San Diego’s Hotelier Cabal

Proud Sponsors of San Diego’s Greatest Civic Failures

By objectively reviewing San Diego’s multiple recent civic setbacks and failures, you will find one common denominator with all – hoteliers – more specifically San Diego’s Hotelier Cabal. The Cabal has done more damage to San Diego’s civic landscape than all other self-serving and nefarious interests combined. What is astonishing is that San Diego’s political and civic leaders let it continue unabated, and the media remains silent. Thus, the purpose of HotelierCabal.com, to awaken our city to a clear and present danger before us.

The Cabal is not comprised of all San Diego’s hoteliers, or even a majority of them; it is THREE locally-owned hoteliers (who inherited their businesses) bent upon serving their own interests at the expense of everyone else’s. Headquartered in the Mission Bay / Mission Valley / Point Loma areas, they have tentacles throughout the city and are San Diego’s equivalent to Old Man Potter in the 1946 Christmas movie classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Their intent is to keep San Diego provincial and under their control. They operate silently in the shadows like black widow spiders so they can’t be fingered; and they succeed by leverage over most high-placed local politicians (via political contributions, right and left) and media silence (via media buys / donations, and until May 2015, San Diego’s largest media-outlet being hotelier-owned). Follow the $’s and you will find their webbing.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines CABAL as “The artifices and intrigues of a group of persons secretly united in a plot (as to overturn a government)”. If you have not previously heard about San Diego’s Hotelier Cabal, do not feel badly or ignorant, this is precisely the Cabal’s intent. Cabals, by their very nature, do not come announcing themselves, nor do they admit what they are up to. Secrecy and obscurity are their camouflage for nefarious and self-serving intentions.

Make no mistake though, there is a powerful Hotelier Cabal at work in San Diego, and it is laying waste to our civic landscape at unprecedented speed – from our Balboa Park, to our Centennial, to our Chargers, to our Convention Center, to our city’s identity, to our international sailing competitions, to our largest and oldest newspaper, to our Comic-Con, and on and on. Now for the facts as they are.

The TEN most destructive Hotelier Cabal Bombs to explode on our civic landscape:

2015 Centennial Celebration + Balboa Park

Our Balboa Park Centennial Celebration was to be the year-long party of the century for San Diego, celebrating the 1915 Panama-California Exposition that put San Diego on the map and made our city what it is today. Furthermore, the Centennial was to be the civic impetus for raising the money necessary to finally address Balboa Park’s significant backlog of needed deferred maintenance – estimated to be at least $300 million.

Unfortunately, the Hotelier Cabal had their own ideas and seized control of the event (via a $300k TMD donation of taxpayer money) in order to use it to drive hotel room sales for themselves in the off-season. They promptly stacked the Centennial Board with hoteliers and fellow-travelers, appointed their chief hotelier political consiglieri as CEO, and proceeded to lock everyone else out – including many passionate San Diegans with great ideas, numerous enthusiastic volunteers, and at least one of the world’s most experienced theme park builders and operators. The hotelier CEO topped it off with claims they would be raising $50 million for the grand event.

Without experience or vision in this realm though, the Cabal quickly got in over their heads and sailed the event straight into a reef. Similar to rats, the CEO and multiple board members abandoned ship en masse handing off the CEO position to an unwitting city dupe (who didn’t know the extent of the water leaking into the hold) to go down with the ship, and she did. The result was $3 – $5 million of taxpayer money gone missing, not a single thing to show for it, and no one to date has been held accountable. Did the hoteliers pony up to reimburse the taxpayers? Of course not. Likewise, San Diego City Council, as well as the media, astonishingly gave the real culprits a pass, why? (Could it have something to do with the extensive hotelier donations to San Diego’s Councilmembers and District Attorney, as well as the Council wishing to avoid acknowledging their negligence in oversight over significant taxpayer funds?)

