Amidst Jacobs family crack-ups, can charity prevail?

Facing fight over park bulldozing, San Diego's richest man endures domestic ruptures

Irwin Jacobs
  • Irwin Jacobs

Word that a son of La Jolla billionaire Democrat Irwin Jacobs is behind the port district's controversial plan to demolish Seaport Village has come quickly on the heels of the elder Jacobs's own backroom deal with Republican mayor Kevin Faulconer to bulldoze a megamillion-dollar road and parking garage complex through Balboa Park.

The twin moves have spawned accusations regarding municipal corruption on a grand scale, and the use of big political money by San Diego's richest family to get its way, no matter the public consequences. Now additional questions have arisen about the troubled domestic lives of Jacobs's offspring, who have long basked in the local limelight as princes of charity.

On Wednesday (July 13), the board of the San Diego Unified Port District voted 6-1 to award exclusive negotiating rights for the Seaport Village teardown to a group headed by Yehudi Gaffen, a San Diego developer who has faced continued controversy over campaign contributions and alleged mismanagement of a massive public park development project in the Orange County city of Irvine.

Gaffen has denied any wrongdoing, telling KGTV/10News in September 2014, "We give money to organizations both politically and philanthropically that we feel aligned with — that are doing good things for our region, and I'm never gonna stop that — it's very much part of our DNA and part of what we do."

Following this week's award of the Seaport Village redevelopment deal, Gaffen told the Union-Tribune, "It's very surprising, I didn't expect to get it."

A 480-foot "Spire" observation tower and an “OdySea” 178,490-square-foot aquarium are included to drive tourist traffic to the project.

A 480-foot "Spire" observation tower and an “OdySea” 178,490-square-foot aquarium are included to drive tourist traffic to the project.

The $1.2 billion plan calls for construction of three hotels with a total of more than 1000 rooms, along with almost 400,000 square feet of retail and restaurant uses, dwarfing current site improvements.

A 480-foot "Spire" observation tower and an “OdySea” 178,490-square-foot aquarium are included to drive tourist traffic to the project.

The financial muscle behind Gaffen comes from Jeff Jacobs, one of Irwin Jacobs's four sons, who with Gaffen and longtime Jacobs associate Jeff Essakow, have set up Protea Waterfront Development to redevelop the bayfront property.

City campaign disclosure filings show that the three men have been longtime providers of major money to San Diego politicos, including $15,000 from Jeff Jacobs to the GOP Lincoln Club. For his part, Essakow and his wife have given over $20,000 to San Diego city campaigns and political causes, including $5050 to the 2016 reelection campaign of GOP mayor Faulconer and $2000 to Republican city councilwoman Lorie Zapf.

Gaffen, family members, and employees have come up with a grand total of $41,395 for city political campaigns since 2007, according to filings, with $6000 for the 2013 mayoral campaign of Democratic city councilman David Alvarez, $2000 for his opponent Faulconer, and $2500 for the Lincoln Club.

Paul Jacobs

Paul Jacobs

In addition to his hometown real estate ventures, Jeff Jacobs, a Qualcomm executive before becoming a developer, and two of his brothers, Qualcomm chairman Paul Jacobs and investor Harlan Jacobs, are among the owners of the Sacramento Kings, the professional basketball team that was the recipient of city largesse for its new $507 million downtown arena, opening this fall.

But there is a less happy side to the private lives of Jeff and Paul, both recently divorced. Each had previously funded charities with their wives, raising questions regarding the fate of their future philanthropy.

Paul's final split from wife Stacy came this May 26 in the San Diego courtroom of judge Patricia Guerrero. A brief memorandum of the marital settlement agreement reached by the couple this spring provides few details regarding how much Jacobs agreed to pay his ex-wife, other than to say, "the child support provisions set forth in the Marital Settlement Agreement are in the best interests of the minor children…. The needs of the minor children will be adequately met under the Agreement."

Court records show that Paul Jacobs commenced the divorce against Stacy in April of last year. Married in October 1991, the couple separated in September 2013, a month before their 22nd anniversary.

Nothing has yet come to light regarding the ultimate fate of the nonprofit Paul and Stacy Jacobs Foundation, which in 2013 pledged $20 million to an engineering "design innovation institute" at UC Berkeley, the pair's alma mater.

The institute’s flashy new building, named for the couple, has drawn protests for encroaching on a historic university neighborhood.

"About a dozen activists gathered at the construction site to protest the planned removal of trees...and the overall potential for environmental degradation," reported the Daily Californian in April 2014.

Paul's brother Jeff untied the knot with his wife Deni in January 2014, court documents show. She had initiated the divorce after the couple's separation in May 2012. They were married in 1994.

Like brother Paul, Jeff's spousal settlement is off the record, but a December 2013 agreement includes an elaborate "parenting plan" for the pair's offspring.

"The parents will cooperate in sharing time together with the children on Halloween, the children's birthdays, and gift giving at Christmas and Hanukkah," and "The above child sharing arrangement provides a time share of 57% to Mother and 43% to Father."

“In odd numbered years Mother shall have the children the first nights of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and Father shall have the children the first night of Passover. In even numbered years this schedule shall reverse.”

Like Paul, Jeff and his now ex-wife put up cash for a building to be named after themselves, known as the Deni & Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Foundation Center. Designed by Nathan Lee Colkitt Architects, it has been nominated for an orchid in this year’s American Institute of Architects Orchid and Onions contest, with winners to be announced in October.

