San Diego Civic Center Plaza Landlord Files Unlawful Detainer Against the City

Can a landlord really evict a city? 

Well, according to news sources, Lawyers for the landlord at the Civic Center Plaza filed an unlawful detainer lawsuit Tuesday against the city of San Diego, raising the stakes in an escalating conflict over a pair of lease-purchase agreements signed years ago by both parties.

An unlawful detainer is a legal way for a landlord to evict a tenant. It is often used in cases when rent or lease payments are not being paid.

This legal maneuver comes one month after City Attorney Mara Elliott announced she was seeking to void the city’s 2015 Civic Center Plaza deal and a similar agreement for the vacant high rise at 101 Ash St., which has been unusable for all but a few weeks since the city leased that property in 2017.

It also comes almost two weeks after the lender for those properties, Wilmington Trust, issued the city a pay or quit notice on the Civic Center Plaza, the building that houses the City Attorney’s Office. (Irony, thy name is this lawsuit).

“Under the lease, tenant must pay base rent and additional rent on the first day of each month,” the unlawful detainer states. “As of July 2021, tenant’s failure to pay base rent of $313,118 as well as additional rent within five business days of the first business day of the month constitutes a ‘default’.”

The City Attorney’s Office said Tuesday that the filing amounts to little more than “gamesmanship” and called it a “distraction that moves us no closer to a resolution.”

“San Diegans should be disappointed that Wilmington Trust is playing the victim rather than addressing the wrongs done to taxpayers,” spokeswoman Hilary Nemchik said by email.

“We will do everything we can to make sure public services go on uninterrupted throughout court proceedings,” she said.

The city leased the high rise directly north of city hall in 1991, signing a 23-year deal. The public square between the two properties has been the site of innumerable protests, celebrations and public demonstrations in the years since.

The city first sued Wilmington Trust and other parties related to the Ash Street property one block to the north last fall.

That complaint asked a judge to validate former Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s decision to suspend the $535,000 monthly lease payments — not to recover tens of millions of dollars the city had already paid to lease and repair that building which has been unusable due to asbestos and other issues.

The defendants filed a cross-complaint earlier this year, and both claims are pending in San Diego Superior Court.

But late last month, Elliott announced she was amending her initial lawsuit to void the Ash Street lease and the Civic Center Plaza deal, because an adviser to Faulconer named Jason Hughes collected almost $10 million from a company linked to both properties, even though Hughes and the former mayor had described his consulting as a volunteer effort.

Elliott said the payments to Hughes, just over $5 million for the Civic Center Plaza deal and $4.4 million for his work on the Ash Street high rise, represent an intolerable conflict of interest that requires both leases be invalidated. Hughes was added to the city’s lawsuit as a co-defendant.

There you have it. When city offices don’t pay their rent, THEY can also be evicted.  Disputes are everywhere! And when those annoying things negatively impact you and/or your business including landlord/tenant matters including unlawful detainers, contract issues, nuisance ADA claims and even collections, call in your good guy business litigator, Dean Sperling to resolve YOUR matter with YOUR best interests in mind!  

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