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Our daily roundup of San Diego’s most important stories (Monday-Friday)
Plus: Is being a City Council member fun? And the hotel-tax fight takes another step toward the real war.
Tensions between San Diego Unified and charter schools are an ongoing theme in the district. Our Mario Koran reports on the latest dust-up in Scripps Ranch. The district want to end its practice of selling land to generate revenue and instead lease it to developers to generate money. On the Scripps Ranch land, that means a charter school will have to move:
The deal in Scripps Ranch isn’t finalized, but it’s moving forward. Last week, the district approved the project’s term sheet, and agreed to extend negotiations. Innovations Academy’s lease has been extended to the end of the 2017-2018 school year.
For Christine Kuglen, the school’s co-founder and director, that’s a bit of good news. She and other leaders will have more time to plan for the move. But that doesn’t mean she’s happy about it.
“We’ve been nomads,” said Kuglen. “We’ve made it work. But moving is definitely a disruption.”
The deal is a bummer for Innovations Academy, the charter located on the land, which has already moved three times since 2008. But it also highlights a big problem for charters across the district: They all want to find a permanent space, but many can’t afford it.
And she’s a got a point! The pay is not that good. Zapf represents the city’s beach and bay neighborhoods, which often have troublesome issues and she’s in a real tough spot about what to do with Airbnb and other vacation rentals. At one point during the interview, Zapf implied that she wasn’t going to be running for re-election two years from now.
Her chief of staff told me that Zapf’s still undecided on that front. She also said that, despite appearances, Zapf’s a big fan of her job.
“If you didn’t love it,” said Zapf chief of staff Kelly Batten, “you couldn’t do it.”
San Diego Superior Court Judge Joel Wohlfeil made a big decision in recent days over the fate of more than $1 billion in projected tax dollars.
For more than three years, activist attorney Cory Briggs has been challenging the Tourism Marketing District, which charges a 2 percent fee on visitors’ hotel bills on top of the city’s regular hotel-room tax. Briggs says the district’s fee is exactly the same as a tax and therefore should have been voted on by the public, not the hotel industry. He and other lawyers won a similar argument to throw out the financing plan for the Convention Center expansion.
The hotel industry, however, argued that Briggs shouldn’t even be allowed to challenge the tourism district. They said that his clients, nonprofit San Diegans for Open Government, were a sham and simply an alter ego of Briggs.
Wohlfeil rejected that argument, saying that San Diegans for Open Government passed the “microscopic” examination by the hotel industry. The case will now move to a trial on whether the 2 percent fee is a tax later this year.
If you want to understand why this is all so significant, check out the statement given to inewsource by tourism district chairman and hotelier Bill Evans after the ruling: “This case is vital to our industry and to our city,” he wrote. “As a result, we have pursued every legal avenue available to keep this case from going to trial.”
Translation: This money is so important to the hoteliers that they did everything they could to destroy their opponent before they actually had to argue it was legal.
This legal case is central to the fate of the Convention Center expansion, a new Chargers stadium and a plan pushed by Briggs and former Padres owner John Moores to remake downtown and Mission Valley. They all revolve around using the same money that tourists pay when they stay in San Diego hotels. For more on how Briggs operates, check out my profile of him from May 2014.
The Times of San Diego has been tracking the latest campaign finance disclosures in local races. The big news is that Democrat Rafael Castellanos is leading all his competitors in the five-way city attorney race.
One of Castellanos’ donors stuck out to me. Castellanos received a maximum $1,050 contribution from Nash Habib, the local towing magnate who we put under the microscope last fall for questionable political donations and for misstatements about his criminal and financial history in bids for prestigious government contracts, including the city of San Diego.
• The new trend in local commercial real estate is creative spaces, the Union-Tribune reports.
• The latest El Chapo news plus the latest on the new pedestrian border crossing in San Ysidro and a heartbreaking story on Tijuana migrants in our Border Report.
• KPBS has a neat piece about how Market Creek Plaza in southeastern San Diego is replacing an old mural with a new one. The new mural will feature the great-granddaughter of one of the original community members in the old mural.
The strong winds over the weekend claimed the life of a musician Sunday afternoon when a tree fell on her car. Two 10 News reporters who were covering the weather also had a tree fall on them. The television station reports that photographer Mike Gold and reporter Marie Coronel suffered serious injuries. We wish the both of them a speedy recovery.