The Saga of Downtown San Diego's PBID

By cet1500
  • PBID Established

    City Council establishes the Property and Business Improvement District, or PBID.
  • Contract Begins

    City begins five-year contract with Downtown San Diego Partnership, which uses PBID fees to provide extra services to downtown property owners. City hires Terrance E. Lowell to conduct an engineering report.
  • PBID Renewed

    Downtown property owners vote to renew the Property and Business Improvement District, this time for 10 years. The city hires a new engineering firm, SCI Consulting Group, to assess properties and calculate PBID fees.
  • Mistakes Discovered

    Downtown property owner Rita Collier questions the PBID fees listed on her property tax bill. The fees are based on the size of her property, but her property size is not on the bill. She asks the Downtown San Diego Partnership for the engineer’s report that describes how PBID fees are charged and the report's appendix, which lists all property sizes in the downtown PBID.
  • Mistakes Reported

    After receiving the report, Collier sees that her property is listed as too big. She emails the Downtown San Diego Partnership, writing, “it appears that many of the 199 units in our building are based on an erroneous sq. ft. number...Very few of the units in our building are that large." Collier tells Kathy Casey what she discovered. Casey looks at her own building on the engineer’s report and sees it is also incorrect.
  • Collier Emails City

    Collier emails Luis Ojeda, the program manager of the city’s Economic Development Division, to tell him about the errors.
  • City Emails Back

    Ojeda writes back. “SCI, which is our consultant, is currently doing parcel audits for the properties in the buildings you had mentioned...Typically under this type of circumstances we either issue a refund check to the property owners or apply a credit towards the following assessment year. I will also try to ensure that the other property owners need not file an appeal as we will work making any corrections.”
  • Casey Emails Again

    After not hearing from Ojeda for almost three months, Casey emails him and her City Council representative, Councilman Kevin Faulconer.
  • Casey Emails Again

    Casey emails Ojeda and Faulconer again. “Another 2 weeks have gone by. It has been 3 months since the error was discovered. Why can't you tell me how the refunds are going to be processed.“
  • City Responds

    Ojeda responds, “The City has a new financial system that replaced one that was over thirty years old. We are working with the Comptroller’s office on issuing refunds with the new system.…I will honor my word and refund the rest of property owners only in your unit in addition to anyone else who submitted an appeal. The refund issued will be only for last fiscal year ending June 30, 2009...I will keep you posted on the status of the refund checks.”
  • Casey Responds

    Casey responds, “Your offer to refund for only one year to only the property owners who filed an appeal is not acceptable. I will continue to pursue this for all the taxpayers that were incorrectly assessed.”
  • PBID Meeting

    Casey goes to the Property and Business Improvement District meeting, where Ojeda tells her the refunds will be handled by the city attorney.
  • City Attorney

    Casey contacts Adam Wander at the city attorney’s office, who tells her he can’t talk about the overcharges because of attorney-client privilege.
  • Casey Emails Again

    Casey emails Ojeda again. “It has now been over six months since you met with Councilman Faulconer and Mayor Sanders,” she writes. “Why haven’t the affected citizens been notified of the incorrect charges? Continuing to hide this error does not give me any confidence in the ethics of city government.”
  • 'File a Claim'

    Ojeda responds, telling Casey to file a claim with the Office of Risk Management.
  • Casey Files Claim

    Casey files the claim with the Office of Risk Management, even though it’s an accident claim, asking her to name the date and time of her injury and witnesses. The claims cover tax years 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 for 38 condo owners at Beech Tower (where Casey lives). Another downtown resident files claims for 54 condos at Park View, and Casey’s friend files for her home on 9th Avenue.
  • Claim Denied

    Casey’s claim is denied because it was not made “within the time allowed by law.” Claims are supposed to be made within six months “after the date of the incident or event.” If Casey had been told to file the claim when she first discovered the errors in June 2009, at least that year’s overcharges would have been refunded.
  • Casey Files Appeal

    Casey files an appeal.
  • City Attorney Responds

    City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says Casey’s claim was sent to SCI, the engineering firm that calculated the property sizes.
  • New Engineer

    City hires a different engineering firm, Koppel & Gruber Public Finance, to replace SCI Consulting.
  • Reader Story

