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Civic SD board member seeks injunction

A Civic San Diego board member has amended his lawsuit against the nonprofit to include seeking an injunction preventing Civic from making planning and permitting decisions until additional city oversight is provided.

Initially, the suit filed last month by Civic San Diego board member Murtaza Baxamusa and the San Diego County Building & Construction Trades Council had asked the court to determine whether the authority given to the nonprofit by the city is legal and to rule on related topics.

The petitioners have alleged in their San Diego Superior Court filings that the city’s delegation of planning and permitting powers to Civic San Diego without adequate safeguards violates California law.

“We are asking the court for a declaration that there is a problem, but now we are also asking the court to prevent further problems unless the city takes action,” said Steve Coopersmith, managing attorney at The Coopersmith Law Firm in San Diego.

The amended complaint that includes the request for an injunction at the conclusion of the case — as well as a refined request for a judicial declaration on the legality of the delegation of power to Civic San Diego — was served Friday on Civic and the city.

Coopersmith said his clients have not yet decided whether they will seek a preliminary injunction to halt Civic San Diego from making land-use decisions while the suit plays out.

Civic San Diego administers planning and permitting downtown and would like to expand those services into other neighborhoods.

One safeguard the complaint seeks is for the city to establish a process in which Civic San Diego’s decisions could be appealed to the City Council.

The suit argues the petitioners and the public will be irreparably harmed if no appeals process is put in place.

"Due to the fact that this is an ongoing legal matter and I have not seen the amended lawsuit, I can’t comment on the lawsuit at this time," Civic San Diego President Reese Jarrett said in a statement provided Monday evening.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith's office has maintained that the city can legally delegate authority to Civic San Diego to perform certain land-use functions within specific areas of the city.

In a recent memo outlining that stance, Goldsmith’s office also recommended that the city revisit its agreements with Civic San Diego to clarify the nonprofit's activities, increase financial oversight and include termination provisions.

Meanwhile, last week a state Assembly committee approved Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez’s legislation that would allow Civic San Diego’s planning and permitting actions to be appealed to the City Council.

The full Assembly is expected to vote soon on the San Diego’s Democrat’s bill, AB 504.

Coopersmith declined to comment on what impact, if any, passage of the legislation would have on his clients’ suit.

His clients' amended complaint also mentions the recent resignations of Andrew Phillips, Civic San Diego's chief financial officer and chief operating officer, and Cynthia Morgan-Reed, a board member.

The suit alleges the two were responsible for the oversight of the corporation's risk plan and budget submitted to the U.S. Treasury for federal New Market Tax Credits, which Civic San Diego has allocated to fund local projects.

“We anticipate investigation during discovery in this case to determine any conflict of interest issues, and the reason and timing of these resignations,” the amended complaint states.

Both Phillips and Morgan-Reed previously told The Daily Transcript their departures were not related to the lawsuit.

Phillips left Civic San Diego to become vice president of public institutions for the western division of JLL.

Morgan, an attorney at Higgs Fletcher & Mack, submitted her resignation the day the initial lawsuit was filed.

She said becoming a first-time mother and her busy career were the reasons for her decision to resign from the board.

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