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Daily Business Report-May 24, 2013

Daily Business Report-May 24, 2013

Tower 23 and the Hard Rock Hotel are among Graham Downes Architecture’s biggest projects

Graham Downes Architecture Firm to Close

The renovation of Tom Ham’s Lighthouse was the last and final design project completed by Graham Downes Architecture, which is shutting its doors for good out of respect for the noted architect, who died April 29 following a fight with an employee. Mr. Downes was 55.

“It is with deep sadness that we must announce the closing of Graham Downes Architecture,” said Alix Veen, representative for Mr. Downes’ family and estate in a press release. Added Maria Carrillo, senior designer and long-time employee of the firm: “Graham was a visionary of the rarest and most talented form. He was ingrained in his firm so deeply that we determined that closing the business was necessary for us to properly honor his legacy.” The firm will close its doors on June 30.

Tom Ham’s Lighthouse, which opened earlier this month, will display a plaque in tribute to Mr. Downes.

“We have met privately with the clients and staff of Graham Downes Architecture,” says Jerry Pugh, CFO of the firm. “We are ensuring that client work is completed or recommended to another qualified design team, and employees are being given ample notice to prepare for the next step in their careers.”

Graham Downes Architecture, Inc. was founded by Mr. Downes in 1994. The creative agency is known for providing innovative designs, including such projects as Neuhaus Ateliers, Tower 23 Hotel, Hard Rock Hotel San Diego, Hard Rock Hotel Vallarta, Padre Hotel and Gang Kitchen, among others.

Mr. Downes’ alleged assailant, Higinio Soriano Salgado, 31, has been charged with murder and is scheduled to appear in court on June 11 for a preliminary hearing.

City Considers Taxi Industry Overhaul Amid Reports of Low Wages and Unsafe Cabs

San Diego taxis

San Diego taxis

The city of San Diego will not renew its five-year contract with the Metropolitan Transit System for regulating the taxi industry when it expires in June, but will extend it by one year to study other options, KPBS reports. The decision comes as drivers ramp up complaints about poor working conditions, driver and passenger safety and lax oversight that has resulted in a virtual black market for operator permits. In a report out today, the Center on Policy Initiatives and researchers from San Diego State University say taxi drivers earn, on average, $4.45 an hour after paying for gas and weekly fees to lease their cars. The low wage and requirements set by their car leases mean drivers work an average of 71 hours a week, with the majority driving all seven days, to cover their costs.

Jill Esbenshade, an SDSU professor and lead author of the study, said much of what drivers earn goes to covering their expenses. “The biggest portion of the fare you pay and the tips you give to the driver actually goes to paying the lease,” she said. Esbenshade says the situation is a serious public safety issue, pointing to a 2011 incident in which a driver fell asleep at the wheel and crashed into a crowd outside the Stingaree Nightclub downtown.

For more on this story, visit

Mandarin House Restaurant

Mandarin House Restaurant

Mandarin House Restaurant to be Torn Down to Make Way for 50-Unit Luxury Residential Tower

The 15,000-square-foot parcel that holds the Mandarin House Restaurant at Fifth Avenue and Maple Street in Bankers Hill has been sold for $2.7 million to Icon Properties, which plans to demolish the restaurant and build a 50-unit mid-rise luxury residential tower. The seller was Mandarinhaus LP. Besides the luxury units, the development will contain a street-level restaurant. Cassidy Turley represented the seller. Icon Properties also has three other developments in the county: Parc Riviera, a three-unit project under construction in the Riviera area of Pacific Beach; Noble Walk, a 14-unit Craftsman-style community under construction in Carlsbad; and Seaside Haus, upscale East Coast-inspired homes planned for La Jolla.

Water Authority Recommends $1.5 Billion Budget

San Diego County Water Authority General Manager Maureen Stapleton recommended a $1.5 billion budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, up 5.2 percent from the current two-year budget mostly because of higher costs for the purchase and treatment of imported water. Expenses were held in check by a lower budget for the Water Authority’s capital improvement program, which decreases by 20 percent in the recommended budget as major projects near or reach completion. The Water Authority will hold two workshops in June to review the recommended budget, and the board will consider budget adoption on June 27.

