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After hours of debate, no decision on 101 Ash

101 ash bldg.jpg
Posted at 4:22 PM, Feb 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-22 20:34:55-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — After four hours behind closed doors Tuesday, the City Council remained undecided over how to solve the 101 Ash Street real-estate debacle.

The city signed a lease-to-own agreement for the building in late 2016, paying $18,000 a day in rent. It planned to move 1,100 workers into its 19 floors, but a problem arose. A group of workers who eventually did move in were quickly moved out after the county discovered traces of asbestos.

On Tuesday, the building remained vacant, the city already paying more than $20 million in rent. At the same time, the council met in closed session to discuss three lawsuits over 101 Ash and a related building at Civic Center Plaza.

The council took no action after four hours, including on a settlement proposed by former city attorney Mike Aguirre on a taxpayer lawsuit over 101 Ash transaction.

"It's something that I think that is fair to the other side to the extent that fairness is appropriate, but more importantly it relieves (the city) from making any more payments," Aguirre said. "It gives the city an opportunity to say, wait a minute, I'm not sure we even need a big building anymore."

Meanwhile, a criminal probe into the transaction continues.

In October, agents for the County District Attorney searched the offices of landlord Cisterra and real estate consultant Jason Hughes, who, according to legal documents, negotiated on behalf of the city for free, then accepted a $9.4 million payment from Cisterra and a newly created 101 Ash LLC once the transactions for 101 Ash and the Civic Center Plaza building were completed.

Both Hughes and Cisterra have denied wrongdoing.