If you watched the “interview” of Mayor 10Goals Murphy on KUSI last weekend, it wasn't difficult to see why such questioning should be left to people who know what they're talking about.
Conducted by talking-head anchor Susan Lennon-who seems more preoccupied with the direction of her hairstyle than the depth of her questions (“Hmmm. Hair behind the ears? Hair over the ears? Hair pulled back? Oooh, I can't decide!”)-the rare one-on-one interview had all the feel-good qualities of a hair-removal infomercial.
How's it going with the Chargers? How's it going with the new downtown ballpark? Blah blah blah. Never mind that KUSI is in the midst of altering its own plans for a new Marina District high-rise that was going to offer apartments but now will apparently become just another hotel complex with a broadcasting studio at the base and a ballpark nearby.
Now that Paul Tagliabue has left town, Mayor 10Goals did have some semi-tough words for the NFL commissioner, who dissed the host city while visiting last month for Super Bowl XXXVII. “The NFL put him up to it,” “such a nasty comment,” and “it made no sense” were just a few of the remarks our Ozzie-and-Harriet mayor had for the long-gone NFL überlord. Still, nothing topped Councilmember Donna Frye's earlier observation that Tagliabue had obviously flunked charm school.
But what stuck in the craw of many in town was the comment Mayor 10Goals made about the city's weak-kneed efforts in the fiasco that has engulfed downtown's Maryland Hotel.
As was reported in this publication by Kelly Davis, the Maryland Hotel has become the poster child of San Diego's abysmal affordable-housing record, and in the process laid bare the cornerstone of what City Hall activist Mel Shapiro likes to call the mayor's unwritten Goal No. 11: “Get all the poor people out of downtown!”
For years a place that provided affordable living for hundreds of San Diego's poor, disabled and elderly, the Maryland now has new owners who have given remaining tenants until month's end to move out so they can take a year to convert it into a “boutique” hotel.
While most fair-minded people considered the Maryland part of the city's dwindling stock of residential SRO (single-room occupancy) hotels, the owners a few months ago began waving around a 1998 San Diego Housing Commission letter, claiming otherwise.
The new owners, known collectively as 630 F Street, conveniently would invoke a portion of the letter, that the “Maryland Hotel did not qualify as a residential SRO hotel,” but they never referred to the remainder of that sentence, that the determination was “based on the fact that rents for all rooms included meals.” Meals at the Maryland haven't been served for years.
“Did you ever hear [the owners] say that? No!” asks and answers Shapiro. “And they aren't going to say that!”
With the owners threatening to sue if they didn't get their way, the City Council last month voted 7-2 in closed session to cut a deal with 630 F Street, in which the owners agreed to spot the outgoing tenants $300,000 in relocation assistance in exchange for the council dropping its plan to pursue an emergency ordinance that would have given renters more time to find new homes and more money.
But Murphy's comment this weekend on KUSI that “that's all we could do, legally” has garnered the wrath of some folks as a misinterpretation of the facts.
Shapiro contends the mayor's words flies in the face of the settlement agreement reached by the city and hotel owners, which reads in part, “The city and the [Housing] Commission have contended and continue to contend that the SRO ordinance is enforceable against 630 F Street as it relates to the Maryland Hotel, and that the commission and the city are not precluded from enforcing the SRO ordinance....”
Adds Shapiro: “Yet the mayor goes on television and says the exact opposite of what the settlement agreement says.”
Frye, who along with colleague Toni Atkins cast the two dissenting votes on the settlement, also disagreed with the mayor's interpretation. “For starters, the Maryland residents' attorney was able to extend the eviction time period. The city could have participated in that,” Frye says in an e-mail to CityBeat. “We also could have approved the emergency SRO ordinance in December to protect the residents and help prevent the current situation.... When the issue came back last month, we could have voted to hear the emergency ordinance.
“Our existing ordinance, while not as clear as it needs to be, did allow the city an opportunity to make a case to uphold it.... So to sum it up, no, we did not do all we could do legally.”
Norma Damashek of the League of Women Voters said voters chose Murphy, in part, for his supposed respect for the law. “Instead we've got a cipher, a business-as-usual politician with a profoundly underdeveloped social conscience.”
Mayor 10Goals may wish he only had hairstyle troubles.