Military Career Fair Set for June 19 in San Diego

In partnership with the San Diego County Apartment Association, the National Apartment Association Education Institute is encouraging veterans and military spouses in Southern California and the San Diego area to register for its 2013 NAA Education Institute Military Career Fair that will be held on June 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the San Diego Convention Center.

 The career fair will feature hiring representatives from as many as 50 apartment industry companies with job openings in Southern California and other locations around the nation — for those applicants wanting to return home or are willing to relocate. Attendance at the career fair is limited to veterans, transitioning military and military spouses.

 Attendees may register online at

Women Business Owners Bestow BRAVO! Awards

The National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) San Diego has bestowed its BRAVO! Award winners for 2013. The winners:

• Woman Business Owner of the Year Award — Helna Correll, San Diego Site Pros Inc.

• Rising Star Award — Lana Feng, Personalized Diagnostics L.L.C.

• Signature Award — Eileen Williams, Abundance Strategy.

• Green Community Award — Amy Kessler, Beach Bums Diaper Service.

• Trailblazer Award — Renee Zau, DonationMatch.

• Women’s Advocate of the Year Award — Gini Craig, Girlfriends Care and Good Ol Gals.

Housing Commission Awarded Vouchers to Help Homeless Veterans

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded 185 federal housing vouchers to the San Diego Housing Commission for assistance to homeless veterans seeking housing. The Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program was created in 2007 to help homeless veterans rebuild their lives. Homeless veterans must be participants in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs’ program, which offers clinical health and case management services, before they are eligible to receive a VASH voucher, which SDHC provides.

SDSU to Offer Craft Beer Certificate

San Diego State University is launching a Professional Certificate in the Business of Craft Beer program during the fall semester through its College of Extended Studies that will prepare students for the industry and its career pathways. “This is something San Diego really needs,” says Matt Johnson, general manager, Helms Brewing Co. “When I first started in the industry, it would have been great to go through a program like this. I would have jumped on it.” The certificate program for adults 21 and older will offer students an opportunity to learn from instructors who are professionals in the industry in an interactive, hands-on learning environment. Classes will be held both at on-site breweries and SDSU. To learn more about this program, call (619) 594-1138.

BB&T Promotes Geoff Shelton

Geoff Shelton has been promoted to senior vice president at BB&T-John Burnham Insurance Services. Shelton, who joined BB&T in 2002, has managed a large book of business comprised of large risk management accounts and has been a member of the High Performance Club every year. Shelton earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington.

School District Trustee Barrera to Succeed Gonzalez as Labor Leader

San Diego Unified School District Trustee Richard Barrera has been chosen to succeed former Lorena Gonzalez as secretary-treasurer and CEO of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council,  City News Service reports. Gonzalez resigned after being elected to the state Assembly and recommended that Barrera succeed her, organization officials said. The Labor Council Executive Board unanimously recommended Barrera, a part-time organizer for the labor council, to take over and labor council delegates elected him at their monthly meeting. Gonzalez bested Chula Vista Councilman Steve Castaneda in the 80th Assembly District special election. She will take over for Ben Hueso, who was recently elected to the state Senate.

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We Want Your Opinions on San Diego’s Big Issues In the coming months, Probosky Research (one of California’s leading opinion research firms) will continue its partnership with SD METRO to survey San Diego residents about topics of interest to our readers. We’d like to throw open the door for suggestions for topics. What do you want to know? What do you think you know, but aren’t sure? What are you certain you know, but want to prove it beyond doubt? Ideally, we’d like to see questions that have to do with public policy.

Some areas may include Mayor Filner’s first 100 days job performance, should the city be responsible for economic growth and the creation of new jobs, how important are infrastructure improvements to our daily lives (streets and bridges, etc.), how important is water independence, how satisfied are residents with public transit or how do city residents value Balboa Park and other open spaces? Do you believe the City Council should revive the Plaza de Panama plan for Balboa Park?

You can email Probolsky Research directly with your ideas: