Mike Madriaga 10:05 a.m., March 19
Potential conflict of interest for planning commissioner whose spouse works at land-use consultant firm?
Ted Shaw works for land-use consultant Atlantis Group which represents major developers trying to push projects through city hall.
San Diego City Planning Commissioners have almost always had some ties to developers or some level of interest in new development projects. For instance, commissioner Mary Lydon once served as vice president on downtown corporate non-profit the Downtown San Diego Partnership. And others, such as architect Tim Golba and property management firm owner Robert Griswold, even received fines for failing to disclose sources of income for their businesses.
None, however, have such a direct financial tie as newly appointed commissioner Sue Peerson. Peerson appointed by ex-mayor Jerry Sanders in March 2012, owns her own planning firm and was a lecturer at the University of California at San Diego.
According to an April 30 lobbyist disclosure from the Atlantis Group, a consulting firm owned by former development services director Marcela Escobar-Eck, Peerson's spouse, Ted Shaw, was paid $18,173 for his work as a senior land use consultant for the Atlantis Group from January 1 2013 to March 31.
Some residents believe Shaw's employment and his relationship to a planning commissioner raises conflict of interest issues, especially considering the Atlantis Group's list of clientele.
That list includes Kilroy Realty, developer of the proposed One Paseo project in Carmel Valley, and the McMillin Companies, as well as a slew of others.
Escobar-Eck's disclosure of the payment is in line with the City's municipal code which requires payments made "to, or on behalf of, any City Official or any member of a City Official’s immediate family, by a lobbyist, lobbying firm, or organization lobbyist," must be reported.
According to his bio on the Atlantis Group's website, Shaw has 25 years of experience as a planner and is also very skilled at drafting community plans and at amending those plans.
"[Shaw's] work includes infill/brownfield development, urban reuse projects, suburban and rural developments as well as mixed-use, residential, commercial/retail, industrial, office, healthcare, education, and public works. He has written numerous community/specific plans as well as amendments to existing plans and successfully processed more than a thousand entitlement projects across the Southwestern United States."
Changing the community plan is what is needed in order for Kilroy Realty's project One Paseo to move forward. The planning commission has yet to weigh in on that amendment. That raises concerns for residents fighting against One Paseo.
Kilroy Realty, hired the Atlantis Group more than one year ago to lobby city officials for their support of the 23-acre mixed-use project.
"Mr. Shaw's employment at Atlantis which acts as a registered lobbyist for Kilroy Realty has a direct bearing on the decision that his spouse Ms. Peerson has to make on the proposed One Paseo application at the Planning Board," writes Carmel Valley resident and opponent of the One Paseo project, William Bibb. "Mr. Shaw makes considerable money at Atlantis. As his spouse, Ms. Peerson has a substantial community property interest in this compensation-- tens of thousands of dollars.
Bibb feels that Peerson should recuse herself from any vote or hearing on One Paseo
There is a staggering amount of money riding on the outcome of Ms. Peerson's vote.
"I do not see how Ms. Peerson can rebut the inference that her husband's and her income based on the outcome of the application could, and probably would affect, the decision that she has to make."
Added Bibb: "In my opinion, Ms. Peerson should disqualify herself to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Her community property interest is substantial in Mr. Shaw's income. His future employment and advancement in Atlantis will depend on his effectiveness."
"The fact that Escobar-Eck would hire someone to lobby whose spouse will make the decision speaks volumes about the course of conduct by Kilroy Realty, Inc. in seeking as much influence as possible through Escobar-Eck's revolving-door connections to the Development Services Department," writes Bibb.
Update: In an email, Commissioner Peerson gave the following statement: "I intend to recuse myself at any Planning Commission hearings regarding this project".
Follow this link to see Atlantis Group's April 30 lobbyist disclosure"
Follow these links to learn more about the project and Atlantis Group's lobbying efforts at City Hall.