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In the lobbying war over a plan to build a mixed-use development in Carmel Valley, the owners of a nearby shopping center say two lawsuits were just meant to silence their opposition.
One of One Paseo’s main opponents thinks the project’s developers have been using the legal system to bully them for the last year.
In the lobbying war over a plan to build 600 homes and multiple office and retail buildings on a massive dirt lot in the middle of Carmel Valley, the owners of a neighboring shopping center say two lawsuits filed last year were just meant to silence their vocal opposition.
If that was the strategy, it didn’t work: Donahue Schriber, owner of the neighboring shopping center, spent $1.2 million opposing One Paseo in the last six months of 2014.
In one lawsuit, One Paseo developer Kilroy Realty alleged Donahue Schriber was trying to skirt environmental regulations for an expansion project of its shopping center.
In the other case, Kilroy said the hiring of one of its former consultants by a law firm representing Donahue Schriber presented a conflict of interest.
The environmental lawsuit also names the city of San Diego, for allowing Donahue Schriber to remove a city-owned water line from its property. Kilroy claims Schriber is breaking its expansion into incremental projects so it doesn’t have to review the overall environmental effects.
That lawsuit will go to court just two days after Monday’s big City Council vote on One Paseo.
Elizabeth Schreiber, a vice president for Donahue Schriber, said the lawsuit is an attempt to force her company to spend money on court cases instead of against One Paseo.
“There’s nothing secretive about what we’re doing [with the expansion project],” Schreiber said. “In our opinion, [Kilroy] are doing everything they can to slow us down and put hurdles in our path when, in reality, it’s completely bogus.”
Donahue Schriber’s expansion plans already went through environmental review, and got city approval, back in 1986. That review looked at building a parking garage, which Kilroy says is what the company is trying to avoid studying.
Local land-use attorney Felix Tinkov said the suit doesn’t make sense, since the company had received prior approval from the city.
At this point, Tinkov said, the city would just review the final design and engineering specifications to make sure they’re consistent with the old environmental review.
A Kilroy spokesman declined comment because the litigation is ongoing.
The company’s other lawsuit alleged the law firm Sheppard Mullin could not represent Donahue Schriber in its opposition to One Paseo because it hired attorney Nancy Scull, who previously consulted for Kilroy on One Paseo.
In its lawsuit, Kilroy said “Scull was privy to ‘highly confidential’ discussions concerning ‘Kilroy’s political strategy for obtaining approval for One Paseo.’”
Sheppard Mullin hired Scull in April 2014, Kilroy said, and she attempted to get permission from Kilroy to continue consulting on One Paseo while working for the law firm representing its opposition.
Kilroy was befuddled by her offer. In a letter to Scull, Joseph Magri, Kilroy’s senior vice president, wrote, “we are not comfortable signing a waiver that could result in a situation in which the same law firm that represents us on the project is actively and publicly involved in opposing us on the same project, including possibly suing us on behalf of Donahue Schriber.”
At a preliminary hearing in September, a judge ruled in favor of Sheppard Mullin, saying there was an adequate “ethical wall” between Scull and its team working against One Paseo. She was not allowed to discuss her time at Kilroy with Sheppard Mullin.
Kilroy appealed the ruling, but dropped the appeal late last month. Rachel Laing, the company’s spokeswoman, said Kilroy dropped the suit because the judge’s ruling stopping Scull from sharing information with her new company rendered it moot.
“We could have appealed it or taken it to a full hearing, but at that point, the damage would already have been done,” Laing said.