist because that apartment cost $300,000 to build!) There needs to be a middle ground that offers them their anonymity and a dry place to sleep and shower and gives them the ability to empower themselves. That could be as simple as a tent or a shipping container and a mattress and a big shower facility.

So the city of San Diego after all these years of ignoring homeless people has decided not only does it want to finally address homelessness, it wants to SOLVE homelessness and signed on to the Plan to End Chronic Homelessness (PTECH). Could this have anything to do with the fact that solving homelessness pays $225 dollars an hour to a former CCDC board member and probably to Toni Atkins who up until 2011 was working for LeSar? I wonder what her time was billed at?

And if "solving homelessness" comes at the current price tag, as in the current 32 million dollar remodel of the World Trade Center Building which contains 225 beds we may be in big trouble. (And don't misunderstand me, I am ALL for spending redevelopment money on restoring historic buildings to help homeless but is anyone questioning the numbers?) At over $130,000 per homeless person X about 8,000 homeless people....that is over 1 billion dollars to provide beds not to mention the 8,000 additional homeless people that just showed up at your door after hearing the good news..... and now you are back to ground zero.

Again, don't get me wrong. My point is that there is no financial motive for these developers to actually SOLVE the problem. In fact the motivation is to exacerbate and encourage the problem. So LeSar's study is not going to offer real solutions. It will only offer solutions that maximize her and her clients profits. It presents a real problem when you hire a consultant who has a financial stake in profiting off the solution she recommends, and an even greater problem when that consultant's spouse votes on the funds to pay for that solution.

I know I am practically quoting the entire CityBeat article, but all this information is extremely important.

"What’s unclear is why CCDC needs consultants to point the way toward homelessness solutions. In addition to the city of San Diego signing on to a regional plan to solve the problem, it has designated its own Housing Commission as the lead agency in finding permanent-supportive-housing options (housing plus social services). Strangely, there at Tuesday’s meeting was Housing Commission President and CEO Rick Gentry, telling the City Council that the commission was ready to follow CCDC’s lead. Huh? The Housing Commission employs people whose job is to come up with housing solutions, and they’ve steadily been doing that job."

CityBeat, I think is far too easy on LeSar and Atkins who have made millions off this shell game, but they do offer this very valid criticism..." Not one member questioned Graham or LeSar on the contract’s alarmingly high cost or whether these services could or should be provided by someone already in place. CCDC could have hired three people for 15 months for $85,000 each, and it would only have cost $255,000".

I have been warning for a while that citizens need to pay close attention to all the resources and impetus to "solve homelessness". It is the next big shell game and means millions to private developers. I am in NO way saying I don't believe in helping the homeless. I do, but as someone with an education in architecture I do not agree with the solutions proposed by private developers because they exploit the problem for profit by wharehousing the homeless in toxic tenement slums and they do not solve the problem. The problem can be solved for much less money in a way that facilitates and encourages a sense of community and well-being.

It is unconscionable and morally reprehensible that we are allowing public city officials and now a State Assembly Leader to take real problems and turn them into real profits for themselves. This is the REAL social injustice for citizens and the victims are all of us.

Comments

Founder March 9, 2011 @ 11:37 a.m.

Excellent Story about a Great Deal for Toni Atkins & her partner!

It's a sad state of affairs (no pun intended) when those "helping" the Homeless make more money than it would take to solve many of our Homeless issues and are in fact just helping themselves!

Consider these questions:

-- How many public bathroom are located in each Council District?

-- How many shelters are located in each Council District?

-- Where do these 5,000 folks "GO" at least several times a day?

-- What is our Strong Mayor doing to solve this problem?

-- What are our Councilmembers doing to solve this problem?

-- Why aren't our Redevelopment Dollars being spent on solving these issues ASAP instead of "fluff" projects that benefit developers more than our citizens?

-- Where are building public bathrooms on the City's Cooperation Agreement between the City of San Diego and the Redevelopment Agency?

If you don't know the answers to all the above questions, ask your Councilmember and see if you get an honest answer...

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 1:37 p.m.

@Founder, those are execellent questions and observations!

I totally agree. I have always been stunned at how little we did to help the homeless when some of the roots of the problem were quite easy to solve. 1 of the biggest problems keeping people homeless and unable to get jobs is the simple fact that they dont have anywhere to store all their stuff. They are lugging this shopping cart w/ them everywhere they go and they have to watch it. Another big problem keeping them from getting a job is they dont have anywhere to shower and clean themselves up and as you point out a simple place "to go".

So if we started there getting them a place where they could safely store their stuff and a place where they could shower and use the restroom alot of the problem is solved. Granted you still have issues like mental illness and alchohol abuse, but seriously if you are a homeless person you would be so stoked if there was a place you could go take a shower everyday where no one would judge you.

