Issues with Sudberry and the City of San Diego
Through the 2016–17 approval process of the freeway connector, this is what Save Civita Because Sudberry Won’t now understands:
* Master Developer, Sudberry Properties and the City of San Diego designed and built Via Alta and Franklin Ridge roads with the freeway connector in mind, not the safety of residents.
- The City had already factored the freeway connector into the Mission Valley traffic and bike studies before the 2016–2017 EIR and City Council approval process.
- The connector was thought of as approved by the City and Council Members since 2008 and proceeded to plan and design these roads accordingly.
- There was misrepresentation and/or omission of facts by the City’s Planning Department in the approval process for the freeway connector.
- Errors and flaws in Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) were ignored in the City’s recommendation for the four-lane freeway connector.
- Crosswalks were included in designs of the Quarry Falls Specific Plan and the FEIR for Civita, but the roads were built without crosswalks.
- The City now claims that crosswalks are not feasible and cannot be installed due to the streets’ slope and curvature.
- Two hundred homes were sold before the first road, Via Alta, was constructed in Civita. Not until then was it realized there were no crosswalks for the half-mile length of the road.
- There was lack of full disclosure by Sudberry in the Civita Sales Contract, General Disclosures.
- There was misrepresentation and/or omission of facts in sales marketing material and presentations for Civita.
- Sudberry publicly positioned themselves as neutral on the issue but continued to lobby the City.
- Sudberry and the homebuilders continue to use vague disclosures, misleading handouts and maps in their sales materials. Buyers will continue to be misled.
- Developers, Sudberry Properties and H. G. Fenton use their influence and money to try and control the development of Mission Valley in their best interests.
- The concept of Smart Growth and City of Villages has been hijacked and is being misused.
Questions To Be Asked:
Did Sudberry intentionally downplay the City’s plan for a freeway connector because they knew that knowledge would stagnate home sales?
If the City was operating and planning under the premise that the freeway connector was approved in 2008, why was that not made clear to the home buyers in Civita?
If it was realized that the roads’ design in the Specific Plan, was too steep for crosswalks, why didn’t the City and Sudberry change the road’s design to allow for crosswalks, instead of removing them? Why did they not tell home buyers of this change?
Lack of Full Disclosure by Sudberry
- The sales contract’s general disclosures for Civita home buyers references the Quarry Falls Specific Plan in Section 42.1 Phyllis Place as a politically worded “possible”, including noting “freeway” and Section 42.4 acknowledges the Phyllis Place connection may impact traffic and cause delays. However, there are discrepancies in the disclosure and FEIR.
- The word “possible” is insufficient as a disclosure when, in fact, the words used should have been “definitely planning a freeway connector”.
- Within the general disclosures there was no information of the already planned intentions and actions of the City and Sudberry to design roads to meet the needs of a freeway connector instead of safe residential streets.
- The word “possible” gave home buyers the impression that the decision had not been made and that there was to be further discussion on the option of a freeway connector. Homeowners felt that as the community evolved, they would have input in the decision if a freeway connector was in the best interest of the community.
- The word “possible” does not absolve Sudberry and the City from the responsibility of designing and building roads that are safe for a dense residential community.
- In signing the sales disclosure, there was an assumption by home buyers that Sudberry and the City would act in a responsible manner and consider the safety of the residents warranted in a dense residential neighborhood. A neighborhood that was advertised and promoted by Sudberry, as a “perfectly” walkable community.
- The sales disclosure indicates that Civita was entitled under the name Quarry Falls Specific Plan and provides an overview of the proposed development uses and densities within the plan, but it never says if there is a reference document that a purchaser should review, nor does it provide the Quarry Falls Specific Plan planning number for reference.
- The sales contract general disclosure, Exhibit A: Civita Community Map shows the illustrative, conceptual site plan used by Sudberry and the home builders in their marketing efforts. The map does not graphically show the Phyllis Place connector, nor provide a footnote indicating the potential connector. Buyers were required to initial the map.
- The Quarry Falls Specific Plan does not show the connector (it does describe the potential on Page 4–3). Purchaser would have to know of the connector and need to locate additional EIR and Traffic Study documents not referenced in the sales disclosure.
- Crosswalks were included in the concept drawing for Via Alta and Franklin Ridge in the Quarry Falls Specific Plan, by Carrier Johnson Architects. The crosswalks were removed at some point in the process.