    The San Diego Reader publishes a story on Casey and the overcharges.
  • VOSD Story

    Story in Voice of San Diego covers the overcharges and Casey’s work to get refunds.
  • Ojeda's Announcement

    Casey says Ojeda announces at the Clean and Safe meeting that he is proposing refunding the overcharges on the 2011/2012 tax bills. “He said the details are yet to be worked out but that they will be going back to 2005,” Casey says.
  • City Files Lawsuit

    The city of San Diego files a lawsuit against SCI Consulting Group for Breach of Contract/Warranty.
  • Council Discusses PBID

    The City Council discusses the annual renewal of the PBID. City Councilmembers Kevin Faulconer and Marti Emerald acknowledge overcharges. “They say the reward of patience is patience. I hope you get a check, too,” Emerald says. Economic Development Division staff say they are doing an audit of the overcharges that is “99 percent complete.” Once it’s complete, the department will come back to the City Council to get a policy decision on how to handle refunds.
  • No PBID Audit

    The audit committee meets, but the PBID audit is not discussed. Matt Awbrey, the spokesman for Kevin Faulconer, tells Casey the audit is not finished.
  • Kris Michell Meeting

    Casey meets with Kris Michell, the president of the Downtown San Diego Partnership, to discuss the PBID errors.
  • No PBID Audit

    The audit committee meets, but the PBID audit is not discussed. Matt Awbrey, the spokesman for Kevin Faulconer, tells Casey that Beth Murray said the audit isn’t ready, but has tentatively scheduled it to be heard by the audit committee on January 9, 2012.
  • No PBID Audit

    The audit committee meets, but the PBID audit is not discussed.
  • Public Records Act

    Casey makes a Public Records Act request for a copy of the audit.
  • PRA Denied

    Adam Wander of the city attorney’s office tells Casey the Public Records Act request was denied. He writes that the document is exempt from disclosure because of the “Evidence Code relating to privilege,” because it is “protected attorney work” and because it “pertains to pending litigation.”
  • Audit Promise

    Bahija Hamraz, the district director at Downtown San Diego Partnership, tells Casey the audit will go to the audit committee on April 9, 2012.
  • No PBID Audit

    Bahija Hamraz tells Casey the audit committee will not have the audit on their agenda in April. She says that the city attorney has decided the item may need to be discussed in closed session, so it has been pushed back to May or later.
  • No PBID Audit

    Thyme Curtis, the audit committee consultant, tells Casey by email that "the Mayor's office is still working with the City Attorney on how to roll out the process of reimbursements. According to Victoria Joes in the Mayor's office, the details are close to being hammered out."
  • Council Discusses PBID

    The City Council again discusses the annual renewal of the PBID. City Attorney Jan Goldsmith is at the meeting and says they are reviewing the overcharges, but that there is a pending lawsuit the city filed against the engineering firm SCI Consulting Group. “The city at this point hasn’t reached a conclusion,” Goldsmith says. He adds that SCI is “resisting and denying our claims.” The PBID renewal passes 7-0 with City Councilwoman Marti Emerald absent.
  • Refunds Promised

    Casey says that at a Cortez Hill neighborhood meeting, Downtown San Diego Partnership President Kris Michell says that everyone who was overassessed will get a refund. Casey says the meeting was meant to be a presentation by Michell to garner support for renewal of the PBID in 2015.
  • 'Submit a Form'

    Luis Ojeda tells Casey that she will get a refund once she completes a Special Assessment Refund Claim Form. But, he says a four-year statute of limitations will apply to those people who have not already filed a claim. To Casey’s knowledge, only about 100 property owners have filed claims. It is too late for most other property owners to file claims for full refunds.
  • PBID Announcement

    Casey says that at a Downtown San Diego Partnership PBID meeting, Bahia Hamraz announces that they met with the city and that the City Council has decided property owners can apply for a refund. But, refunds would only go back for four years from the date the form was filed. Casey reports Bahija Hamraz said that City Councilman Todd Gloria’s office will be responsible for how property owners are notified that they were overcharged.
  • No Refunds

    At the time this story was published, no one has received their refunds.