Daily Business Report-Feb. 18, 2015
The RAD Lab team collaborated with NewSchool faculty, city of San Diego officials and private sector advisers to get Quartyard started. (Rendering)
‘Quartyard’ Transforms Vacant Downtown
Lot into a Temporary Urban Park
A once-vacant Downtown lot is being turned into a temporary urban park where residents and visitors alike can play, bring their pets, listen to live musical performances and otherwise enjoy the trappings of Downtown life.
The “Quartyard,” as it is called, is the brainchild of three graduates of Downtown’s NewSchool of Architecture, and was actually the subject of a student thesis project.
The former students — Philip Auchettl, David Loewenstein and Jason Grauten — all from the 2013 NewSchool graduating class and creators of the Research Architecture Development Laboratory, or RAD Labt, are scheduled to open Quartyard on Saturday, March 7, at 5 p.m. The location is 1102 Market St., site of the 30,000-square-foot city block.
The former students say Quartyard, which was two years in the making, serves as a model for cities across the U.S. looking for unique economic development ideas and ways to re-invent empty acreages while improving the quality of life for their residents.
“Historically, vacant lots waiting for development have blighted their surroundings and dragged down property values,” say the alumni. “Quartyard aims to demonstrate how positive changes can quickly and economically activate an empty lot into a thriving interactive urban space.”
The RAD Lab team collaborated with NewSchool faculty, city of San Diego officials and private sector advisers to get Quartyard started. It was partially funded by San Diego residents through a Kickstarter campaign that raised $60,000 in 30 days.
The Quartyard has a conditional use permit from the city. Amenities include a dog park and facilities for live music performances, rotating local entertainment and a beer garden. The RAD Lab team also hopes to feature NewSchool student work, including pop-up exhibitions.
During the opening, the creators of the park will take visitors on a tour and explain the design and use of recycled and retrofitted shipping containers for the infrastructure, and describe their inspiration for the project while they were grad students.
Mayor and Chargers’ Point Man
Now in Verbal Attack Mode
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his political consultant Tuesday blasted the Chargers’ point man in the team’s stadium search, accusing him of “continuing to undermine” the work of a task force formed to find a site and financing plan for a new football facility.
In a letter to team president Dean Spanos, Faulconer wrote that he was disappointed with “the ongoing actions and demeanor” of Mark Fabiani, who has led the Chargers’ lengthy search for a new place to play.
“His divisive tone and criticism of this group of volunteers, civic leaders and the city of San Diego as a whole are not conducive to developing a plan for a new stadium,” Faulconer wrote. “I hope his behavior is not indicative of our ability to find a solution.”
Faulconer said San Diegans deserved better than “this type of discourse.”
The message was in response to a letter Fabiani sent to Faulconer earlier in the day questioning the independence of the task force. He wanted to know why political consultant Jason Roe was allowed to attend Monday’s meeting between the advisory group and Fabiani.
In his response, Roe also blasted Fabiani.
“In 14 years of failure, Mark Fabiani has done nothing but make excuses, lay blame and pick fights,” Roe said.
“The mayor’s advisory committee is just that — the mayor’s advisory committee — and Mark doesn’t get to dictate how the mayor organizes his advisory group,” Roe said.
“Rather than work constructively with the committee to find solutions, Mark’s back to his normal routine of picking fights to avoid progress.”
Roe said ex-quarterback Ryan Leaf, an infamous NFL draft bust, is “no longer the worst personnel decision in Chargers history.”
Fabiani said Faulconer’s letter “fails to answer even a single one of the questions we asked.”
Faulconer has been critical of the task force idea since it was announced by Faulconer at his “State of the City” address last month.
— City News Service
San Diego County Home Sales Decline
Home sales in San Diego County in January fell sharply from December, and dipped modestly from a year earlier, according to CoreLogic DataQuick, a real estate information service.
The median price paid for a home in January fell from December, and was a jump from January 2014.
Southern California Figures:
A total of 13,560 new and resale houses and condos sold in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Diego, Ventura, San Bernardino and Orange counties in January 2015. That was down month over month 29.4 percent from 19,205 sales in December 2014, and down year over year 6.3 percent from 14,471 sales in January 2014, according to CoreLogic DataQuick data.
On average, Southern California sales have fallen 27.6 percent between December and January since 1988, when CoreLogic DataQuick data began.
January home sales have ranged from a low of 9,983 in 2008 to a high of 26,083 in 2004. January 2015 sales were 21.7 percent below the January average of 17,322 sales since 1988.
“The January and February statistics are always interesting, and sometimes a bit strange, but they’re not necessarily a good indication of what’s to come,” said Andrew LePage, data analyst for CoreLogic DataQuick. “That’s largely because many traditional buyers and sellers drop out of the housing market during the holidays and mid-winter, and therefore don’t close deals during those months. In recent years that’s led to somewhat higher concentrations of investor activity for January and February, and we saw that again last month. Heading into spring it will be interesting to see whether price appreciation and other factors will finally release a lot of the pent-up supply of homes out there.”