If you go to Balboa Park today (in the midst of our 2015 Centennial Year), the only indications of a Centennial event are a few haphazard banners hanging in the parking lots, along with a few museum exhibits. Likewise, the $300 million plus of needed deferred maintenance remains untouched. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Chargers Downtown Stadium Site

The Chargers have been a San Diego institution since 1961, and have been seeking a new stadium for the past 14 years. The one and only Chargers stadium site with potential for success has long been recognized as a downtown multi-purpose facility in conjunction with an expanded Convention Center (non-contiguous). The Hotelier Cabal would hear none of it though, and has fought tooth and nail since 2010 to block downtown from consideration. The Cabal repeatedly claims that an expanded Convention Center absolutely must be contiguous, pointing to a 98% study result to support their stance. In reality, the Cabal simply does not want to share one penny of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) honey pot of taxpayer funds (they view as theirs) funding a stadium or convention center they don’t control.

The recent Mission Valley Stadium proposal is simply our political leaders (beholden to the Cabal) going through the motions (CSAG) to look like they are doing something. Those in the know have long recognized that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) makes the current Mission Valley proposal improbable at best; and a hoped for CEQA exemption has longer odds than the lottery. As such, if our leaders were truly trying to accomplish something for San Diego, they would ignore the Cabal and be speeding toward a downtown multi-purpose stadium solution. Instead, they continue to waste invaluable time with PR political spin tactics to pin-the-tail-on-Fabiani so they have a scapegoat if the Chargers leave. The hard truth is this – the six years the Cabal spent blocking the Chargers downtown prospects is what enabled Stan Kroenke and the St. Louis Rams the time to launch their recent LA gambit…setting off an NFL gold-rush to LA…a business threat the Chargers simply can’t ignore. (Ignoring such would be equivalent to RIM Blackberry ignoring the Apple iPhone threat = Death.)

San Diego’s Mayor has now astonishingly proposed (and the City Council has approved) a Mission Valley Stadium Environmental Impact Report (EIR) that the Chargers don’t want, and nearly everyone admits will be useless – at a cost of $2.1 million to the taxpayers. Quoting Voice of San Diego’s Morning Report on July 14, 2015The Mayor is asking the Council to spend money that could be used for anything the City needs. If we wanted to spend it on planning, for instance, $2.1 million is more than most community plans cost to update. Secondly, the rushed environmental report will have a consequence: The City is taking real estate development around the new stadium off the table as a way to pay for that new stadium. That means there is nothing — at all — public about how a stadium would be financed and yet we’re supposedly driving fast and furious toward a December or January vote to approve it. The Mayor refuses to elaborate on his vision for funding the stadium.” VOSD’s Scott Lewis followed up in a tweet: “To review, the Mayor is asking for $2.1 million on a plan the Chargers don’t want and that the County was unwilling to support.

The only purpose for this approach is to force the Chargers Stadium issue to a public vote, where the taxpaying public will be asked to pay for the new stadium in its entirety, and thus the vote will decisively fail. This is crazy – without the ancillary development, the Mayor is effectively proposing the City and County pay for the entire portion of the public share of the stadium from the General Fund of both entities, without a mechanism to ever refund the General Fund (the taxpayers). Imagine what will happen when voters get a hold of that? Aha…and that’s exactly the point…and what the Hotelier Cabal (and Mayor) want. Via this approach, the Mayor obtains full political cover because the voters decisively vote down the Chargers Stadium for him, thus he will not be blamed for the Chargers leaving San Diego. Likewise, the Hotelier Cabal finally gets rid of the Chargers once and for all, and obtains full control over downtown and the Convention Center to continue pillaging as they see fit. The Cabal’s playbook is patently obvious – and they have repeatedly proven their willingness to squander taxpayer monies (only $2.1 million this time) if it fits their self-serving purposes. Bottom line, the Mayor’s (and Cabal’s) Mission Valley Stadium plan is a sham – the “fix is in” as they say in boxing. The Chargers picked up on this, and wisely halted negotiations. You can not come to an agreement unless both sides are genuinely negotiating in good faith; and under current leadership, the City clearly is not.