They aften dont want anything to do w/ these shelters that pass judgement and make them pass a series of tests to stay.

In terms of a place to sleep, again if you are homeless you would be super stoked if there was a giant tent somewhere that just had mattresses on the floor and you could go and stay dry and sleep under some blankets and again a place where no one would judge you.

A homeless shelter should feel like a transitory place....it should be a place that keeps you warm and dry but doesnt offer permanence. I guarantee if they build 8000 units for these homeless it will not solve the problem.

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clockerbob March 9, 2011 @ 2:47 p.m.

What about the two churches that host the UCSD free medical clinic and feed the homeless.

First Lutheran Church 1420 Third Avenue and Pacific Beach United Methodist Church 1561 Thomas Street They could use a little shake once in awhile.

Your article and kelley davis article both miss the central point which is: What did Lestar do while CCDC board members to earn this highest tribute.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 2:56 p.m.

@Clockerbob, believe me I didnt miss that point. I have been asking that question for years. LeSar was not technically "paid' for her work on CCDC which essentially gave her the freedom to turn her connections into big cash w/ her consulting business (at least according the San diego ethics commission or what I like to call the CYA commission). The funny thing is she was running this consulting business back in 2005 and she was on CCDC from 2002 to 2009 and the Ethics Commission saw no problem w/ her doing business w/ the same clients she was working w/ on CCDC....they said "as long as she didnt represent herself as a CCDC board member to them" which of course is absolutely assinine.

The real quetion is why arent the Feds investigating this? they should have been on this in 2005 when she started the consulting business and while Atkins was voting on the cash to give to her CCDC clients that were also her personal clients. Again the ethics commission said that because Atkins and Lesar were not "family members" (which was only because gay marriage was illegal because they had been living together for years) that there was no conflict of interest.

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BlueSouthPark March 9, 2011 @ 4:10 p.m.

Yes, Atkins benefits from a lot of things that she champions. She is the Redevelopment supporters' hero. In fact, she was just visited in Sacramento by the a developer mentioned in another Reader article, in the capitol to protest against cutting off the Redevelopment dollars. Small world, the Reader! (See the article by by Elizabeth Salaam, on the pro-Redevelopment contingent protesting in City Heights.) http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2011/mar/06/fox-canyon-neighborhood-protests-governors-move-el/#c84136

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 5:09 p.m.

Thank you BlueSouthPark!! i appreciate the article you posted!! I think it is great that other people are FINALLY starting to see Atkins for what she really is. She is the Haliburton of homelessness.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 6 p.m.

BlueSouthPark I assume you live in SothPark? You guys have done an astounding and brilliant job of redevelopment in that community and I believe it was w/o redevelopment funds , right?

Anyway are you paying attention to the "granny flat" thing down there. Be very very careful w/ that. That is the argument being shaped and written by the Building Industry to get apartments down there. The key word in the legilation they are proposing is "at the same time". those are very important words. If it was really about granny flats the permitting would be done at different times. The only reason you need to be able to get the permit for the primary residence and the granny flat at the same time is because you want to tear down the primary unit to max the 2 units that now can go on the lot. It will destroy your neighborhood and pave the way for development.

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realnews March 9, 2011 @ 6:58 p.m.

Toni's wife should resign. And if the City Council isn't investigating this...then you know the fix is in. Same for the DA and Justice Department.

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BlueSouthPark March 9, 2011 @ 7:18 p.m.

HM, thank goodness there is no Redev Zone in South Park! There are a few architect/developers in the area who really wish there was RA money here, for sure. Not me! There are a few vacant lots around SP, and I'm sure if we were in a Redevelopment Zone we would see 2- or 3-story multi units crammed in, right up to the curb line. The push is already on by certain of these architect/developers/builders/business people (as happy little puppets of the City) to change the single-family residential density code, and that will happen, sadly.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 7:52 p.m.

@BSP, I believe there are still other things you guys can do to protect that area. 1st of all the neighborhood should be designated as a historic neighborhood the way neighboring Burlingame has been, which will help alot. You still have almost all of your orig architecture entact and that could be what saves you. I am very interested in helping to preserve SouthPark. I live in NorthPark but have been concerned about SouthPark for a long time. If I can assist I will. I admit I am still learning the tricks to help save these neighborhoods but I would definitely like to try and figure out what we can do for southpark. SoHo can help alot. You guys can also create a community Bill of Rights.

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historymatters March 9, 2011 @ 7:55 p.m.

@realNews City Council will NEVER investigate this but the FBI should be. the problem is the FBI investigates these things then they turn the evidence over to the DA Dumanis to prosecute and she ALWAYS says the claims are baseless even though the FBI says prosecute. So I think thats why the city and people like Atkins and the mayor are so arrogant about their crime ring.....a crime ring that includes voter fraud.

