Last Sunday, a cryptic but intriguing story appeared on the San Diego Union-Tribune website of journalist Jeff McDonald.
“As San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott plans to join a lawsuit brought by a businessman who is married to former council member Barbara Bry, one of ‘Elliott has decided that Bry should be the subject of a criminal investigation.
It was hard to figure out what was going on until the next day, Monday, when another McDonald’s story surfaced. This story concerned a lawsuit alleging that a large home-owning company had systematically avoided obtaining the required permits for the many renovations it was doing throughout California. The lawsuit alleged that the towns where these homes are located were being denied revenue clearance and potential property tax increases due to improved assessment values.
The litigant: It would be Neil Senturia, Bry’s husband.
Senturia was involved in a Deckard Technologies company. And we remembered that we had done some reporting on it. Last year, we wrote about how Bry claimed significant consulting fee income from Deckard Technologies. The company extracts large data sources and can identify anomalies. He had lobbied the city for a contract so he could help the city regulate vacation rentals. Essentially, it could analyze the data and detect if a house that was not supposed to be used as a vacation rental was actually one.
This raised the question of whether Bry had a conflict of interest. She said no, she had marked the disclosure form incorrectly and that was Senturia’s business and hers alone.
Senturia and Deckard apparently turned to a new lawsuit: analyzing home improvement permit data and uncovering anomalies indicating that this company, Invitation Homes, may have avoided obtaining permits.
Senturia set up a company – Blackbird Projects – to pursue the lawsuits. Since some of the homes identified by Deckard were apparently in San Diego. Cities, like San Diego, can join the lawsuits.
It seems San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott doesn’t like the way it happened. His spokeswoman said they hadn’t identified any homes in San Diego that needed permits and didn’t get them.
But she thinks Bry may have committed a crime by not bringing this to her attention while Bry was a council member.
“If there was evidence of fraud against the city in August 2020, then Bry, as a sitting member of city council, had a fiduciary responsibility to bring it to the attention of the mayor, city attorney, or of the city auditor,” Branscomb said, according to the McDonald’s report. Instead, Senturia formed a company to make money from the discoveries and Bry would benefit.
It’s understood? So the city attorney isn’t sure there was fraud, but if Bry thinks there was, then she had an obligation to bring it to their attention.
Bry and Senturia’s attorney told UT what Bry told us about Deckard last year: It’s Senturia’s deal, not his.
Additional note: Bry is running for County Assessor, which is said to have plenty of databases that Deckard is apparently able to sift through.
Mayor lays out plan to more evenly distribute development costs
In 2020, our Mackenzie Elmer wrote about the big disparities between San Diego neighborhoods and the funding they have for things like parks. This is because of the Development Impact Fee, or DIF.
Older neighborhoods have outdated fees and often don’t see much development and therefore don’t have a lot of money set aside for public amenities like parks. Newer neighborhoods, however, might charge developers 100% of what they planned for public amenities and thus have better facilities. The city collects fees for 43 different neighborhood pots and so we have a situation where each of them has money but not enough to even start building what they want – and for some areas that means the parks are embarrassing even though $222 million is available. do something.
Elmer wrote about how the city, then led by then-mayor Kevin Faulconer, was slowly moving toward change. And on Friday Mayor Todd Gloria announced that ambition now has a new name: Build Better.
Here is the description of what it would do:
“Build Better SD solves this problem by putting all future DIF raised into city-wide funds by asset type, which would reduce buckets of 43 dollars to less than a handful. Infrastructure needs would be reviewed throughout San Diego and funding would be directed to high priority projects. Previously collected royalties would remain limited to the neighborhood in which they were collected, but could be supplemented with new citywide royalty collections to implement projects more quickly in all parts of the city.
The city has set up workshops.
Politics: Leaving the funds already collected in their neighborhoods will have two consequences. On the one hand, it will prevent a potentially ugly political brawl. Neighborhoods with relatively more cash stored will not lose it. And so it won’t create some of the tension of neighbors being forced to share stored funds with other parts of town. On the other hand, only redirecting new development fees to a few city-wide accounts means that it will take a long time for those accounts to accumulate enough money to do anything.
The $222 million will still be split among the 43 accounts.
A new website launched by the city has details of upcoming public events regarding the proposal.
- “Our Neighborhood Voices,” the statewide group pursuing a ballot measure to overturn recently passed state laws that made it legal to build multiple homes on single-family properties, announced Friday that he was suspending his attempt to place the measure on the November ballot. It came a day after our podcast, in which we (Keatts) confidently stated that the group would succeed in placing the measure on the November ballot. Listen to the podcast here for more authoritative claims from trained journalists.
The group says it will now try to put the measure on the 2024 ballot instead and cited COVID-19 and high costs for signature collectors as reasons for its failure this cycle.
- City Council is, once again, set to meet with its legal counsel over the three lawsuits associated with 101 Ash Street, the downtown skyscraper that the city entered into a lease-purchase agreement that became a Byzantine, years – long scandal. This is the only matter Council will discuss on Tuesday, and as is typical with legal matters, it will happen behind closed doors. It’s unclear what’s being discussed behind closed doors, but Mike Aguirre, the former city attorney who is representing a ratepayer in one of the lawsuits, this week presented a settlement offer that would bar the city for five years from contracting with the lenders in the transaction, the middleman owner who facilitated it, or the broker who made millions on the transaction while publicly posing as a volunteer. The other two lawsuits are from the city and allege the deal is void due to unlawful conflicts of interest.