Love the Chargers, or hate them, that certainly is your choice, but do not buy the Cabal’s (and Mayor’s) PR political spin-machine laying the blame on the Chargers for the current situation. The real culprit, again, is the Hotelier Cabal self-dealing and self-serving, as always. The Cabal’s delay and sabotage of the downtown site is why the Chargers Stadium issue remains unresolved, and why San Diego will likely lose the team to LA. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Convention Center Expansion

Despite repeated warnings by Chargers spokesman Mark Fabiani, as well as numerous non-Chargers legal minds, the Cabal pursued an expensive and unconstitutional tax approach to get their self-serving contiguous Convention Center expansion approved in 2012. The Cabal’s overarching goal was to quickly torpedo the Chargers downtown prospects. Sure enough, after six years and more than $10 million in taxpayer monies spent on legal fees, the Cabal tax plan was slapped down as illegal and unconstitutional by the Courts. Did the Cabal pony up to reimburse the taxpayers for this $10 million? Of course not. Furthermore, the Convention Center has now lost the lease to the land for the contiguous expansion the Cabal claimed was essential. So, our Chargers have been forced to seriously pursue an LA option, the Convention Center expansion is dead, the lease for the land has been lost, no resultant economic development will occur, and the increased tax base for the City is AWOL. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

NOW (September 2015) based on yet another questionable study (links below) commissioned by the City and the hoteliers, our Mayor has just announced his intention to AGAIN support a contiguous Convention Center expansion and take it to a public vote in 2016. Even though doing so will AGAIN cost millions to the taxpayers – and even though most agree the vote will decisively fail based on the high 66.7% approval threshold necessary. Even if all the stars align and it miraculously passes, it will then end up in court for another decade fending off legal challenges based on how this contiguous expansion further walls off our waterfront from public access.

SO WHY IN THE WORLD IS OUR MAYOR PURSUING THIS DEAD-END APPROACH THEN? Because, just like with the Chargers Stadium issue, the real intent is NOT to solve the problem at hand. The Mayor (and Hotelier Cabal) are duplicitously attempting to inoculate themselves from blame when Comic-Con inevitably announces they are departing San Diego after 2018 because of San Diego’s failure to add the convention space they have long requested. The Mayor and Cabal intend to simply blame the Comic-Con loss on the voters decision and / or the instigators of the legal challenges. So instead of pursuing a viable non-contiguous solution for Comic-Con (as well as a viable Chargers Stadium solution), our fearless Mayor (and his hotelier bosses) AGAIN would rather squander millions of taxpayer monies in order to give the Mayor political cover, and most importantly, protect the Cabal’s stranglehold on the City’s TOT / TMD honey pot of taxpayer monies. All too obvious…and all too despicable.

Think about this in a nutshell fellow San Diegans – Why is our Mayor saying it’s okay to raise the TOT tax for an expanded Convention Center, but NOT for a combined Convention Center / Stadium that would actually resolve three major civic problems all at once? Why? Why? Why? It’s backwards and illogical – and glaring proof that our Mayor is simply a puppet of the Hotelier Cabal. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Happy Happens (Shit Happens) City Marketing

Does San Diego have a real identity that projects on the global stage like New York City (The Big Apple + I NY), Las Vegas (Sin City + What Happens Here Stays Here), Paris (City of Light), Apple (Think Different), GE (Imagination at Work), or Nike (Just Do It)? And why not?

It is unconscionable that the Cabal has controlled and allocated over $200 million (of taxpayer monies) since 2008 to market San Diego, and yet, San Diego still has no global identity. Can you imagine Nike or Coca-Cola ever allowing such to occur with their businesses?

