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County Seeks Harbor Square Cash--or Else!

Times Staff Writer

The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to consider canceling its contract with Harbor Square Associates for a proposed commercial complex unless the firm makes its $25,000 March lease payment by Friday.

Although payment for the right to build on the county-owned property on either side of the County Administration Center has been past due since March 17, Harbor Square Associates has been officially in default only since May 7, when the board voted to order the developer to pay within 30 days or face termination of the contract.

The board also gave the developer a moratorium on its lease payments for April and May, after the City Council refused on March 26 to approve the proposed harborfront complex, which was to contain offices, restaurants, shops and a hotel. However, the supervisors held the developer to the March payment, delinquent prior to the City Council vote.

Should Harbor Square Associates fail to pay by the Friday deadline, the supervisors said, they will decide Tuesday whether to terminate the contract. Termination is supported by Supervisor Susan Golding, who has been strident in her opposition to the project since joining the board in January.

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Robert Davidson, a partner in Harbor Square Associates, said there is no way his firm will make the payment.

“The board has always known that we have no intention of paying the $25,000,” Davidson said. “I don’t see the issue of the $25,000 as being that big. It’s just being pushed by Susan Golding in an effort to kill the project. The real issue is what’s happened to the project and the city’s lack of commitment to the county. We have been a victim of that.”

The developer has asked the board to grant a 12-month exemption from the $25,000-a-month option payments because of unexpected delays caused by opposition to the project by the City Council and the city Planning Commission. On Tuesday the county board voted to consider this request to its June 18 meeting.

Golding, who opposes any exemption for the developer, said she believes the board erred in letting Harbor Square Associates escape paying the $50,000 it owed the county for April and May.

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“It’s an illegal gift of public funds,” Golding said, discounting the developer’s contention that the project has hit unforeseen snags. “No one could ever make the guarantee of project approval. That’s the risk all developers take.”

But Davidson said he remains confident the board will grant the 12-month exemption.

“It’s the only equitable thing to do,” he said. “There are five members on the board, and the only one that’s hostile is Susan Golding.”

If the county does not receive payment by Friday, Golding said, she favors calling for bids on a new approach for use of the land.

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