Daily Business Report — Oct. 7, 2014
Early Voting Begins in San Diego County
Early voting for the Nov. 4 general election got underway Monday at the San Diego County Registrar of Voters Office.
The office, at 5600 Overland Ave. in Kearny Mesa, will be open weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. for registered voters who prefer to vote in person but cannot make it to a polling place on Election Day. The office will also be open on the weekend of Nov. 1-2.
The county has also sent out around 850,000 absentee ballots, which could start showing up in mail boxes as soon as Tuesday.
“If you know how you want to vote, grab that mail ballot when you get it, vote it and send it back in right away,” Registrar Michael Vu said. “The sooner we get the ballot back, the sooner we can start processing it so it will be counted right when the polls close at 8 p.m. on Nov. 4.”
The election is expected to feature close races for a congressional seat held by Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego), who is being challenged by former San Diego Councilman Carl DeMaio, and an open San Diego City Council seat.
Chris Cate, the vice president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association, and Carol Kim, an education consultant, are squaring off in the council election. Statewide, legislative and several other congressional offices are also at stake.
In a report released Monday, Vince Vasquez of the National University System Institute for Policy Research projected turnout at 15 percent to 19 percent higher than the June primary, which drew only 27 percent of the electorate. He cited both the two close races, and ballot measures that could bring more moderate and progressive voters to the polls next month.
According to Vasquez, Republicans once held a voter registration advantage of 11,000 in Peters’ district, but that margin has been halved because of fewer GOP voters, a bit more Democrats and an increase of 10,000 who signed up to vote as independents.
With “well-funded” party and non-partisan registration drives in the region, the GOP advantage will likely narrow by Election Day, he said. He said those new voters will impact the council race, too, because the council and congressional districts overlap.
— City News Service
Council Panel Raps Balboa Park
Centennial ‘Comedy of Errors’
An audit of a volunteer group that tried to put together a yearlong celebration of Balboa Park’s centennial shows the city of San Diego needs to tighten its contractual procedures with outside organizations, members of the City Council’s Audit Committee said Monday.
A report from the City Auditor, released last week, found none of the $1.6 million in city money given to Balboa Park Centennial Inc. was misspent, though the scope of allowable expenses was very broad. The audit, which the committee unanimously forwarded to the full City Council, also determined that BPCI didn’t always follow city procedures in contracting for goods and services.
BPCI disbanded earlier this year after being unable to find major sponsors. The group also faced allegations of misusing city funds and not being transparent with its records.
Councilman Scott Sherman, who chairs the committee, said more accountability will need to be written into city contracts in the future, and the scope of allowable expenses will need to be narrowed.
“It’s kind of unfortunate that we’re even here having to discuss this,” Sherman said. “You know, this should have been something very, very nice for the city — something that should have been the source of a lot of pride for a lot of San Diegans, and we ended up with a comedy of errors that just compounded, one after another.”
Among other things, the broad scope of allowable expenses prevented city officials from providing proper oversight of a funding agreement and memorandum of understanding with BPCI, the audit found. The auditors also blamed interference from ex-Mayor Bob Filner and the sexual harassment scandal that led him to resign.
— City News Service
City Council Approves Compromise On
Developer Fees for Affordable Housing
A long-running debate over a controversial fee on developers that helps pay for affordable housing projects neared an end Monday, as the City Council approved a compromise between housing advocates and the business community.
On a 7-1 vote, the City Attorney’s Office was directed to return in two weeks with an ordinance that can be considered by the council members.
The issue involves the “Linkage Fee,” in which developers of commercial structures pay a certain amount, depending on the size of their projects, with the funds earmarked for construction of affordable housing units.
The levy, instituted in 1990, was halved by the City Council six years later as an economic stimulus.
Last year, the council — on a pair of 5-4 party-line votes — returned the fee to the prior level. However, as the city’s independent budget analyst pointed out, the hike really ended up being more than 300 percent to over 700 percent on certain types of projects.
The business community subsequently gathered enough petition signatures to force the City Council to rescind the fee increase. When that happened, Craig Benedetto of a business group called the Jobs Coalition, and Richard Gentry, president of the San Diego Housing Commission, which runs the city’s affordable housing programs, agreed to negotiate a deal.
Their memorandum of understanding, with adjustments proposed last week by Councilwoman Myrtle Cole, was what the council approved today.
— City News Service
Border Region to Get Several Million
Dollars for Environmental Improvements
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy will be in San Diego today to announce several million dollars in grant funding for environmental improvement projects to reduce water pollution, recycle e-waste and improve environmental health in the U.S.–Mexico border region.
The EPA funds are awarded in partnership with the North American Development Bank and the Border Environment Cooperation Commission to advance commitments in the U.S.–Mexico environmental collaboration known as the Border 2020 Program.
During her visit in San Diego, McCarthy also will present EPA SmartWay Awards at the American Trucking Association’s annual Management Conference.
Halozyme’s Cancer Drug
Granted Orphan Status
The FDA has granted Orphan designation to Halozyme’s PEGylated recombinant human hyaluronidase drug (PEGPH20) for the treatment of pancreatic cancer. The Orphan drug program is for rare diseases that affect fewer than 200,000 people in the U.S. and helps promising products for treatment reach market more quickly.