The Tourism Authority (formerly known as ConVis) is the organization in charge of marketing San Diego, and it is the protégé and Mini-Me of the Hotelier Cabal. The Cabal, via TMD, has astonishingly (likely unconstitutionally) been allowed to control the purse strings on over $30 million per year of taxpayer funds to market San Diego. These funds, in turn, have been distributed to Mini-Me to do the marketing. Instead of developing a real identity and marketing message for San Diego though, the Tourism Authority has relentlessly debased and embarrassed San Diego for years with throw-away ad campaigns serving only to fill their Cabalmaster’s hotel rooms short-term. The most notorious of their campaigns being “Happy Happens”…a direct play off of the 1970’s slang “Shit Happens”…re-popularized in the 1994 Forest Gump movie. What marketing entity worth its salt would subliminally and contextually associate our beautiful city with “Shit”? (Their most recent campaigns include “Yooo Hooo, Big Smiles Are Calling”, “Happiness is Calling”, “Mr. Positivity”, and actual “flip-flops” used as their centerpiece in Instagram marketing – cheap clichés all – as shallow and empty of meaning as ever.) All outsider efforts to create a meaningful San Diego brand have been spurned – one notably being the City of Life – check out the City of Life Endorsement Team and Universal Messaging Platform for San Diego.

Furthermore, the Mini-Me CEO (of course a former hotelier himself) is paid an extravagant $435,000 per year…and yes, that is from taxpayer monies. Note that San Diego’s Mayor and City Councilmembers earn $100,464 and $75,386 respectively. So, exactly for what reasons does this Tourism Authority CEO warrant such outlandishly high pay? For his stewardship in NOT creating a compelling global brand and message for San Diego? For his stewardship in creating numerous marketing embarrassments for San Diego such as Happy Happens (Shit Happens) and Yooo Hooo Big Smiles Are Calling? Pure and simple, this pay package is highway robbery of the taxpayer. Outrageous is the only word that comes to mind. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

2017 America’s Cup

Modern day San Diego was discovered by sailors (Cabrillo, 1542) and is widely-recognized as one of the greatest sailing capitals in the world. As such, San Diego has been privileged to host the America’s Cup three times with incredible global success and recognition – 1988, 1992 and 1995. Last year, 2014, community leaders put forth an extensive bid to bring back the America’s Cup event in 2017, only to be undercut by the Hotelier Cabal that refused to allocate (TMD taxpayer) funding to promote San Diego. The result was San Diego’s bid failed (to Bermuda of all places), we don’t get the worldwide attention and advertising for San Diego, nor do we get the extensive economic benefits for our community. The Cabal has repeatedly proven they care only about what directly benefits themselves, not San Diego. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Convention Center Fight-For-Control

To the surprise of many, the Cabal and the Convention Center are often at odds, depending on which Cabal members and agents are on the Convention Center Board, and what positions they hold. The Cabal has been strong-arming for control of the Convention Center in a myriad of ways for years, having serious detrimental effects on the Convention Center. (This Cabal inspired power-struggle is likely the reason the adjacent land-lease was lost, and a dark omen for Comic-Con’s future in San Diego.) Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Contiguous Convention Center Expansion Hypocrisy

After stonewalling and derailing the Chargers downtown prospects for 6 years, thus forcing the Chargers to seriously pursue an LA option, the Cabal is now suddenly saying a non-contiguous Convention Center expansion may be okay after all…ignoring their notorious so-called 98% study. Quoting Voice of San Diego on June 12, 2015: “Turns out expansion proponents might think an unattached, offsite expansion may not be such a bad idea after all. Ashly McGlone reports on how the city’s top expansion honcho thinks conventioneer tastes may have changed since a 2009 survey found 98 percent of existing Convention Center customers thought it was critical to have contiguous event space.” As the Cabal has repeatedly proven – they will say or do anything, and invent or make-up any kind of study result necessary, in order to fit their self-serving needs. Really, they have now found wiggle-room in their Soviet-style 98% study result? Preposterous.

