Morning Report: City Subpoenas Ash St. Documents

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Morning Report: City Subpoenas Ash St. Documents

101 Ash St. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The legal drama surrounding the city’s controversial acquisition of 101 Ash St. is picking up more than a year after the city rushed to move workers out after a series of asbestos violations.

Lisa Halverstadt broke the news that attorneys representing this city late last month issued subpoenas demanding records from major players in the controversial lease-to-own transaction, including the building’s former owners, the middle-man buyer who cut a deal with the city and a volunteer city real estate adviser who was an architect of the deal structure.

The requests underscore the continued questions surrounding what’s considered one of the worst real estate debacles in city history, namely the lack of clarity about who made money off the transaction – and how much.

The nine subpoenas obtained by Voice of San Diego represent the latest move in a lawsuit the city filed in October asking the San Diego Superior Court to bless its decision to stop making rent payments for a building it only briefly occupied.

The subpoenas were directed to business entities of former building owners Sandy Shapery and Doug Manchester, middle-man buyer Cisterra, a company that conducted a 2016 appraisal of the building and former city real estate adviser Jason Hughes.

The subpoenas seek to clarify how the deal-making process played out and reveal the city’s focus on a similar city lease-to-own deal that served as a template for the 101 Ash St. transaction and moves by Hughes, who had said he was advising the city for free.

Halverstadt has previously dug into Hughes’ work on 101 Ash St. and previous Civic Center Plaza deals, and teamed with Jesse Marx to tell the story behind the Civic Center Plaza transaction.

Senate Confirms Cindy Marten

Cindy Marten, who served as superintendent of San Diego Unified schools since 2013, was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to serve as deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Education Tuesday.

Marten’s career path has been like few others in public education. She went from elementary school principal to big city superintendent and now No. 2 of the nation’s education department. 

Marten’s rise is indicative of shifting power within education politics, as Will Huntsberry previously wrote. Whereas outside reformers were once in high demand to lead the nation’s schools, Democrats now tend to favor former teachers to be the highest administrators in the land. 

“Marten embodies a new guiding principle in national education politics: The way to a better public school system does not lie in criticizing its faults, but relentless positivity about its promise,” Huntsberry wrote. 

A group of parents and activists opposed Marten’s nomination – pointing to sexual misconduct cases that were covered up and the disparate suspension of Black students. They tried to push several senators to vote “no” on Marten’s confirmation, but ultimately Marten made it through the confirmation process with relative ease. Several Republican Senators supported her  

Marten – who was confirmed by a 54-44 vote – received less support than newly appointed Secretary Miguel Cardona, who picked up 64 supporting votes during his confirmation in the U.S. Senate. 

San Diego Unified is currently involved in a search process to find a new superintendent by the end of 2021. A community advisory committee with more than 40 members has been appointed to advise the Board of Education. The district plans to hold public forums with each of the finalists for the position later in the year. 

Newsom Touts Homelessness Package in San Diego

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday joined Mayor Todd Gloria and Supervisor Nathan Fletcher at a Kearny Mesa hotel that the city last year converted into housing for homeless San Diegans to announce a $12 billion package to combat the state’s homelessness crisis.

Newsom touted the San Diego hotel project that has permanently housed more than 170 formerly homeless people as an example of success he’d like to replicate with the new statewide proposal that includes $7 billion for additional hotel acquisitions, $1.75 billion to back affordable housing projects and $3.5 billion in investments to end family homelessness within five years.

Tuesday’s announcement was part of a broader $100 billion California Comeback Plan that Newsom is rolling out this week ahead of the Friday deadline to release his revised budget for the next fiscal year.

“Bottom line, this is a package that’s backed up with urgency,” said Newsom, describing his homelessness plan. “It’s a package that’s backed up by proven results based upon the experience of the last year and at the end of the day, in closing, this simply cannot happen without remarkable local elected officials that are on the ground every single day, that are driving this because the state vision to end homelessness in this state can never be realized anywhere else except locally.”

Gloria and Fletcher praised Newsom’s commitment and pledged to move quickly once new money flows to San Diego. Gloria has said he is eager to pursue additional hotel acquisitions to house homeless San Diegans among other solutions and Fletcher on Tuesday promised to pair any new state money that materializes with county resources to bolster the impact of that funding.

“This gives us a moment where we can really see significant progress in our state and I fully support the efforts of the governor and I’d like to pledge that as a county we will join as a partner – not just in spending available money – but in putting in our own,” Fletcher said.

Then there are Newsom’s San Diego opponents …

John Cox also appeared in San Diego on Tuesday, with the bear.

Former Mayor Kevin Faulconer criticized Newsom’s announcement and argued in a press release that he is “the only leader in California with a proven record of reducing homelessness.” Be sure to check out Lisa Halverstadt’s in-depth analysis of Faulconer’s record on homelessness, which counters many of the claims he’s made on the campaign trail.

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Lisa Halverstadt, Will Huntsberry and Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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