The median price paid for all new and resale houses and condos sold in the six-county region in January 2015 was $409,000, down 1.4 percent month over month from $415,000 in December 2014 and up 7.6 percent year over year from $380,000 in January 2014. The median hasn’t changed significantly since September 2014, when it was $413,000. The median’s peak for 2014 was $420,000 in August.
Other Southern California housing market highlights from January 2015:
• Foreclosure resales represented 5.7 percent of the resale market in January. That was up from a revised 5.3 percent in December 2014 and down from 6.6 percent in January 2014.
• Short sales made up an estimated 6.5 percent of resales in January, up from a revised 6.2 in December 2014 and down from 10.7 percent in January 2014. Short sales are transactions in which the sale price fell short of what was owed on the property.
• The typical monthly mortgage payment for Southern California home buyers in January was $1,501, down from $1,558 in December 2014 and down from $1,528 in January 2014. Adjusted for inflation, the January 2015 typical payment was 37.7 percent below the typical payment in the spring of 1989, the peak of the prior real estate cycle. It was also 48.9 percent below the current cycle’s peak in July 2007.
BAE Systems Settles Complaint for $54,135
BAE Systems, a San Diego ship repair company, will pay $54,135 to settle a civil complaint brought against it by the City Attorney’s Office for illegally discharging fuel into San Diego Bay.
Under the terms of a stipulated judgment, BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair Inc. admitted no wrongdoing but will make payments to two funds run by the California Department of Fish and Game: $4,135 in costs to the Oil Spill Response Trust Fund and $32,500 in penalties to the Environmental Enhancement Fund.
The City Attorney’s Office will receive $10,000 for its costs and $7,500 in civil penalties will be divided between the city and county under terms of the state Business and Professions Code.
The City Attorney’s investigation resulted from a March 18, 2012, discharge of 42 or more gallons of diesel fuel from the vessel drydock Pride of San Diego. The complaint accused BAE Systems of negligence in failing to immediately contain, clean up and remove the oil in the most effective manner to minimize environmental damage.
Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Hotel
Finishes Multi-Million-Dollar Renovation
The multi-million-dollar renovation of the Hilton San Diego Mission Valley Hotel has been completed — work that included a new onsite restaurant, upgrading of its 350 guestrooms and larger meeting and event spaces.
The “reinvention” of the Hilton includes the redesign of the hotel’s lobby and inviting interior public spaces, as well as an all new city view executive lounge.
The hotel now features 21,000 square feet of re-imagined meeting and event space for state-of-the-art business and conference needs, including a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, 10 breakout rooms, flexible pre-function space, and an exclusive demonstration kitchen, complete with retractable barn doors for privacy, and a hot-stone granite buffet.
The new onsite restaurant is Polanco Kitchen & Bar, led by executive chef Nicholas Villamil. The property boasts a new artisan food marketplace, with meals and light bites to-go as well as a Starbuck’s espresso bar, and a new fitness center offering the latest equipment.
The hotel will introduce a new outdoor event space this spring, complete with an outdoor pool area, expansive open deck, and all-new furnishings for enjoying alfresco San Diego days and nights year-round.
“It’s extremely exciting to unveil a completely new hotel offering an unparalleled guest experience,” said Mark Ziomek, general manager.
First Phase Opened at West Park Apartment Project
The first phase of West Park — Sudberry Properties’ 612-unit apartment neighborhood at Civita — is now open, with 89 apartments and amenities that include a 22-seat theater with stadium seating and a card/game room called The Vault.
When the entire project is completed, it will feature three saltwater pools with cabanas and TVs, a private park with a half-mile jogging trail and exercise stations, and an approximate 10,000-square-foot fitness club that includes a group exercise room with climbing wall, a fit lounge, juice bar and game room. West Park, a no-smoking community, also will have conveniences like Wi-Fi throughout most common areas and pools, a high-tech, 18-seat conference room, a dog washing station and a bicycle workshop space.
“With West Park, we’re setting a new standard of luxury apartment living in San Diego County,” said Marco A. Sessa, senior vice president of Sudberry Properties, developer of West Park and the surrounding urban village of Civita. “Our apartments, which range from loft-style studios to three-bedroom, two-bath flats, reflect our determination to fuse style, sustainability and comfort,” he said.
Individual apartments range from 546 square feet to 1,355 square feet with a multi-level controlled-access garage. Monthly rents start at $1,600.
The Sudberry Properties’ design team includes architects Newman Garrison + Partners of Costa Mesa, Rick Engineering of San Diego, landscape architects Lifescapes International of Newport Beach and interior design firms STYLE of Irvine and Ami Samuel Interiors Inc., of San Diego. The West Park construction team consists of Reno Construction and Coyle Residential.
The West Park Leasing Center is located at 7777 Westside Drive, San Diego. (619) 223-7777.
