Liberty Station quietly sold for $71 million

San Francisco Giants mogul inked deal a week before Thanksgiving

City deputy chief operating officer David Graham's name is on the consent form recorded with the deed.
  • City deputy chief operating officer David Graham's name is on the consent form recorded with the deed.

Control of Liberty Station, obtained from the city of San Diego by the Republican mega-donor McMillin family during the controversial reign of GOP mayor Susan Golding in 1999, has quietly changed hands for more than $71 million, with nary a word to the public from mayor Kevin Faulconer or city hall staff.

Liberty Station was obtained during the controversial reign of GOP mayor Susan Golding.

Liberty Station was obtained during the controversial reign of GOP mayor Susan Golding.

The new owner, according to a grant deed recorded at the San Diego county Recorder’s office November 16, is a group of entities tied to Seligman & Associates of Southfield Michigan. Per the company's website, the family-owned firm's related company, Seligman Western Ventures, is based in San Francisco.

A "consent to assignments of and estoppel certificate relating to Naval Training Center ground leases" that was recorded with the deed was signed by city deputy chief operating officer David Graham and deputy city attorney Delmar Williams.

In connection with the transaction, records show, the group of Seligman-related entities executed a trust deed to JPMorgan Chase Bank, securing a mortgage loan in the amount of $117 million.

Seligman honcho Scott Seligman, son of company founder Irving R. Seligman and part owner of the San Francisco Giants, is not universally admired in the Bay Area.

"Seligman has been singled out as the ugly face of gentrification in San Francisco by non-other than Lawrence Ferlinghetti, the famed poet and owner of City Lights books," noted Pueblo Lands.

Protests against McMillin takeover of Liberty Station in 1999

Protests against McMillin takeover of Liberty Station in 1999

"Back in 2001 Seligman was in the process of evicting tenants from a building he controlled in the Mid-Market area (the same part of San Francisco now being colonized by Twitter thanks to a big tax break the Board of Supervisors gave the company). In a press release Ferlinghetti lashed out:

“A developer from Michigan, Scott Seligman, who runs Sterling Bank and Seligman Western Enterprises, wants to gentrify the Mid-Market zone. Not to make the City a better place but to make his bank account a little fatter. He wants a better class of tenant. No more photographers or poets or translators or editors or painters. No more small businesses serving the city. No more small nonprofits, like Streetside Stories, which publishes work by 650 middle school kids every year to foster a love of reading and writing.”

Seligman and company are likely to face similar resistance here regarding plans to turn the former Navy training station's historic North Chapel into a restaurant venue.

“Several members of the community, including Save Our Heritage Organisation, have been in contact with my office to express their concerns regarding the leasings by the McMillin Company (or a successor in interest) of the North Chapel to a commercial tenant, which they claim violates the Guidelines for the Treatment of Historic Properties at the Naval Training Center,” wrote Democratic congressman Scott Peters in a letter to the mayor and lame-duck GOP councilwoman Lorie Zapf.

Since June 2009, Faulconer has collected a total of $21,999 in campaign funding from individuals associated with the McMillin family, which was the seller in this month's deal. Zapf accepted $9000 since March 2010 from the McMillins, records show.

Neither politico has appeared interested in pursuing the chapel conversion issue, leaving Democratic La Jolla city councilwomanBarbara Bry, - who along with Peters has been talked of as a candidate for mayor - to subsequently request the city attorney to look into the case.

As reported November 17 by the Union-Tribune - a day after the quiet closing of Seligman's deal to take over the property from McMillin - Faulconer spokeswoman Christina Chadwick released a statement regarding the calls for an investigation of the chapel matter.

“While we appreciate that an investigation could help this effort, the mayor has chosen a more direct approach to address the questions and concerns raised by the community and in the letter. Mayor Faulconer has directed staff to proactively work with the leaseholder to ensure that the chapel remains open to the public for assembly purposes and any future use respects and maintains its historic elements in accordance with the law.”

