By Frank Gormlie / The OB Rag
A developer and political insider – a former chairman of the San Diego Planning Commission – appears to have benefited big-time from a City of San Diego affordable and sustainability housing program – that he was ineligible for – by being allowed to construct single-family McMansions at the coast.
Tim Golba of Golba Architecture was given the green light by the City’s Development Services Department to obtain the permits for his single family home projects through the city’s “Affordable/In-Fill Housing and Sustainable Buildings Expedite Program.” We know this, thanks to the diligence of the Voice of San Diego.
The program is supposed to allow for building permits to be processed in half of the normal time, for a $500 fee, for residential projects of four or more units – and is meant to reduce the cost of developing affordable housing — and entice developers to build more compact, energy efficient, urban development. That is, to even qualify for the program – created via a council vote in 2003 – the developers need to give back something to the community or environment – as in affordable housing, or homes with low-greenhouse gas footprints.
But a report released a week ago by City Auditor Eduardo Luna found that in reality many of the projects fast-tracked under the city’s program were neither affordable nor sustainable – and not really expedited either.
Auditors concluded that nearly one-third of permit reviews completed through the program between 2011 and 2015 were granted to single family homes and other small residential projects that “provide questionable environmental benefits and, in many cases, should not have been admitted to the program.”
Get this: the average size of the single-family homes approved under the program meant for affordable housing was 5,000 square feet – which is more than twice the size of a typical San Diego house. One house was as large as 31,000 square feet.
According to the auditors’ report, many of these single family houses, frequently clustered along the coast, were not even eligible for the program’s promised fast-tracking in the first place – as per City Council policy – the “expedite” program is limited to housing developments of four or more units.
Back to Tim Golba. According to Andrew Keatts at Voice of San Diego:
According to city records, Golba’s company built 31 percent of all the single-family homes that were approved by the sustainable expedite program since 2006.
That would be 31% of the total of 70 single-family homes built in that period – but at the end of the article, there is a correction; an additional 9 units are added to Golba’s column, for a total of 31 units, or44% of all the single families. So at least one well-connected developer was able to take advantage of a program for affordable housing and build all those units.
Far and away the most frequent user of the program was Golba Architecture. … In 2014, Mayor Kevin Faulconer appointed Golba chair of the [San Diego Planning] commission.
Golba is a regular donor to Republican politicians and causes. He and his wife both gave the maximum legal amount to Faulconer’s mayoral campaign in 2016 and 2014. Overall, he’s contributed over $12,000 to City Council and mayoral elections since 2007, including a donation to the Lincoln Club of San Diego.
Don’t ever let anyone tell you connections don’t count in San Diego.
And Golba wasn’t the only beneficiary of a city department’s slackness. The VOSD:
Records available through the city’s Open DSD platform show that of those 70 homes, more than half were completed by just five architecture companies.
It appears that the program has malfunctioned. VOSD:
Half of all projects that used the program from 2011 to 2015 — the period covered by the audit – were ineligible. Thirty percent of the projects that used it were single-family homes.
Additional information obtained by Voice of San Diego through a public records request shows that 70 single-family homes were approved within the program since 2006.
But back to Golba. Matt Potter over at the San Diego Reader had this to say in 2014 about Golba’s political connections, his campaign contributions and even an ethics fine:
In addition to his big money to the mayor’s political cause, city campaign disclosure data show Golba’s firm, Golba Architecture, gave at least $3250 to the GOP Lincoln Club, the group that mowed down the mayoral hopes of Republican-turned-Democrat Nathan Fletcher and Democrat David Alvarez with devastatingly effective hit pieces, clearing then–city councilman Faulconer’s way to higher office. …
Golba’s contribution to the Faulconer cause consisted of $2000 from himself and $1000 from wife Tracy Ann. The Golbas have also given $3000 to the failed mayoral hopes of ex–city councilman Carl DeMaio in 2012 and $1500 to the 2014 reelection campaign of GOP city councilwoman Lorie Zapf, the data shows.
A little more than two years ago, in March of 2012, Golba agreed to pay a $3000 penalty to the city’s ethics commission after it was discovered that from 2009 through 2011 he had failed to disclose sources of income to his business greater than $10,000, as required by state law.
The amount of the fine was so low, according to stipulation reached between Golba and the commission because “he provided information demonstrating that he carefully refrained from participating in, or otherwise influencing, any Planning Commission decisions that involve sources of income to his architectural firm.”
Documented details of the information Golba ostensibly furnished regarding his potential conflict of interests and the identity of his undisclosed clients was not made public by the commission.
More on Golba and the City’s crackdown on coastal McMansions later.
San Diego U-T by James DeHaven – Dec 6
San Diego U-T James DeHaven Dec 6
Voice of San Diego by Andrew Keatts
tom 2 says
You didn’t mention the part that bothered me the most in the VoSD article: Golba matter of factly stating that lots of DSD business is conducted in this informal, off the books, against the law & regulations way. He likes that DSD operates with “informal policy”, giving advantages to locally connected insiders, as opposed to a developer from Scottsdale who reads the formal written policy and follows the rules. He says he sheds tears when senior staff retire, because developers lose some of this “how to interpret the code”.
That sounds a lot like corruption to me, and helps provide context for the shenanigans about artificially raising the grade elevation to get around the coastal height restrictions, the Jack in the Box on Upas, and other services to developers from DSD.
Frank Gormlie says
tom 2 – yes, I agree. I’m saving that for a part 2 to be posted in the coming days.