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Matt Potter 8:30 a.m., Oct. 19
There's a pot of money sitting on the east side of the Coronado Bridge in Barrio Logan. The money has been collected to get the Barrio Logan Maintenance Assessment District off the ground and running. Unfortunately for the 82 property owners who voted for it, the pot of money can't be touched.
The Barrio Logan Association, the entity set up to manage the district has not yet obtained 501(c)3 non-profit status from the IRS, a task in which maintenance assessment guru Marco Li Mandri charged the Barrio Logan Association, among other items, $25,000 to complete.
Now, the association and the nearly 200-property owners who paid the assessments have been hung out to dry and will have to wait to get their money's worth.
Meanwhile, as the members of the Barrio Logan Association wait for their paperwork to go through, what might be as long as a year, Li Mandri wants the $25,000 he is owed to form the district.
Emails obtained by the Reader through a public records request show Li Mandri has contacted city staff for the balance of the contract he entered into with Shea Properties, developer of the Mercado del Barrio mixed-use project, to start the assessment district.
"I submitted the request in early May, based upon the contract and the collection of the assessments and your office has had it ever since," Li Mandri wrote in an email to Amy Gowan from the City's Economic Development Division.
"The total contract was for $85,000 to investigate the district, form the district, and establish the district management corporation, all of which have been done."
It was back in 2011 when Li Mandri teamed up with Vice President for Shea Properties, Kevin McCook, and councilmember David Alvarez to form the district.
Shea and Li Mandri agreed to go it on their own and front the district the $85,000.
A few months later, Alvarez was excited about the future in Barrio Logan.
"We actually approached Shea Properties and asked them to participate," Alvarez told the Reader in a January 2012 interview "And, now we're moving forward with it. The process is very open and we don't want any favoritism for any one group, which is why we surveyed everybody. Everyone was notified. We even started a steering committee to see what services residents want.
Added the councilmember: "The history of Barrio Logan is there but outside Chicano Park and its murals the story isn't told. So as the community gets larger and businesses move in, it would be great to bring that culture and help tell the story of Barrio Logan."
In the following months, Li Mandri moved forward with setting it up. McCook helped form the Barrio Logan Association. Alvarez garnered support for the vote to pass.
During a council hearing in November 2012, the council made it official.
Then, in June of this year, Li Mandri was handed a defeat by the very association that he helped set up. Board members from the Barrio Logan Association awarded the contract not to Li Mandri's New City America but to Urban Corps.
Since, board members discovered that the 501(c)3 had not gone through.
But board members aren't the only ones left frustrated.
Add Li Mandri to the list as well.
"So they reimburse Shea and I am left without my final payment. I am the one who gets screwed," Li Mandri wrote to Jamie Fox, Chief of Staff to Interim Mayor Todd Gloria.
"This has been in [Gowan's] and Luis [Ojeda's] office since late April and I am not going to justify my hourly rate one and a half years after the fact.
"If you leave this in [Ojeda and Gowan's] hands this will go nowhere."
On September 4, attorney for San Diegans for Open Government, Cory Briggs, sent a letter of his own, this one to the City Clerk and all council offices.
"Any public official who in any way allows or authorizes the disbursement will be sued, along with the city, in his/her personal capacity for recovery of the monies.
"Furthermore, because much of what Shea and/or NCA is demanding appears to be part of a scam on taxpayers, my client will be filing suit against any public official who in any way facilitates disbursement of any monies to Shea and/or NCA. Public officials may be receiving legal advice that they cannot be held personally liable for improper public expenditures. That is false."
Councilmember David Alvarez's Office did not respond in time for publication. The story will be updated when he/his office does so.