SDG&E Gets $5 Million Grant
To Expand Borrego Springs Microgrid
San Diego Gas & Electric announced Tuesday that a $5 million state grant will allow the utility to expand a solar-powered microgrid in the desert to provide for all of the electricity needs in Borrego Springs.
The funding from the California Energy Commission will allow the utility to make the Borrego Springs microgrid one of the largest in the country that relies solely on renewable energy.
“This funding will create a true renewable energy microgrid, one that not only bolsters local electric reliability, but does so by using the cleanest resources available,” said James Avery, SDG&E’s senior vice president for power supply. “This project combines our core priorities of enhancing reliability, promoting innovation and connecting to more clean energy, and we greatly appreciate the CEC’s support in making this happen.”
The microgrid is connected to the region’s main energy grid, but can disconnect and function independently during emergencies, supplying vital electricity to the local community through its onsite resources, according to SDG&E.
The utility said the microgrid has already kept electricity flowing to the community during several power outages, demonstrating its potential to benefit all customers. The microgrid is currently served by a 26-megawatt solar facility that will be made larger in order to serve the entire community during the day. Large batteries will fill in at night or when it’s cloudy, according to SDG&E.
SDG&E will increase the number of customers served by the microgrid from the current 1,000 to all 2,800 in Borrego Springs when the expansion is completed in the middle of next year.
Separately, the utility announced it will establish a $2 million endowment fund to benefit operations and environmental education programs at the Living Coast Discovery Center on San Diego Bay. The endowment was a condition of the California Coastal Commission’s approval of relocating a power plant in the South Bay.
Details are scheduled to be announced at a Wednesday news conference.
— City News Service
New Dr. Seuss Book Coming in July
From Theodore Geisel Original Manuscript
A new Dr. Seuss book will be published later this year from an original manuscript and accompanying sketches discovered in the La Jolla home of the famed author and illustrator.
Random House and the trustees of Theodore Geisels’ work anmounced Wednesday that “What Pet Should I Get?” will be published on July 28.
The book captures the excitement of a classic childhood moment — choosing a pet — and features the brother and sister characters that Dr. Seuss introduced in “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.”
The text and illustrations for the book were found nearly complete. Geisel traditionally completed his black-and-white line art illustrations first, with color to be filled in later.
A box filled with pages of text and sketches was found shortly after his death in 1991 when his widow Audrey Geisel was remodeling her home. At that time it was set aside with other of Ted’s materials. It was rediscovered in the fall of 2013.
At least two more books will be published from the materials discovered, with titles and publication dates to be announced.
“While undeniably special, it is not surprising to me that we found this because Ted always worked on multiple projects and started new things all the time—he was constantly writing and drawing and coming up with ideas for new stories,” said Audrey Geisel. “It is especially heartwarming for me as this year also marks twenty-five years since the publication of the last book of Ted’s career, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!“
The discovered materials will be kept at UC San Diego,where the Dr. Seuss Collection is housed within the Geisel Library.
— Times of San Diego
Roundtable: Americans With Disabilities Act
The San Diego Employers Association will hold a Roundtable on the Americans With Disabilities Act on Friday, Feb. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the SDEA Training Facility, 4180 Ruffin Road, Suite 295, San Diego. The cost is $35 for SDEA members, $45 for nonmembers. To register, visit www.sdeahr.org or call (858) 505-0024.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities. The ADA also requires that employers engage in the “interactive process” when exploring accommodations. What is considered “reasonable” and when does it become unreasonable? What about the employee who is not cooperating or who is unresponsive? The Roundtable will answer the questions.
New Employment Laws Program
The Otay Mesa Chamber of Commerce will present a program on Employment Laws Affecting Businesses in California in 2015 on Tuesday, Feb. 24, at the SWC Higher Education Center at Otay Mesa, 8100 Gigantic St., Room 4500. The program runs from 8:30 to 10 a.m.
Topics will include mandatory sick leave benefits, anti-bullying training requirements and timely payment of incentive compensation wages.
The event also will include discussion on recent changes to Mexico’s federa laws.
The cost is free to chamber members and $25 for nonmembers.
State of the Region Economic Forecast
The North San Diego Business Chamber and Northrop Grumman Corp. will stage the annual “State of the Region” economic forecast luncheon on Friday, Feb. 27, at Sony Electronics in Rancho Bernardo. The luncheon will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Diane Harkey, 4th District representative on the state Board of Equalization, is the featured speaker.
A panel of elected officials will define the unique role that each level of government plays in a thriving economy. They will also discuss what the 2015 employment market looks like from local, regional and statewide levels and what they believe are the toughest challenges businesses face in the region today. The panel also will discuss ways to further growth in San Diego.
Panelsts are Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, San Diego Councilman Mark Kersey, and Oceanside Mayor Jim Wood. Cynthia Curiel of Northrop Grumman is moderator.