The truth is this – after having successfully torpedoed the Chargers downtown prospects via CSAG moving the stadium conversation back to Mission Valley, the Cabal is now looking to quickly sneak through a Convention Center expansion (without the Chargers being a part of it). Contiguous or non-contiguous, the Cabal doesn’t care one iota – as their hypocrisy above has proven – their overarching goal is to keep the Chargers out of downtown. The Cabal simply does not want to share one penny of the TOT honey pot of taxpayer funds (they view as theirs) funding a stadium or convention center they don’t control. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

NOW (September 2015) based on yet another questionable study (links below) commissioned by the City and the hoteliers, our Mayor has just announced his intention to AGAIN support a contiguous Convention Center expansion and take it to a public vote in 2016. Even though doing so will AGAIN cost millions to the taxpayers – and even though most agree the vote will decisively fail based on the high 66.7% approval threshold necessary. Even if all the stars align and it miraculously passes, it will then end up in court for another decade fending off legal challenges based on how this contiguous expansion further walls off our waterfront from public access.

SO WHY IN THE WORLD IS OUR MAYOR PURSUING THIS DEAD-END APPROACH THEN? Because, just like with the Chargers Stadium issue, the real intent is NOT to solve the problem at hand. The Mayor (and Hotelier Cabal) are duplicitously attempting to inoculate themselves from blame when Comic-Con inevitably announces they are departing San Diego after 2018 because of San Diego’s failure to add the convention space they have long requested. The Mayor and Cabal intend to simply blame the Comic-Con loss on the voters decision and / or the instigators of the legal challenges. So instead of pursuing a viable non-contiguous solution for Comic-Con (as well as a viable Chargers Stadium solution), our fearless Mayor (and his hotelier bosses) AGAIN would rather squander millions of taxpayer monies in order to give the Mayor political cover, and most importantly, protect the Cabal’s stranglehold on the City’s TOT / TMD honey pot of taxpayer monies. All too obvious…and all too despicable.

Think about this in a nutshell fellow San Diegans – Why is our Mayor saying it’s okay to raise the TOT tax for an expanded Convention Center, but NOT for a combined Convention Center / Stadium that would actually resolve three major civic problems all at once? Why? Why? Why? It’s backwards and illogical – and glaring proof that our Mayor is simply a puppet of the Hotelier Cabal. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

The San Diego Union-Tribune Sale – May, 2015

When looking to sell The San Diego Union-Tribune (U-T San Diego) (Union founded 1868, Tribune 1895), the hotelier-owned entity was presented with a unique opportunity to do something truly extraordinary for San Diego. A group of prominent civic leaders led by Malin Burnham and Bill Geppert proposed (and had financing arranged) to buy the newspaper in a novel approach as a non-profit community newspaper with all profits to be plowed into a foundation to benefit the community in perpetuity. The newspaper would remain intact and the printing presses would stay in San Diego. Instead of choosing this path, something clearly in the best interests of San Diego and our civic landscape, the hotelier-owned newspaper was sold to the parent company of the Los Angeles Times for a nominal amount more.

Do not trust hoteliers wearing charitable donations on their sleeves (often a tactic used to offset taxable gains and /or because they want to see their names on buildings), who, when given a real opportunity to do something of significant benefit to San Diego, instead grab for the few extra dollars they can squeeze out of the deal for themselves. At least 178 San Diego families are now paying the price for that extra juice squeezed and now being served at the hotelier’s breakfast table inside his newly purchased $17 million Foxhill La Jolla estate.

Not only have the hoteliers forced our Chargers to seriously pursue an LA option, now they have gift-wrapped our largest, oldest and most important newspaper to be carpet-bagged to LA as well. (No offense intended to Tribune Publishing, the respectable business entity that purchased the UT.) Within one week of the deal closing, 178 Union-Tribune employees in San Diego were laid off, within three weeks all San Diego printing operations were shut down and moved to LA, and more layoffs are expected. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Comic-Con on the Brink?

