Big money talking in One Paseo ballot war

L.A. developers go bankroll-to-bankroll over lucrative development rights

Signature gatherers will likely be the foot soldiers in the next phase of the war for and against Kilroy's interests.
  • Signature gatherers will likely be the foot soldiers in the next phase of the war for and against Kilroy's interests.

Pioneered by San Diego Republican ex-mayor Jerry Sanders and his allies in the local shipbuilding, hotel, and restaurant industries, big-money referendum campaigns have become the device of choice to thwart the will of San Diego's city council.

Jerry Sanders

Jerry Sanders

Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer

One Paseo's Main Street

One Paseo's Main Street

(photo illustration)

Del Mar Highlands Town Center

Del Mar Highlands Town Center

Todd Gloria

Todd Gloria

Sherri Lightner

Sherri Lightner

Viewed by critics as ineptly staffed — and of late a rubber stamp for Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer and his wealthy benefactors — the council now faces yet another challenge to its faltering reputation in the form of a ballot drive to be financed by Donahue Schriber.

The Costa Mesa–based real estate investment trust is seeking to overturn last month's approval of One Paseo, the commercial and residential complex at the corner of Del Mar Heights Road and El Camino Real in Carmel Valley.

The February 23 vote on the project was 7-2, with Democratic councilwoman Marti Emerald and council president Sherri Lightner opposed.

Rumblings of a referendum began shortly after the council vote, reaffirmed March 9, with reports that One Paseo developer Kilroy Realty of Los Angeles was spreading plenty of its own cash around to make sure that referendum signature gatherers wouldn't go to work for the anti–One Paseo measure.

Now the battle has been officially joined, with the launch of a political committee called "Protect San Diego's Neighborhoods, a coalition of neighborhood residents, community planners, taxpayers and small businesses. Major funding by Donahue Schriber."

According to its March 9 initial disclosure filing with the city clerk's office, the group has been established specifically to wage a referendum battle opposed to One Paseo’s approval. Donahue Schriber owns Kilroy competitor Del Mar Highlands Town Center.

As previously reported here, on December 30 Kilroy set up its own political committee, known as "Citizens for a Business Friendly San Diego,” with the stated objective of supporting "candidates to foster San Diego business investment."

During their long fight over One Paseo, both L.A.-area companies have spent big on lobbyists and lavished campaign contributions on city council members here.

Donahue Schriber's referendum gambit uses the same cash-on-the-barrelhead technique employed by chamber of commerce chief Sanders, who fronted the battle against the council's passage of a minimum-wage ordinance. Enacted under then–council president Todd Gloria, the wage-boost measure has been waylaid by a successful 2014 referendum drive that put it on the 2016 ballot.

A committee calling itself the San Diego Small Business Coalition subsequently filed disclosure statements revealing it had received $100,000 from the American Hotel and Lodging Association, a Washington DC–based industry lobbying group; $40,000 from the California Restaurant Association Issues PAC of Sacramento; and $25,000 from the International Franchise Association of Washington D.C.

Similarly, Sanders and a group of military contracting giants, including General Dynamics and BAE, killed the Barrio Logan community plan with a well-financed referendum drive that forced the council to put it on the June 2014 ballot; the barrio plan was defeated in a campaign that cost the Navy shipbuilding interests and their allies more than $1 million.

Gloria, a backer of both the minimum wage and the barrio plan, was toppled from the council presidency in December of last year by fellow Democrat Lightner, aided by the council's Republicans.

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The recent hokey jokey Baywatch video of the conservative San Diego County Taxpayers Association advertising its annual Golden Fleece awards features political players, among them ambitious, fallen-but-buff ex-council president Todd Gloria, beach-boy-blond Mayor Kevin Faulconer and ever-genial expletive-exclaiming ex-mayor Jerry Sanders who now runs the powerful Chamber of Commerce. These amusing bad actors contribute, each in his own way, to the cynical big-money power grabs that this story describes. It's disgusting.

This story has all the elements of a typical pulp western. Dueling developers pour their ill-gotten dueling dollars into a range war. They go out and hire all the local, plus a bunch of out-of-town, gun-slingers--oops, I meant pen-slingers--to round up the rubes and get them to sign petitions. Is either side going to do the best for the local residents? Don't make me laugh! Can we look forward to a shoot-out in the middle of Del Mar Heights Blvd? Is there no equivalent to the Earps vs. the Clantons? Nah, nevahappen. But we can all wish this junk got settled fast, violently, and legendarily.

