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Bry: City Attorney Is Trying to Kill SDSU West Deal

Councilwoman Barbara Bry speaks at a mayoral forum in Bankers Hill. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

This post originally appeared in the May 28 Morning Report [1]. Get the Morning Report delivered to your inbox [2].

Councilwoman Barbara Bry left no doubt where she stood heading into the City Council’s special meeting Friday to approve the sale of SDCCU Stadium to SDSU for a campus expansion.

The deal should have been done more than a year ago, she wrote in an email from her mayoral campaign [3], and the only reason it wasn’t is because City Attorney Mara Elliott has been trying to kill it from behind the scenes, and has been since it was on the ballot in 2018 as Measure G.

And Elliott was equally unequivocal. In an email statement, her spokeswoman Hilary Nemchik called Bry’s allegation “patently false,” and said all Elliott’s concerns have been known to SDSU since at least mid-2019.

Bry took issue with a city attorney memo last week that outlined problems with the deal, some of which Bry says have already been solved and others that were identified at the last minute. She specifically took issue with Elliott’s concerns over the university’s designs for a river park that Eliott says infringe on city plans for a water recycling project.

“That memo conclusively demonstrated what many of us have suspected for some time: That the City Attorney, who wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to deny San Diegans a chance to vote on this matter, is doing everything she can to block, delay and ultimately torpedo an agreement and block implementation of voter-approved Measure G,” Bry wrote in her email.

Nemchik reiterated what Elliott wrote in the memo: that the city’s public utilities department has been clear with SDSU since last year that the area is critical to the water recycling project, and that SDSU’s proposed project doesn’t address those concerns, which could kill the project or make it significantly more expensive.

“My duty is to protect the interests of taxpayers in this complex legal negotiation,” Elliott said in a statement provided by Nemchik. “The city has gotten shortchanged by past real estate deals because it didn’t pay attention to details. While some may be desperate for any deal at any price, my focus has been on getting this deal done right. Ultimately the council must decide whether the final agreement is fair, equitable, and in the public’s interest.”

Bry argued the city attorney’s concern over its water recycling project must be bunk because it hadn’t come up in a “last-minute proposal to the Chargers for development of a new stadium and ancillary development on the site in 2017.”

Nemchik said she doesn’t understand the allegation, since Elliott took office in mid-December 2016, just a month before the Chargers left for Los Angeles. She said Elliott never worked on any Chargers-related issues as a deputy city attorney.

Correction: An earlier version of this post improperly attributed an email from the city attorney’s office to Mara Elliott. The email was from Hilary Nemchik, Elliott’s spokeswoman.