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City May Resolve Civic San Diego Fate Soon

Labor and a dissident board member have been trying to change Civic San Diego, the downtown permitting agency, for years. A lawsuit settlement may finally do that.

Civic San Diego

Civic San Diego holds a Downtown Community Planning Council meeting. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the Oct. 27 Politics Report. Get the Politics Report delivered to your inbox

For months, attorneys for the city and a former Civic San Diego board member have been negotiating the future of the embattled downtown development agency. The negotiations, spurred by a 2015 lawsuit by labor-affiliated former board member Murtaza Baxamusa, are poised for a resolution early next year.

Maybe. We’ve heard that before.

At a Friday court hearing, Baxamusa’s attorney Steven Coopersmith told Superior Court Judge Richard Strauss that he and the city have reached an overarching agreement and can now take steps to close the deal after a recent setback.

“Unfortunately, there was a roadblock for political issues and we were able to move past that roadblock really just recently, so both sides are now committed in writing to finalize the settlement that we have,” Coopersmith said.

That sounds familiar. In June, Coopersmith and the city told Strauss they had resolved their issues and scheduled this hearing as the expected end of the ordeal. So much for that.

Strauss reluctantly agreed to give the city and Coopersmith until early February to wrap things up.

After the hearing, both Coopersmith and Chief Deputy City Attorney Travis Phelps declined to comment on the “political issues” Coopersmith described to the judge.

But another political issue may still loom over the case, which alleged the city broke the law by granting permitting authority to Civic.

The City Council will have to sign off on the settlement, and there will be at least one new City Council member come December. Three sitting City Council members are also vying to hold onto their seats. New City Council members could bring with them new demands or concerns about the agency, which has been engulfed in chaos following whistle-blower allegations of poor oversight, conflicts of interest and lacking internal controls.

Faulconer, business interests and developers have for years fought to preserve Civic, which they say fast-tracks projects and reduces development costs downtown. Meanwhile, labor interests aligned with Baxamusa who have bolstered influence at City Hall have pushed for far more City Council oversight, labor agreements and even the potential dissolution of the agency.

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