Entrance to 101 Ash Street. Image from Manchester Financial video

Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s five-year financial outlook projects four straight years of city budget deficits, despite one of the strongest economies in years. Why are the streets, sidewalks, parks and other city facilities continuing to deteriorate when San Diego’s economy is booming?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult for San Diegans to get a straight answer to that question because our current city administration lacks transparency and accountability.

But last Friday, when city administration announced the city-purchased former Sempra Energy headquarters at 101 Ash Street must be vacated — again — we got a look behind the curtain. And what was revealed is a shocking example of mismanagement and lack of accountability plaguing our city.

The lack of oversight and accountability at 101 Ash Street is reflective of bigger problems at City Hall. Although my predecessors on the City Council — including two of my opponents for the mayor’s office — approved this lease-purchase agreement, no one has yet accepted responsibility for the fiasco. I have asked the City Auditor to investigate the process by which the building was purchased, the due diligence that was conducted on both the value and the physical condition, and the subsequent handling of the management of this project and the overall expenditures.

The city’s chief operating officer claimed on June 17 that the “project remains on schedule and within budget.” In August 2019, county regulators shut down renovations at 101 Ash Street due to asbestos violations. After “remediating” the violations, the building was subsequently occupied by city employees — until last Friday, when once again 101 Ash was deemed unfit for human occupation.

101 Ash Street is neither on-time, on-budget nor safe for occupants. We need a city administration that is accountable for the management of our tax dollars. How much tax revenue has been wasted and who is responsible? These issues matter because while $18,000 per day is being spent just on lease payments, that revenue could be used to fix our roads, sidewalks and parks.

We must demand more of city officials. We must demand leaders who have the skills and knowledge to successfully manage our city’s budget and administration.

I continue to demand the City Auditor provide the following information:

Why did the City Council and City Attorney approve a lease/purchase agreement that effectively relieves the sellers of any responsibility for undisclosed defects in the building?

What due diligence occurred prior to consummating the lease/purchase agreement regarding valuation and the physical condition of 101 Ash Street?

What is the total cost to-date to relocate staff to and from Ash Street, including temporary locations?

What are the details on all budget items, including increases?

What is the economic impact of the suspension of Development Services Department services for the duration of the move and from this date until services are fully restored?

What measures have been put in place to stop this fiasco from happening again?

When we elect officials who lack financial and management expertise and allow the city administration to be unaccountable, we expose the city and its residents to financial risk. That risk threatens the safety and welfare of our neighborhoods. We must demand better!

Barbara Bry currently serves as President Pro Tem and represents District 1 on the San Diego City Council.  She is also a candidate for Mayor.

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