Irwin’s secret agent
“You’re invited to our fundraising kick-off on Thursday, February 28th at the home of Christine Forester,” said an invitation by state Assemblyman and San Diego mayoral candidate Todd Gloria, facing off against fellow Democrat Barbara Bry, plaintiffs’ attorney Cory Briggs, and other potential foes in next year’s March election. The widow of noted architect and artist Russell Forester has long been a major donor to Democratic causes and was an early financial backer of Barack Obama. As a vice chair of Obama’s national finance committee, she was said to be in line for a White House appointment. “If I were 40 — or 42 even — I might consider such a move,” she said in a 2008 email declining the role. “However, at this stage of my life, I don’t want to relocate. I love my life, my friends, my numerous pets, my home, my town, as well as my business and my clients.”
A close political ally of La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, Forester has played stalking horse for the Qualcomm co-founder in previous races here, fronting a 2013 effort to “draft” then Qualcomm executive and Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher to succeed the scandal-plagued Bob Filner for mayor. “As you know our city has been turned on its head once again with the serious allegations leveled against our current Mayor,” Forester wrote her political friends in July 2013. “It is possible that he could decide to resign very soon and hence we would like to be prepared to immediately call for Nathan Fletcher to run for the office.”
Her email added, “Timing will be everything if Bob Filner resigns as there will be an election within 90 days. In the event he does resign, we would like to have a letter ready to send to Nathan that calls for him to immediately declare as a candidate. This would allow him to say that he has received a letter from a bi-partisan group of highly respected leaders in the community (including his current employer QUALCOMM) calling on him to declare as a candidate.” After Filner quit, Fletcher, now a county supervisor, ran to replace him, finishing in third place behind the GOP’s Kevin Faulconer and Democrat David Alvarez. Gloria, who backed the controversial plan by Jacobs to build new roads and a massive parking garage in Balboa Park, is widely expected to remain a Jacobs loyalist if elected mayor.
History be darned
A Union-Tribune story last week about the refurbishment of a Kearny Mesa high-rise left out the building’s notorious political history. “Towering over cars on state Route 163,” the piece went, “the seemingly out-of-place office building with the Ashford University logo affixed on top is getting a fresh lease on life. Its sole tenant is exiting early next year, and the owner is planning millions in upgrades.” Added the story, “Finished in 2008, Centrum is the fruit of on-going community planning efforts that have encouraged larger developments in parts of Kearny Mesa.”
The U-T didn’t mention it, but to longtime city hall watchers, the Sunroad Centrum project continues to live on in infamy stemming from the epic 2007 battle between then-city attorney Mike Aguirre and Republican mayor Jerry Sanders over airport dangers caused by the building’s illegal height. Developer Aaron Feldman, a consistent provider of big campaign cash to Sanders, was allowed by the mayor to erect what was then a 12-story building near Montgomery Field, exceeding Federal Aviation Administration safety limits. The resulting scandal led to the resignation of Sanders land-use chief Jim Waring and portended the departure of Sanders development services director Marcela Escobar-Eck, now a premier city hall lobbyist. “Do you really think that it is necessary to tear down a $45,000,000 building because of the 17 feet? Maybe you do. I’m not sure,” wrote Waring to project opponent Rick Beach, vice chairman of the city’s Airports Advisory Committee in December of 2006. “As I’ve repeatedly said, I believe aviation function and safety can be preserved without the straight jacket the FAA imposes on local use of land and money.”
Replied Beach: “You see $45,000,000 and low risk. The FAA, Caltrans, and a bunch of airport users see yet another example of bend the rules to suit developers and city planners.” When Aguirre filed suit to cut the building down to size, mayoral spokesman Fred Sainz, now the Cupertino-based director of corporate communications at Apple, told a reporter, “We don’t think it sends a positive message to the development community.” After months of controversy, Feldman finally agreed in June 2007 to demolish the over height portion of the nearly completed building to bring it into compliance... “The county of San Diego district attorney’s office, has a requirement for surveillance kits,” says a February 15 request for quotations. Included “night vision imaging” will have the “ability to see at night time through tinted glass,” and won’t “get hot or turn off before 40 hours of usage.”