- The sales disclosure has numerous references to documents other than the Quarry Fall Specific Plan and encourages purchaser to review and become generally familiar with these documents prior to purchase. While the document references the Quarry Falls Specific Plan and provides a detailed summary narrative of the program components, building area, and mixed-use concept of Quarry Falls … it never specifically recommends that the purchaser review and familiarize themselves with the Specific Plan. Further, the location of the Quarry Falls Specific Plan document was not cited, but location of other cited documents was identified (i.e., for H.G. Fenton’s solar array plans were available for review at the sales office).
- The sales disclosure included a narrative stating that, a proposed future connection to Phyllis Place to the North could impact the neighborhood with additional traffic, noise, and congestion. The disclosure did not quantify the extent of non-mitigatable traffic impact to roadway and intersections, nor reference the purchaser to an EIR or Traffic Study where the traffic impact to the community could be understood by the buyer.
- The Quarry Falls Specific Plan FINAL, dated Oct 21, 2008, uses throughout the document a conceptual background of exhibits that show line work on Via Alta and Franklin Ridge at the terminus of the Civita Park finger trails (in alignment with neighborhood curb cuts) which suggest pedestrian crosswalks would be provided at each residential neighborhood curb cut (see Figure 2–2, 2–4, 3–1, 7–1). Specifically, see enlarged plans showing the end of finger trails with very clearly depicted plan representations of mid-block crosswalks (see Figure 7–3 and 7–4 and 7–5). An asterisk on each drawing states the drawing is conceptual in nature. The narrative description of the pedestrian mobility plan clarifies the finger trails would terminate at Via Alta and Franklin Ridge (also see Figure 3–5 and 4–14 showing the trail and pedestrian network diagram in alignment with the narrative). Please see referenced exhibits below.
- Here is the link to the Quarry Falls Specific Plan. The concept drawing is used throughout the document: https://www.sandiego.gov/…/pdf/plans/quarryfallsspecificplan.pdf
- Even if a buyer reviewed the Quarry Falls Specific Plan, they would not have been provided with detailed information on the connector, or the traffic impact therein, and would have been misled because the illustrations in the plan show crosswalks on Via Alta and Franklin Ridge.
Misrepresentation or Omission of Facts in Presentations and Marketing Material for Civita Home Buyers.
- From 2012 to early 2018, the Civita map, used in the sales disclosures and for marketing shows a dead end at the top of the hill where Via Alta and Franklin Ridge connect. There are no indications on the map of the City’s intention to connect the roads to Serra Mesa and I–805.
- The home builder’s sales agents downplayed the possibility of the freeway connector. Buyers were not told of the freeway connector, told the connector “likely won’t happen”, or that “Serra Mesa has been fighting it for years; therefore, its likely not going to happen.”
- Marketing/promotion materials touted Civita as the “perfectly walkable community”. Nothing in the materials informed the buyers that the City planned to curtail the walkability and safety of Civita by building half-mile roads with no crosswalks or other traffic calming measures.
Sudberry Publicly Maintained Neutrality on the Issue but Continued to Lobby the City Regarding the Freeway Connector.
- Lobbyist registration website for the City of San Diego indicates that:
In 2016, Sudberry met 5 times with the City.
In 2017, Sudberry met 10 times with the City
- Stated in the Organization Lobbyist Quarterly Disclosure Report filed by Sudberry with the City, the Outcome Sought section changed from “Final Decision by the City. Developer has no preferred position.” in 2016, to “Serra Mesa Community Plan Amendment Street Connection” in 2017.
Article on Sudberry’s Proclaimed Neutrality:
2016 San Diego Reader – 10–12–2016: Civita’s, “When they put a Road Through Your Urban Village”: http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2016/oct/12/cover-road-through-your-urban-village/
- When Sudberry was working on the design of Civita, they were in favor of the road connection. They switched their position to neutral before they went through the approval process. They wanted to initiate a Serra Mesa Community Plan amendment process for the road connection before they went through the EIR process, but the City Council denied the initiation.
- Residents of Civita appealed to Sudberry on several occasions, letting them know that Via Alta (and Franklin Ridge), half-mile roads with no traffic calming or ability to have crosswalks, were flawed and created safety risks for the residents.