Deni Jacobs

Deni Jacobs

from YouTube video

Jeff and Deni have also backed a nonprofit known as Educational Enrichment Systems, to "provide child development services to low income families,” according to its IRS filing. Deni, a member of the board, has appeared with her children on a YouTube video promoting Thanksgiving dinners for the underprivileged.

But with family-named buildings lasting longer than marriages in the Jacobs clan, critics of Irwin Jacobs’s Balboa Park road and parking-garage makeover say the project lacks financial transparency and that future park development sponsored by the billionaire and his family’s foundations could end up being a burden on city taxpayers for years to come.

The family patriarch has told the Union-Tribune that he doesn't expect to be the only one to pay for the disputed megamillion-dollar undertaking. But hefty divorce settlements made by his children to unload their first wives might affect their ability to pick up their father's financial slack.

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The Jacobs are traitors. They are part of an alliance to destroy the middle-class and make everything too expensive for them as well. They want to destroy Balboa Park and Seaport Village and make them venues for the wealthy, only.

Have we forgotten what philanthropy is? Maybe not, but the Jacobs sure have. Like medicine, the rule of charity is "do no harm."

The best thing the Jacobs can do it go away and be forgotten.

Yes, of course, any democrat is a traitor - a supporter of America's version of the Nazi Party.

And I write this as one who had family in the camps, and my father was hunted by the Nazis in WWII.


Adjust your Tin Foil Hat and take your meds....\if anything, the Republican Party is attempting to destroy what America stands for..

Sad news about the divorces of Irwin Jacobs'two sons -- time-share language about how the children will be divvied-up is poignant. Even worse for the city, this bad news of gross plans to destroy the human-scale harbor-accessible Seaport Village and develop the daylights out of the area. First Balboa Park, now Seaport. With progre$$ like this, the place soon will be unrecognizable.

Old man Jacobs was once benefactor of cultural groups, with the Symphony getting a huge grant. The sons were generally nonentities locally. Now old Irwin and wife are hell-bent on getting their way in Balboa Park, the citizens be damned. Has his nastiness percolated down to the sons? Two have recently divorced, although those of the Jewish faith generally disapprove of that action. Has something about all the wealth made those men in the family into personalities whose wives cannot tolerate now? Actually, the money, the power, the greed, and the way the foregoing corrupt the person have brought all of them to a low. Yes, the best thing all of them can do is stop trying to buy their ideas in the public arena, leave town, and try to be forgotten. None of them has anything to point to with pride in the past five years (or is it more like the past decade?)

Wow, Visduh, traitors? Irwin and Joan Jacobs' philanthropy has righted many shaky local cultural institutions, put them on an even keel, ensured their excellence and endowed their longevity. San Diego Symphony, San Diego Opera, La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla Music Society, the Central Library are names that come to mind.

The problem has become Irwin Jacobs' naivete? hubris? ego? in allowing himself to be importuned to expand his generosity to support local political hacks like Alan Bersin and Jerry Sanders and Nathan Fletcher as well as bankrolling cockamamie political ideas like gutting the elected Board of Education and building a parking garage in Balboa Park which destroys the historic Cabrillo Bridge. It's sad -- for all of us.

Irwin Jacobs has had such a good reputation for philanthropy in San Diego. I am distressed about his plan to build a huge parking garage in Balboa Park and change the whole character and nature of the park. Surely, Mr Jacobs can get together with the community and rethink his plan..maybe move his parking garage out of Balboa Park?!

How are Gary and Jerri-Ann Jacobs related to Irwin Jacobs and the rest of the family?! They have done a lot of good work with the local High Tech Charter Schools also.

Gary is another Jacobs son who has generously-funded these well-run charter schools which have a good reputation among their students' families.

How about we stick to disputing Irwin Jacobs' misguided Balboa Park scheme on the merits (which is easy enough to do), rather than gossip-mongering about the divorces of his kids while pretending that they are somehow relevant to Balboa Park?

The point of the article is that personal fortunes are relevant to the charitable and/or civic commitments the individual Jacobs make.

Now Jacobs, père, "leaves others to fund [his $45M] plaza project," http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/jul/01/jacobs-balboa-panama/. It's simply too much to ask that we have him spend any more money on his vanity project, after he has already spent so much on lawyers and Faulconer's election and greenmailing local Democrats to go along. We owe it to him to make his dreams come true.

So if and when any of them get tired of their shiny toys, it is reasonable to ask who has to keep paying the installments on them.

That's a very thin excuse for what amounts to the San Diego Reader version of a National Enquirer item.

And you have a very thin complaint. When a reader doesn't like the news, it is easiest to attack the news source or medium as being unfair or unprofessional. The machinations of the Jacobs clan in local politics are not enerally greported anywhere but in the Reader. In fact, many locals probably have little awareness of all the money that "Jake" and his sons are pumping into local races, They do that because they want something(s), and are paying to have them. That's a far cry from the philanthropy that was their pattern some years ago.

Surely you won't deny there is a thread of relevant connection between whether there will be sufficient funds to maintain the Irwin Jacobs-financed makeover to Balboa Park after two of his heirs have to divide their money with ex-wives. This story is less sensational than a recent gross Reader review of the Cheescake Factory -- different writer.

Do us citizens get a vote on what color big balloon we will end up with now that Gafcon is in the money?

I think we (not "us") citizens will end up with a water balloon in the face!

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