Morning Report: The Battle Within the Battle to Run the Sports Arena - Voice of San Diego

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Morning Report: The Battle Within the Battle to Run the Sports Arena

Pechanga Arena San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

For the last month, the city of San Diego has been accepting bids from companies eager to book events and run Pechanga Arena San Diego, where the current operators pays roughly $800,000 a year for the privilege.

But the bidding process the city launched has given way to a fight over public records between AEG, the group that runs the facility, and H&S Ventures, the group that owns the San Diego Gulls that is competing to take over the responsibility.

As part of its lease with the city, AEG must submit audited financial statements every year. H&S made a public records request for those documents last month, but before the city could provide them, AEG lawyered up and intervened, arguing their financials include trade secrets and thus aren’t subject to release under the state’s open records law.

Specifically, AEG is arguing that turning over the records would give the company’s competitors and unfair advantage in formulating their bids to operate the arena. H&S argues that by the same logic, AEG already has an unfair advantage, as it’s the only bidder with knowledge of the current profits and losses incurred by the arena operator.

But the city bidding period ended Thursday, and the records case isn’t scheduled for a court hearing until mid-July. Regardless of how it turns out, the intervention seems to have already paid off for AEG.

This is all playing out as the city is attempting to spearhead a redevelopment of the area surrounding the arena, potentially including the construction of a new, state-of-the-art arena in its place. The companies are competing for a short-term lease that wouldn’t keep the city from pursuing its redevelopment dreams.

New Director to Oversee Reforms at Water Department

Shauna Lorance will be the new director of the city’s water department, reports NBC 7.

The water department’s leadership has undergone multiple shake-ups since a joint investigation by Voice of San Diego and the NBC 7 Responds team revealed numerous problems in the agency: the department massively overcharged thousands of customers and covered up problems with its new smart meters.

The joint investigation won a media watchdog award for that coverage last week.

In July 2018, Voice revealed that the water department’s then-director Vic Bianes directed staffers to hide information from auditors. A month later, Bianes stepped down and Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s office installed several officials in the water department to help turn around the troubled agency. Then in February, at least five more senior officials were pushed out.

Lorance will take over from Matt Vespi, who has served as interim director since August. Lorance is currently the interim general manager of Monterey County’s water agency and also worked as general manager of the San Juan Water District.

Big Day in Sacramento

A lot of action is starting to unfold in the state Capitol as the deadlines to pass bills and the state budget near.

On Thursday, the state Assembly passed AB 1731, Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath’s bill that would sharply limit Airbnb rentals across coastal San Diego County.

And in major statewide news, San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to limit police use of deadly force got a massive win Thursday when law enforcement groups agreed to drop their opposition to the measure following negotiations and changes. Last year, opposition from those same groups stalled the bill, forcing it to be carried over to this year. The bill will now move to a vote before the full Assembly, and has secured the support of Assembly Speaker Anthony Renton, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

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In Other News

  • The Padres and several other Major League Baseball teams were subpoenaed as part of a Department of Justice investigation into whether any teams knew about immigration fraud among Cuban players who have made their way into the league. Getting Cuban players to the United States was once seen as a diplomatic triumph, as it humiliated former dictator Fidel Castro. But immigration crackdowns and the questionable route players now take from the island sparked the inquiry, according to the Washington Post.
  • A few months ago, Chula Vista City Councilwoman Jill Galvez recruited reporter Robert Moreno from his job at the Chula Vista Star-News to become her senior aide. Tuesday, at a City Council meeting, she talked about how wonderful Moreno had been. Then she announced she was firing him. She wants the city to hire more police officers. But his salary isn’t close to the cost of a new police officer and Galvez’s colleague’s declined to eliminate the Council aide positions in the budget. So the money saved will sit unused in the Council staff budget. (Union-Tribune)
  • A new report from researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Texas at Austin estimates there are about 19,000 asylum-seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border. (KPBS)
  • The city is rolling out the second phase of its styrofoam ban Friday, which includes plastic foam egg cartons and food containers. (NBC 7)

The Morning Report was written by Megan Wood, Will Huntsberry and Andrew Keatts, and edited by Sara Libby.

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