- Sudberry never appeared in front of City Council, the Planning Commission Meeting, or the Smart Growth & Land Use Committee, during the connector approval process, to comment on/or clarify valid safety concerns.
Questions To Be Asked:
Why would Sudberry need to meet with the City so often if maintaining neutrality?
Was Sudberry’s statement of neutrality a way for them to be passively supportive of The City and H. G. Fenton’s efforts for the connector? And at the same time give the impression to Serra Mesa that they would not actively lobby for the connector to gain Serra Mesa’s support for Civita?
Sudberry’s Influence Over SANDAG
- The following articles indicate possible influences Sudberry has over the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). SANDAG is a public agency that makes strategic plans; obtains and allocates resources; plans, engineers, and builds public transportation. SANDAG is currently under scrutiny for unethical business practices and for being influenced by large developers.
2017 Voice of San Diego – 12–8–2017: “To Create Its SoccerCity Analysis, SANDAG Used a Loophole for the First and Last Time” Sudberry and Fenton’s involvement in SANDAG. https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/create-soccercity-analysis-sandag-used-loophole-first-last-time/
2017 San Diego Union Tribune – 9–8–2017: “SANDAG says SoccerCity underestimates traffic impacts in study contracted by project rivals” Sudberry and Fenton influence. http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/environment/sd-me-soccercity-traffic–20170908-story.html
Sudberry’s Influence Over Circulate San Diego
- Sudberry is a sponsor of Circulate San Diego, an organization which recently changed its focus to include more roads and cars and lobbied openly for the freeway connector.
2017 San Diego Reader Article – 10–27–17 Bicyclist vs Civita’s Residents:
2017 Voice of San Diego – 12–6–17: “City Won’t Monitor Transit and Bike Usage in New Development Plans”: https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/government/city-wont-monitor-transit-bike-usage-new-development-plans/
Sudberry’s Influence Over Politicians
- Sudberry is a constant and large contributor to the campaigns of City Council Members, both Republican and Democrat, as well as the City Attorney.
- Sudberry and H. G. Fenton were major backers and donors for Scott Sherman’s campaign for City Council. Sherman’s district includes Mission Valley.
See donations made by Sudberry at the Lobbyist registration website for the City of San Diego.
2015 San Diego Union Reader – 11–9–2015: “More Myrtle Cole cash from big time developers” including Sudberry
2015 San Diego Reader – 8–4–2015: “Big cash for Myrtle Cole from Mission Valley” including Sudberry
Sudberry’s Influence Over Real Estate Industry Professionals
- Two prominent San Diego architects were asked to review the design of Civita roads. Both said the roads would be dangerous and not designed in accordance with Smart Growth planning principles.
- Two prominent San Diego traffic engineers were also asked to study the roads and give their opinion. One engineer declined to look at it the other reviewed the roads and concluded the roads were flawed in their design and dangerous.
- All of them declined to comment publicly because they rely on the City, Sudberry and H. G. Fenton for work and feared retribution.
Sudberry’s Influence Over Mission Valley
- Sudberry and H. G. Fenton are partnered to control and influence the development of Mission Valley. Fenton was the single biggest advocate for the freeway connector. Is Sudberry more concerned with their loyalty to other developers than their concern for the safety of the Civita homeowners? We believe that by staying neutral, Sudberry stayed out of Fenton’s way in their campaign to influence the City Council for the connector.
2018 Voice of San Diego – 9–11–2018: “Just How Close SoccerCity and SDSU Got to a Deal and How it All Fell Apart”: https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/news/just-how-close-soccercity-and-sdsu-got-to-a-deal-and-how-it-all-fell-apart/
2017 San Diego Reader – 8–22–2017: Article mentioning Sudberry and Fenton’s efforts to control Mission Valley development. “Friend of Doug digs deep against SoccerCity”:
2017 San Diego Reader – 7–5–2017: “Mission Valley money” http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/jul/05/radar-mission-valley-money/
2017 Voice of San Diego – 5–16–2017: “How San Diego’s Biggest Developers Swarmed Against SoccerCity” https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/land-use/how-san-diegos-biggest-developers-swarmed-against-soccercity/
2017 San Diego Reader – 3–17–2017: “Will political money war lay waste to Mission Valley?” http://www.sandiegoreader.com/news/2017/mar/17/ticker-political-money-war-mission-valley/