/Morning Report: City Attorney Wants to Settle with Broker Who Helped City Buy a Hotel from a Company He Invested In

Morning Report: City Attorney Wants to Settle with Broker Who Helped City Buy a Hotel from a Company He Invested In


A former Residence Inn in Mission Valley the city purchased to house homeless San Diegans. / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

City Attorney Mara Elliott announced Thursday that she reached a deal to settle the city’s lawsuit against Jim Neil, the real estate broker who helped the city purchase a hotel from a company from which he had just bought 40,000 shares.

The deal she proposed has Neil giving the city $1 million in fees he collected for aiding its acquisitions of two extended stay hotels back in 2020, which the city bought thinking the pandemic had cratered hotel values. Housing Commission officials and the former mayor saw the economic downturn as an opportunity to provide housing for formerly homeless residents quickly and easily.

Elliott said the settlement would make taxpayers whole, over a transaction that she still says violated the state law that prohibits city officials, including contractors, from having a financial investment in contracts they help create.

But Councilman Chris Cate and Ryan Clumpner, the vice chair of the San Diego Housing Commission, both said they aren’t convinced that the settlement really makes taxpayers whole, and that they were caught by surprise when Elliott announced the settlement Thursday morning.

“I have a lot of questions about whether this settlement actually does make taxpayers whole but will address those in closed session,” Clumpner said. “We should not be learning about this via press release. I’m shocked.”

Cate, specifically, said he had concerns about the $67 million purchase price of the Mission Valley property, following reporting from Voice of San Diego that showed an appraisal conducted before the purchase specifically calculated the property’s worth in February of 2020, before the onset of the pandemic and associated travel restrictions crashed the hospitality sector. The appraisal by the same firm for a Kearny Mesa hotel, acquired simultaneously, instead determined the property’s value in the summer of 2020, after the onset of the pandemic. The company in which Neil invested did not own the Kearny Mesa hotel.

An Elliott spokeswoman, in an email, said the city attorney’s office did not see any irregularities in the appraisals.

Neil issued a statement calling the settlement a compromise that would end the city’s unwarranted litigation, which threatened to cost him far more than the $1 million he agreed to pay.

Read more here.

An Imperial Beach RV Park Really Knows the Limitations of State Eviction Protections

The Miramar Imperial Beach Mobile Home and RV Park is one of the last affordable housing options for seniors, vets and other low-income folks in the area. It’s home to around 100 people, some of whom are disabled.

But a spot there is also an increasingly difficult spot to keep. Every six months, the residents are expected to pack up their stuff and leave with their vehicles for at least 48 hours or face eviction.

In this week’s Fine City column, Jesse Marx reports that the park has become a hotbed of political organizing as residents at risk of homelessness and displacement petition the Imperial Beach City Council for help. Officials are expected to consider possible solutions in September.

A park owner said the six-month move-outs are needed to make repairs on site, but the residents aren’t buying it. They believe the management is trying to systematically push them out and raise rents.

In recent years, mobile home parks have become an attractive vehicle for investors as the cost of single-family homes and apartments explode. The properties are relatively cheap to run and resilient in the face of a recession and offer unique tax benefits.

 Read the column here.

Dispatch from Coronado’s Closed, Sewage-Contaminated Beaches

It’s out of character for the beaches of touristy Coronado to be closed. And though yellow signs warning “keep out, sewage contaminated water” dotted the shoreline after a cross-border sewage spill in Tijuana, neither San Diegans nor Midwesterners were clear on whether the water is truly safe or not. 

Voice of San Diego’s MacKenzie Elmer visited Coronado’s shores on Thursday on a public health vibe check. The beaches were busy and people were swimming. Lifeguards say they’re trying to keep beachgoers out, but not everyone will listen. 

Read more here. 

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