Morning Report: Report Lays Out How the City Botched 101 Ash St. Deal

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Morning Report: How the City Botched 101 Ash St. Deal

101 Ash St. / Photo by Scott Lewis

You know a situation is less than ideal when there are no fewer than three outside legal reviews into how it all went down.

VOSD’s Jesse Marx and Lisa Halverstadt got their hands on one of the investigations into the city’s acquisition of the 101 Ash St. building, which reveals a number of problems with the city’s purchase of the property.

Chief among those problems: “No one from the city formally inspected the property before the City Council agreed to a 20-year lease-to-own deal totaling $127 million.”

In fact, the line we’ve heard so many times now about how the building simply needed a good power washing “was based on a mere visual inspection of the site.”

Perhaps the most damning nugget in the investigation is the revelation that many of the building’s problems were actually public this whole time, and city staff and officials simply didn’t go looking for them: “In November 2014, Sempra real estate chief James Seifert testified to the California Public Utilities Commission that part of the reason they’d left 101 Ash St. when the lease expired was because the property needed at least $3 million in capital repairs to keep it operational and upwards of $15 million in the event of an earthquake. He said the building was functionally obsolete and ‘to remove the existing asbestos and rebuild the impacted space was estimated to cost $16 to $25 million.’”

Mayor Kevin Faulconer told VOSD that he asked for the investigation into the purchase “because City Hall has a very long and troubled history with managing its property and sweeping problems under the rug, and I didn’t want that culture to persist” — yet the acquisition of 101 Ash St. as well as other troubled real estate deals all happened on Faulconer’s watch.

  • Councilman Mark Kersey’s reaction to this story: “The amount of information that has since come out but was not provided to the Council while we considered this transaction is absolutely infuriating.”
  • NBC San Diego has also been following the saga of 101 Ash St. closely and has more details on what the additional investigations into the deal show. Reporter Dorian Hargrove said the law firms sent a letter demanding his media outlet “return or destroy the documents.” 

Let’s Take This Outside

Earlier this week, The Atlantic wondered aloud why more schools weren’t considering outdoor options that would allow kids to return to some form of in-person learning.

In this week’s Learning Curve, VOSD’s Will Huntsberry lays out why San Diego in particular is particularly well-suited for holding class in an outdoor format

“Many classrooms already have two doors that open onto the outdoors,” Sharon Danks, CEO of Green Schoolyards America, points out. “There are also outdoor hallways and outdoor cafeteria space that many other districts don’t have on such a widespread scale.”

One teacher at Montgomery Middle School told Huntsberry that she manages the school’s outdoor gardens and believes the school has more than enough room to create outdoor classes.

The San Diego Unified board will meet on Aug. 10 to reveal new details on how it plans to start the school year. 

Teachers union makes deal: Late Thursday, San Diego Unified School District management and the San Diego Education Association reached a deal for how remote learning will work in the region’s largest school district to start the year.

All students will have daily interactions with teachers via video conferencing. “Custom learning experiences will be based on student needs and will include daily live, online instruction (up to three hours), independent learning (at least two hours), working with other students in small groups or participating in educator office hours (at least one hour),” read a statement the district released.

In Other News

  • San Diego County leaders plan to consider ways to further crack down on businesses and individuals who violate public health orders. (NBC San Diego)
  • San Diego County doesn’t have enough coronavirus case investigators, which is a different role than a contact tracer. (KPBS)
  • The man whose arrest by La Mesa police officers drew condemnation and racial profiling accusations during the height of protests over George Floyd’s death has filed suit against the city. (Times of San Diego) 

The Morning Report was written by Sara Libby, and edited by Scott Lewis.

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