Midway Rising and Other Developers Donate, Then Get Dirty Deals

| November 6, 2022 | 0 Comments

La Prensa broke the story in September that Mayor Gloria took two $50,000 campaign checks from a New York pot farmer to run for mayor. Then Gloria selected Midway Rising company, owned by those two developers, as the Sports Arena mega developer. Since, La Prensa has updated the story to indicate another $480,000 was given to a pro-Gloria for mayor Political Action Committee. La Prensa has indicated that there is more scandal to come.

There is a long corrupt history of San Diego public land being handed to major city hall donors.

In May of 1999, the contract to develop the Naval Training Center (NTC) was handed to developer Corky McMillin. Earlier, then-Mayor Susan Golding’s hand-picked selection committee unanimously recommended Lennar to get the deal. 

When it went to council, District 2 councilman Byron Wear asked for a two-week delay to further study the deals. Council then switched their vote for McMillin, their largest campaign contributor. Afterwards, nearly everything promised to the general public, including half of the public NTC art, culture, and nonprofit space, in return for McMillin getting the property for $8 was removed from the deal.

Save Our NTC wanted to know why the developer bait and switch. A lawsuit was filed under City Charter Section 225. 225 says the public has the right to know who the city does business with. 

McMillin gave the court an organizational chart showing project developers were a corporation named Merced Partners and a slew of McMillin NTC Delaware LLCs. The judge allowed McMillin to conceal the real identities of his financial backers and who was cut in on the profits.

When citizens passed Section 225, developers responded by hiding their identities. Before 225, they incorporated as California Limited Liability Corporations (LLCs) when engaging in contracts with the city. Afterwards, there was a rush to Delaware to incorporate their LLCs there.

The difference is that Delaware LLCs creates a firewall where true ownership of the corporation, and any financial payoffs, can be hidden.

With the Midway-Sports Arena area development, the same game plan returned. In 2020, the city voted on developer selection for the Sports Arena site. Toll Brothers provided the superior deal. Yet Brookfield got the deal. They had set up a Delaware LLC. A look at their financing indicated that the money was coming from Dubai.

When Save Our Access’ lawsuit voided the 2020 vote to lift the 30′ height limit a new developer needed to be determined. This was important as the developer selected for the development of the Sports Arena site was expected to fund the yes on Measure C campaign to lift the 30′ coastal height limit for the entire district.

Yet this time there was no real developer selection process. Mayor Gloria ordained Midway Rising as the developer. The mayor had his staff replace the regular City staff that compares project applicants. 

At council, all but one member approved Midway Rising, a Delaware LLC. This despite news that Mayor Gloria had received an alarming $100,000 campaign contribution from Midway Rising.

Since that vote, campaign workers for the District 2 council person who has cheered on this giveaway, Jennifer Campbell, state they have ‘unlimited’ funds to campaign. The floodgates to sell the public on abolishing the coast 30′ height limit, and to reelect Campbell, are now wide open.

Clearly city hall and our elected representatives are working for developers, not voters. City hall is trying to give Midway District developers over 700 acres of public land and public rights worth up to $3 billion in profits. In exchange, elected officials are showered with political contributions, positive media spin, marginalization of any opposition candidate and unrivaled support for advancement to state or federal offices. 

Reusing our rare and priceless public land for a bay-to-bay sports and recreation park would not only give San Diegans a new world class amenity, but it would also deprive a corrupt system of a planned development rife with a historic level of graft and corruption. 

It will be up to all of us to ensure the right choice is made.

John McNab

Save San Diego’s Access

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