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RTFHSD March 14, 2011 @ 10:29 a.m.

Toni Atkins should be thanked for her long-term and steadfast commitment to solving homelessness in our communities. While I understand skepticism, the charges in your article are misleading and simply unjust.

Having worked closely with Toni, I am continually impressed and thankful that she is even willing to tackle this enormously difficult issue. As a legislator, she has to focus on innumerable issues. Fortunately she is also willing to continue to tackle this head on.

Solving homelessness is complicated and is not free or easy by any means. If it were, we wouldn't have thousands on the street and in shelters every single day in our County. To make progress on this crisis, it requires visionary leadership, collaboration, expertise, funding, and more. Thanks to Toni, Lesar Development, and many others, we are making progress. If you want to be a part of the solution, please let us know - there are many organizations committed to helping people leave the streets.

However, misrepresenting Toni's genuine efforts, value, commitment, and benefit to our community's collective effort to alleviate homeless is very disappointing. Let's all focus on making a positive difference, not unwarranted character assassinations.

Regards

Peter Callstrom, Executive Director Regional Task Force on the Homeless (RTFH) www.RTFHSD.org

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Founder March 14, 2011 @ 6:01 p.m.

Peter

What about ALL THE MONEY SHE, HER PARTNER and many others MADE and still are making OFF THE HOMELESS, are you saying that all that money could not have been better spent on real homeless solutions rather than growing in their bank account?

For a City that still does not have a public bathroom in every Council District, even you must admit that our Leaders have let the homeless down completely, while padding their own (and their friends) pockets!

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RTFHSD March 15, 2011 @ 8:10 a.m.

There are many involved in the work to address homelessness (including Toni and Lesar Development) - no one is doing it to 'line their pockets'. Yes, more needs to be done, but misguided criticism is not a solution. I agree we need more public bathrooms . . . and more housing . . . more jobs . . . more health care . . . more services to address a myriad of issues. However, know that the funds are being put to good use - with the magnitude of the problem, we all need more. Personally and professionally, I sincerely appreciate the fact that we have Toni Atkins, Lesar Development, and many others who remain committed to this important mission. Best, Peter

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Founder March 16, 2011 @ 8:10 a.m.

RE: "There are many involved in the work to address homelessness (including Toni and Lesar Development) - no one is doing it to 'line their pockets'."

I can't see why you would write that since this is true:

"According to the contract, LeSar bills CCDC at $225 per hour for her own work. She hired an affordable-housing expert at a cost to CCDC of $175 per hour. A third employee, a former reporter, bills for $90 per hour". $90 per hour!!!!!! for a study on homelessness?

What is this, if not "lining your pocket?"

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historymatters March 23, 2011 @ 9:29 p.m.

Peter, I dont think the allegations are unjust in the LEAST! In fact, they dont even begin to touch on Atkins history cashing in on "affordable housing" and homelessness.

I see that you are on damage control for her commenting in CityBeat as well. Just because someone is working on homelessness does not make them a saint and it does not mean they are not totally and utterly corrupt.

No offense Peter, but your speech sounds like it is straight from Toni's publicist. It is vague and disingenuine just like Toni and sounds very much like all of Tonis canned explanations for why she is protecting the developers that put her in office. I've heard enough rhetoric. Words mean nothing. Actions are all that matter. Toni has had her chance and she has failed miserably and I can't wait until she is finally investigated and arrested.

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historymatters March 23, 2011 @ 10:12 p.m.

corruption is rampant everywhere but to cash in on social welfare programs---that is about as contemptible and evil as it gets and I think its why I have such a bone to pick w/ Toni. For years she has presented herself as a crusader for the underpriviledged and the marginalized members of society and YET....her decisions have ALWAYS been in favor of her special interests. And she always begins her speeches w/ something like... "Solving homelessness is complicated and is not free or easy by any means." Anytime something is "complicated", its code for "Im going to pretend like Im on your side but Im voting for my special interest developers". She did that to us the whole time she was our Council member when we came to her to address the massive demolitions of historic properties by her developer friends in our neighborhoods.

And I am still not sure why her wife Lesar qualifies as an expert at solving this complex problem...obviously she is an expert or she couldnt charge $225 per hour. Why is it that it is virtually impossible to find any projects Lesar has worked on, yet she claims to have participated in 3 billion dollars worth of projects? Because Lesar and Atkins have very good lawyers that hide their money in Delaware LLCs. Lesar should list EVERY project she has worked on or had a financial stake in. What are her and her partner hiding?

Again, this is as contemptible as it gets...pretending you are working for these poor members of society when really you are raking in the profits at $225 an hour "solving" their problem. If I had it my way her jail cell would be 1 of the god awful toxic tenement slums she has littered our neighborhoods w/.

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