“This designation follows the fast track designation and allows us to collaborate more closely with the FDA to facilitate development of PEGPH20 and is part of our core strategy to bring this therapy to patients as rapidly as possible,” said Helen Torley, president and CEO of Halozyme. “Receiving orphan drug designation is an important milestone for this clinical development program.”
Homeless Veterans and Their Families
Benefit from Grant of Nearly $512,000
More than 60 homeless veterans and their families will have a safe and affordable place to live in Escondido as a result of a nearly $512,000 per year award to the County’s Housing Authority. “Veterans deserve a helping hand, and this grant is just one of several ways we can support those who have protected our nation,” said Supervisor Dave Roberts. “The myriad of services we can provide with this important funding will go a long way to assisting our veterans to transition back into society.”
The county will support the Veterans Village of San Diego with rental assistance funding, designated to assist veterans at a new 64-unit complex being built by VVSD in downtown Escondido. The organization expects to break ground on the development in June 2015 with full occupancy to occur by December 2016.
Golden Door Spa Completes Expansion
ESCONDIDO — The Golden Door, a globally renowned spa in Escondido, announced Monday the completion of an expansion along with extensive changes and upgrades to its interiors and wellness programs.
“New programming and upgrades to the interiors and grounds are not changes, but rather enhancements that add to the soulful Zen essence of the Golden Door and its position as the most legendary destination spa in America,” said general manager and COO Kathy Van Ness.
The grounds have expanded from 377 to 600 acres, including 20 miles of hiking trails that span mountain to meadow. New York-based interior designer Victoria Hagan refreshed the Asian decor of the 40 guest rooms, the dining room, reception lobby, bathhouse spa, guest lounges and yoga gyms.
“There’s a tranquility that defines the Golden Door experience; a guest room becomes a personal sanctuary,” said Hagan. “Subtle splashes of color and a sophisticated range of materials, evocative of the spa’s iconic past, have renewed the spirit of understated elegance for which the Golden Door is celebrated.”
Founded in 1958 by Deborah Szekely and her husband, the Golden Door is a sister property to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Guests over the years have included Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Elizabeth Taylor, Nicole Kidman, Olivia Wilde and Barbra Streisand.
The resort donates 100 percent of profits to further charitable causes that match the mission and objectives of the property.
— Times of San Diego
Union Bank Named Corporation of the Year
Union Bank has received the 2014 Corporation of the Year for Outstanding Growth by the Council for Supplier Diversity headquartered in San Diego. The award recognizes a corporation that has demonstrated superior performance in supplier diversity by achieving outstanding growth in diversity spending over the past three years.
During the past three years, Union Bank increased its spending with diverse businesses by more than 36 percent — from $124 million in 2011 to $168 million in 2013. Diverse businesses include minority-owned, women-owned and service disabled veteran-owned businesses.
Union Bank also underwrites and coordinates many programs supporting diverse businesses, such as statewide cybercrime workshops and construction training workshops, among others.
Newest Assault Ship Ready for Commissioning
The Navy’s newest amphibious assault ship, the San Diego-based USS America, arrived in San Francisco on Monday in preparation for its commissioning ceremony Saturday during that city’s Fleet Week.
During the port visit, America’s crew is scheduled to participate in several community outreach events at various local schools and at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.
The ship recently completed its maiden transit, “America Visits the Americas,” where the crew engaged in cooperative maritime security operations with Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile, El Salvador and Peru in order to foster regional security.
The Navy officially accepted delivery of America from Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Miss., in April. It is the fourth ship bearing the name, but is the first of its class, replacing the Tarawa-class of amphibious assault ships.
As the next-generation “big-deck,” America is optimized for aviation, capable of supporting current and future aircraft such as the tilt-rotor MV-22 Osprey and F-35B Joint Strike Fighter.
— Times of San Diego
Southwest Strategies Adds Senior Account Execs
Hope Reilly, Jake Sneeden and Ashley Johnson have joined public affairs firm Southwest Strategies as senior account executives.
Hope Reilly has more than four years of strategic communications and government relations experience. Her current clients include the San Diego Association of Governments and Poseidon Water. She previously worked as a senior associate at Amplify Public Affairs in Washington, D.C.
Jake Sneeden has experience in public sector consulting. Prior to joining Southwest Strategies, he was a consultant with Eastern Research Group where he worked on projects with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Transportation Research Board of the National Academies.
Ashley Johnson worked for more than six years in Congress and government affairs. She was a senior level policy adviser to the Chairman of the U.S. House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, which oversees the nation’s social welfare programs. As a Congressional aide, she advised on subcommittee policy and set legislative priorities in the areas of energy, environment, housing, transportation, defense and foreign affairs.
Fleet Week Big Bay Bash
The San Diego Fleet Week Foundation has teamed with the Port of San Diego to create a new event to bring together the region’s military, the San Diego community and the waterfront. It’s the Big Bay Bash occurring Saturday, Oct. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Broadway Pier. There will be live music, food, a beer garden, admission to the USS Midway Museum, military static displays and a family fun zone.
The celebration is free for active duty military and open to the public. Public admission is $15.