What we are seeing is the beginning of the real decision making process, up to now the BIG Players opposed to this project have been just watching to see if they even needed to get involved (also read as saving their money if possible) which would have been un-necessary if the local Community had gotten this project stopped. Now because the community has shown itself as dysfunctional (failure to organize itself and/or even select a credible spokesperson) it is time for Donahue Schriber to get serious if he hopes to stop the Kilroy project.

This Project has become the tipping point for many of San Diego's Planning Committee's since they realize that they must band together or realize that their role in planning San Diego's future will become meaningless, since the City Council vote over ruled the local Planning committee on One Paseo. All those Councilmember's voting FOR One Paseo have now shown themselves as Pro-Big Developer (as if anyone had any doubts) despite what they have said in the past about preserving San Diego's quality of life, so unless this project is defeated, everyone in San Diego that is committed to smart planning with local guidance will be able to do nothing more than meekly cheer for whatever project gets shoved down their throats.

It is important t note that many on these Planning Boards of these Planning Committees have (up to now) been huge supporters of their Councilmember's, so it will be very interesting to see whether they will speak out against those that voted against local planning or not. I urge the San Diego Reader to make this an ongoing story, with weekly updates that includes statement from each of the Councilmember's.

San Diego's Quality of Life will be decided by this Project since as it looks now most of our elected Leaders have decided to go for increasing San Diego's DENSITY as fast as possible since that will insure they receive the biggest donations from these wealthy donors.

You may be correct, but all of it might be moot if we cannot solve the water problem we now have. At the present time, we have a diminished (and steadily diminishing) water supply, while thousands of housing units are constructed and space for many jobs is being constructed. The crunch comes when the water supply is even more severely limited, and yet thousands of people flock into the area to live the "good life."

Maybe "next year" will end the drought in So Cal and the entire far west, and we can forget about a lack of the wet stuff. But don't think that we will be out of the woods.

Water and transit infrastructure needs to be provided before more development. I would raise the sales tax by one-half cent. We could solve our pension shortfalls, provide modern public transportation, and fix the potholes in the roads.

Many politicians want to allow developers to build without necessary infrastructure. SANDAG voted to petition to the Supreme Court of California to overturn the trial court and the Court of Appeal decisions that widening Freeways and highways with federal funds will not satisfy the climate action plan for the region in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2050. The reason given is "clear guidelines and local control." Yet, the City Council does not want to listen to communities, (nor Sacramento). San Diego is being arrogant. The City Council and SANDAG want power to ignore community and state authority. Little dictators need a lesson.

These self-serving politicians want to accept campaign contributions from developers and or/unions and finance their relections. Pathetic.

Protecting San Diego's Neighborhoods will hopefully unite all of San Diego against developers. Our greatest asset in San Diego is the environment. We must build sustainable communities using Smart Growth and TOD - "transit-oriented development."

It is healthy to get out of your automobile and walk to public transit. Americans are overweight and unhealthy. Walking that half mile to public transit makes all the difference.

One Paseo is not "Smart Growth; it is density without "convenient public access to an established network of public transportation."

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating sustainable communities in the urban core or along transit corridors is Smart Growth. That transit-oriented growth reduces commuting expenses and stimulates economic growth. The Governor's Office of Reserch and Planning has issued proposed new Guidelines under the California Environmental Quality Act. One Paseo does not follow these guidelines. The proposed project is 100% automobile-dependent. There will a tram that the developer proposes to pay for but that is not the type of public transit that will eliminate family commuting expenses, decrease vehicle miles traveled, create economic growth along public transit corridors that will decrease automobile travel.

Sherri Lightner and Martin Emerald respected the desires of the local Community Planning Boards. I wrote to all Councilpersons before the hearing and testified at the hearing. Todd Gloria and David Alvarez both went back on their campaign promises to listen to the communities' wishes. They had political reasons that outweighed their campaign promises and concern for Smart Growth principles that they espouse.

The general population in San Diego must keep these politicians honest. Otherwise, they will isolate each community separately. Let's all stick together.

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