The possibility of McMillin transferring Liberty Station to a new owner was first reported by the Union-Tribune in an October 19 dispatch that quoted city spokeswoman Anna Vacchi as saying, “The city has been asked to review a McMillin proposal to sell their leasehold interest in various properties at NTC." She provided no other details and could not say when a deal would be done, per the paper's report.

“Under terms and conditions of the ground lease, the master developer can assign, sell or transfer a ground lease with the consent of the city of San Diego provided that a certificate of completion has been issued to the city,” the spokeswoman added.

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Just when you think Kev-boy can't sink any lower, he finds slime under the scum to wriggle in. He cravenly rushed this through eleven days after Peters' letter demanding enforcement of the Guidelines for NTC in a pitiful attempt to shirk responsibility. What I can't understand is why Mara Elliott would get down in the filth with him. Guess we'll just have to wait to see how much she eventually gets from McMillin and/or Seligman—but for this and her other collaborator behavior, she's already lost my vote.

Shame on every sleazy politico involved in this betrayal of the trust of their office, and for cowardly ordering subordinates to do their dirty work.

As I recall, the Naval Training Center got turned over to local developer Corky McMillan for $1. Now, as redeveloped "Liberty Station," it is quietly sold for $71 million almost 20 years later. I don't know about "slime," "scum" and "filth," but descriptors "typical" and "sleazy" work for me. I do look forward to knowing what complicit silent Mayor Faulconer will do after he leaves office.

I don't care about all the fuss as much as I am glad to know Lawrence Ferlinghetti is still alive.

I was surprised. He's 99 now. I went to his book store many years ago.

$1 invested returns $71,000,000 in 20 years...not a bad return for those connected in this deal. And we really don’t know how much McMillian made in all the other real estate transactions from the former NTC.

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that McMillin has been dead for close to 15 years. So I guess one would have to say that he hasn't made much since then.

Yes, but it was the privately held company’s dollar, so they’ve made a bundle.

Well, is he dead or isn't he? If he is, somebody in the McMillin (with an "i") family made out pretty well. They are still financing stuff over at SDSU. And who's to say what lies on the Other Side? Maybe there are streets paved with ill-gotten gold.

Macey L. “Corky” McMillin Jr. (January 14, 1929 – September 22, 2005)

Yeah, you know, when I write something to the effect of "someone can correct me if I'm wrong", that means that I actually know what I am writing is correct.

Corky's kids, Scott and Mark, run the business. https://www.sdbj.com/news/2018/jan/23/sd-500-scott-mcmillin/ Their website is an 'inspiring' hoot, considering...... https://www.mcmillin.com/

I believe his sons still run the business, so "McMillan (the company and his heirs)" have raked it in.

North Chapel has always been a place of WORSHIP and it is still revered today as a place of WORSHIP by the United State Navy, by generations of Navy veterans, and by the Point Loma community. Converting North Chapel into a FOR-PROFIT venue is SACRILEGE. The family of Corky McMillin should be ashamed of their LEGACY as they walk out the door. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, a Point Loma resident, should be especially ashamed for ALLOWING this gut punch to his Point Loma community. I at least hope that the new operator "828events" of this house of worship will not DARE to retain the historic North Chapel NAME. To desecrate the historic name after desecrating the building would deserve a boycott of whatever their for-profit scheme for the building might be. I suggest changing the name from NORTH CHAPEL to "The CORKY McMILLIN PLEASURE PALACE."

Another fine example of the City of San Diego being run by clowns and morons.

"Send in the clowns Don't bother, they're here" --Stephen Sondheim

Actually, it's "Quick, send in the clowns."

Maybe it wasn't a smart move to sell this prime real estate at a low price back in 1999. But it was done. The article tries to imply that the COO did something shady by signing some assignment consent in the resale, but I doubt it was very important....the buyer & seller probably could have easily worked around it (or simply lived without it) if the city petulantly refused to sign any requested consents to assign any rights to a new buyer. Less convenient, but not a showstopper. And depending on the details, such a refusal could potentially even bounce back and cause the city some liability.

Basically, if you are expecting the city to leverage some weak & insignificant control over assignment consent to magically reverse a deal it made 20 years ago, I don't think that is a reasonable expectation.

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