Oct. 19 2011 06:37 PM

After 32 years and recent trouble, nonprofit opts to sell building

Empty parking lot at San Diego Square
Photo by Kelly Davis
Earlier today, residents of San Diego Square, a housing complex for low-income seniors located Downtown at 10th Street and Broadway, got a letter under their doors informing them that Housing Development Partners, a nonprofit, plans to purchase San Diego Square from its longtime owner, San Diego Kind Corp. Marco Vakili, HDP's executive director, said he couldn't disclose the purchase price.

San Diego Square sits on city-owned land that, since 1979, has been leased to Kind Corp. for $1 a year. Kind Corp. was founded by Mavourneen O'Connor, whose sister is former San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor. In August and September, CityBeat reported on issues San Diego Square tenants have had with Kind Corp., and with the building's property management company, Falkenberg Gilliam. Among them, Kind Corp. refuses to allow residents access to the building's parking lot, even though the 28-space lot sits mostly empty. Since 1993, when the city's Code Compliance Department filed a notice of violation against Kind Corp. for barring folks from using the parking lot, Kind Corp.'s put up a fight, going so far as to enlist the help of former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson and threatening to put Wilson on the stand should the city sue.

Vakili said he expects escrow to last until September 2012. Because the building provides federally subsidized housing, the sale needs to involve the Department of Housing and Urban Development, resulting in a lengthier process, Vakili said.

As for the parking issue, Vakili said that by Dec. 1, HDP will cover the cost of 10 parking spaces in a lot across the street and make them available to tenants. He said it's the best solution until HDP takes ownership of the building. "The City attorney was ready to apply legal leverage to San Diego Kind, but that could make it more difficult for us to buy the property," Vakili said. "The interim solution [of the 10 spaces] will be followed by a permanent solution."

City attorney Jan Goldsmith said he's pleased with this resolution.

Another issue is the property's vacant commercial space and large, unused ballroom. Residents say they'd like to use the space for meetings and social gatherings, but have been banned. The nonprofit Senior Community Centers occupied the commercial space until last year, when Kind Corp. ostensibly ousted them from the property and then later complained the SCC left the space in disrepair. SCC's president, Paul Downey, says that's not true and he has photographs and video to prove it. SCC, which provides daytime services to seniors, has since moved into the new Gary and Mary West Center at Fourth and Beech. Kind Corp.'s lease with the city says the site must include "assistance and services for seniors, including but not limited to counseling, recreation, legal, medical and other services."

Vakili said plans are to find a service provider for that space "as quickly as possible and make sure it's the right fit." HDP also plans to renovate the building and add things like a vegetable garden for the residents. Vakili described the purchase as a "preservation deal" that will keep the units in the building affordable to low-income seniors for at least 55 years. He said he plans to meet with tenants in the next couple of weeks.


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