Union-Tribune takes Mayor Sanders' side

Sunroad gets a pass

— Watching Mayor Jerry Sanders distort the truth is as disgusting as watching the Union-Tribune helping him do so. Friday, June 1, was another example. At the request of the city attorney's office, Sanders released documents showing that in December of last year, Sanders administration officials, working from the mayor's office, helped Sunroad Enterprises circumvent the "stop work" order demanded by the city attorney's office. That office was trying to block completion of Sunroad's building near Montgomery Field that defies Federal Aviation Administration and California Department of Transportation standards. Bottom line: the building still sits near Montgomery Field, and there is only smoke and mirrors from the mayor's office, faithfully reported in the U-T.

Those June 1 documents were devastating. So to deflect attention from them, the mayor chose that day to denounce Sunroad as an irresponsible company. On the following three days, the U-T ignored the released documents, heaping praise Saturday on the mayor's embarrassingly belated denunciation of Sunroad.

On December 21 of last year, Marcela Escobar-Eck, head of the Development Services Department, wrote to Tom Story of Sunroad giving the company permission to install weatherproofing "in the interest of saving the structure from damage." In essence, this wholly misleading missive gave Sunroad permission to evade the stop work directive from the city attorney's office. The documents released June 1 show that Sunroad's owner, Aaron Feldman, along with Story, sat in the mayor's office as the letter was being crafted. Much of the wording of that December 21 letter originated with Sunroad's outside attorney, Steven M. Strauss, and was edited by James Waring, Sanders's real estate czar. Negotiations between Strauss and Waring "got cut and pasted into Escobar-Eck's letter of December 21," says Gerald Blank, attorney for the Community Airfields Association of San Diego.

In the Escobar-Eck letter are these words: "Neither Sunroad nor its representatives may, under any circumstances [emphasis mine], make any claim or assert any argument against the City for any costs or expenses of any type incurred after October 27, 2006." But on March 13, 2007, Strauss wrote City Attorney Mike Aguirre and warned that "Sunroad will hold the City liable" for expenses related to the city attorney's refusal to permit use of a construction crane or helicopter to put equipment in the building. Hmmm. Sunroad and Waring said at one point that the only remaining work was internal -- "but that was an outright lie," says Blank. "They were putting heating and ventilating equipment on the roof, and we have pictures to prove it."

Blank observes that San Diego elected a supposedly strong mayor, "but he has proven nothing more than miserably weak when faced with developer interests." Of course, Feldman raised thousands of dollars for Sanders. The punch line: even though Sanders now says that Sunroad is irresponsible, and he professes to take blame for the debacle, his office is still negotiating with federal aviation authorities so Montgomery Field pilots will be forced to change their landing procedures and Sunroad can keep its too-tall building in place. Sing it again, San Diego: Hmmmm.

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