La Jolla couple blames Mayor Bob Filner for home project delay

Project was approved 30 months ago

SAN DIEGO - A La Jolla family said San Diego Mayor Bob Filner abused his power when he took an unusual interest in their home.

Jack and Karen Visin told Team 10 the mayor is costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars and possibly their dream home.

The couple bought their home, built in 1925, in 2009. They had plans to remodel the duplex so the couple could live on one side and their kids could live in the other.

"The property was listed as not historical and you could build like 3,900 square feet," said Jack Visin.

The Visins hired a lawyer to make sure their home was, in fact, not historic and they could alter it.    

Their attorney, Scott Moomjian, researched the property and submitted his report to the Historical Resources Board and said it was accepted by staff.

The report states: "The property is not historically and/or architecturally significant."

Moomjian said this ruling gave the Visins a five-year clearance on the property.

"You're cleared for five years for any sort of future review," said Karen Visin.

The Visins said neighbors started complaining about the project.

"Our neighbor was concerned with her view being blocked," said Karen Visin.

Team 10 obtained an email written by their neighbor complaining about her view, air quality and privacy.

The Visins said the complaints later switched to calls for the home to be designated as a historic property.

"No one famous had lived there, it's not done by a famous architect and it doesn't fit the criteria," said Karen Visin.

The couple met with the La Jolla Community Planning Association three times and were later granted a coastal planning permit by the city of San Diego. They drew up their plans and appeared in front of the San Diego Planning Commission.

The Visins said to their shock, Allen Jones, Filner's former deputy chief of staff, addressed the commission about their property during the June 13, 2013, meeting.

"It's not often that we appear in front of you to make a request like this, in fact, I think this is the first time," said Jones. "But this is a project where the mayor believes there are some important historical and issues of historic significance that have not been satisfactorily addressed."

The commission agreed to send the matter back to the Historical Resources Board -- staff on the same board deemed the property was not historic two-and-a-half years ago.

"I think the mayor had everything to do with it," Jack Visin said. "I mean, Allen Jones was just his flunky that came down here and was doing what he was told to do."

Moomjian told Team 10 it's the first time in his 20-year career that a mayor's office "has personally intervened to refer a matter like this after it's already been cleared by staff to the Historical Resource Board."

The Visins told Team 10 they've offered to pay to remove the home and keep it in tact and donate to a historical society or any other concerned group, but those offers have been rejected.

Moomjian believes this move by the mayor's office is against a city ordinance and a challenge is limited to 90 days after the initial decision. He said this project had been cleared by the historical project board staff for more than two years.

The matter will be heard in front of the Historical Resources Board later this month.

The Visins just want to know why the mayor's office intervened.

"I have no idea, other than he is abusing his power in some way or he owed someone a favor," Jack Visin said. "I think he has a lot better things to do than messing around with an old 600-square-foot cottage."

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