Voice of San Diego recently asked all city attorney candidates to release a list of their past clients. Only one refused: Port Commissioner Rafael Castellanos.
But he has at least one relationship that’s already kept him from voting at the Port Commission, where he’s had a seat since 2013.
Castellanos has recused himself from at least 18 votes the commission took. In that time, all other commissioners combined recused themselves just six times.
Almost every time Castellanos stepped aside for a vote, it was because of one company: Sunroad Enterprises. Either he or someone else at his firm represents Sunroad.
It would be wrong, though, to assume Castellanos is shy about his connection to Sunroad or other developers. Despite taking flak from a rival Democrat, Castellanos is proud of his connection to the building industry and believes he should be an advocate for it as city attorney.
It’s not clear, however, how many issues he would have to recuse himself from if he wins the job of city attorney.
We Stand Up For You. Will You Stand Up For Us?
"Castellanos is proud of his connection to the building industry and believes he should be an advocate for it as city attorney." The City Attorney should not be an advocate for any business, interest, or party. The City Attorney should be providing unbiased (to the greatest degree possible) legal advice. If Mr. Castellanos really believes this, to the degree he is willing to state it openly, it would seem to me he is not an appropriate choice for this office. For that matter, it would seem like he is not a good choice for the Port Commission. We don't need activist city attorneys.
Rafael Castellanos is a nice guy, but I'm not sure that the city of San Diego needs a developers lawyer as its city attorney. Ditto for Hickey.
The blanket anti-developer sentiment makes it hard to distinguish between egregious behavior and anti-development people trying to make everything into as big of deal as possible.
The Mayor and city council have already adopted policies to incentivize responsible development. They're found in the building codes and, where present, in local Planned Development Ordinances. All developers, like most businesses, want to maximize profits. Sunroad is one of the most aggressive developers that push the envelope of what's allowed, and like many others,often pleads successfully for "interpretations" of these rules to their advantage. Their efforts are usually lubricated with generous help at election time, not only with contributions but in sponsoring fund raisers for candidates.
"Responsible development" is in the eye of the beholder. There are certainly a lot of NIMBYs in the general public, but the resistance to development in general is abetted by developer tactics the public finds unfair. The current example is redevelopment of the school property in Mission Beach.
Stricter language regarding voting recusal rules might be of benefit throughout the system. If, e.g., the public finds over half the city council recusing itself on votes, that's an attention-getter that will affect future elections.
Mr. Castellanos appears to be in a pickle with his advocacy for developers. His opponents will constantly remind the voters of this relationship and I'd be surprised if he gets past the June primary.