San Diego Comic-Con International was established in San Diego in 1970 and has grown to be one of the world’s largest and most recognized annual conventions. Now, due to the self-serving actions of the Hotelier Cabal, San Diego is on the brink of losing this convention that attracts over 130,000 attendees and generates over $178 million in economic impact (2014 numbers) for San Diego. Once again, further proof that these hoteliers could care less about San Diego’s civic landscape, and will put anything at risk so long as they can benefit themselves. (Note that hoteliers had ZERO to do with the creation of Comic-Con in the first place.) Because of the hoteliers, The San Diego Union-Tribune has already moved to LA, the Chargers are packing their bags for LA, what should have been San Diego’s 2017 America’s Cup is heading to Bermuda, and now Comic-Con is one foot out the door after 2018, probably destined for Anaheim or LA. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

NOW (September 2015) based on yet another questionable study (links below) commissioned by the City and the hoteliers, our Mayor has just announced his intention to AGAIN support a contiguous Convention Center expansion and take it to a public vote in 2016. Even though doing so will AGAIN cost millions to the taxpayers – and even though most agree the vote will decisively fail based on the high 66.7% approval threshold necessary. Even if all the stars align and it miraculously passes, it will then end up in court for another decade fending off legal challenges based on how this contiguous expansion further walls off our waterfront from public access.

SO WHY IN THE WORLD IS OUR MAYOR PURSUING THIS DEAD-END APPROACH THEN? Because, just like with the Chargers Stadium issue, the real intent is NOT to solve the problem at hand. The Mayor (and Hotelier Cabal) are duplicitously attempting to inoculate themselves from blame when Comic-Con inevitably announces they are departing San Diego after 2018 because of San Diego’s failure to add the convention space they have long requested. The Mayor and Cabal intend to simply blame the Comic-Con loss on the voters decision and / or the instigators of the legal challenges. So instead of pursuing a viable non-contiguous solution for Comic-Con (as well as a viable Chargers Stadium solution), our fearless Mayor (and his hotelier bosses) AGAIN would rather squander millions of taxpayer monies in order to give the Mayor political cover, and most importantly, protect the Cabal’s stranglehold on the City’s TOT / TMD honey pot of taxpayer monies. All too obvious…and all too despicable.

Think about this in a nutshell fellow San Diegans – Why is our Mayor saying it’s okay to raise the TOT tax for an expanded Convention Center, but NOT for a combined Convention Center / Stadium that would actually resolve three major civic problems all at once? Why? Why? Why? It’s backwards and illogical – and glaring proof that our Mayor is simply a puppet of the Hotelier Cabal. Thank you hoteliers for all you do.

Etcetera, Etcetera, Etcetera

 

Bomb Craters Galore, Thank You Hoteliers

The hoteliers think they run this town, and since November 2005, they shockingly have been allowed to do just that. And they have been relentlessly carpet-bombing our beautiful city into the ground ever since, while shipping off our key assets to Los Angeles, Bermuda, and elsewhere.

The Cabal’s PR spin machine works 24-hours a day trying to sell us that their interests (filling hotel rooms) are synonymous with San Diego’s civic interests – the many examples above prove they are not. In fact, their actions have proven their interests to be diametrically opposed to the rest of us. Likewise, the Cabal arrogantly portrays themselves as the reason for San Diego’s tourism industry itself, wrong again. Hotels are not the draw, San Diego is the draw – an amazing city we love, and so do our visitors.

San Diego has many important industries and interests — a world-class life science cluster, wireless technology and innovation industries, our brave Navy and Marine personnel who defend American life, military defense industry, professional sports teams, green and blue economies, higher education institutions, and so on. Are any of these interests even remotely attempting to commandeer our civic landscape? Absolutely not, only the hoteliers.

The civic overreach attempted by THREE older white men (and their agents / minions) who operate overnight room-rental businesses is breathtaking. Their results, however, are not. The Hotelier Cabal is our city’s greatest impediment to progress, and the civic carnage will continue until it is eradicated.