Times of San Diego
17 Nov

Times of San Diego

San Diego Settles Long-Running de la Fuente Legal Dispute

A 20-year legal dispute between businessman and presidential candidate Roque de la Fuente II and the city of San Diego over land-use issues in Otay Mesa has been settled, representatives of both sides announced Tuesday.

Under terms of the agreement, de la Fuente’s Border Business Park will receive $25 million, of which $18.75 million will be placed in a court-supervised escrow account. The city will receive $8.2 million — $3 million of which will cover legal fees.

City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said the money will come from insurance carriers.

The dispute erupted in 1995, when de la Fuente claimed the city failed to adhere to provisions of an agreement to develop more than 300 acres near the U.S.-Mexico border. Five lawsuits were filed over the course of the dispute, all of which will be dismissed, Goldsmith said.

The deal also included what he called “a safety valve,” in which Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Barton will resolve any further disagreements that arise over the next five years, without need to file a lawsuit.

“We’ve pivoted from the specter of costly litigation and a trial that would cost millions of dollars, to the potential for economic growth in the border region,” Goldsmith said at a news conference.

“Everyone wins here — Border Business Park can finally be developed into the world-class property it was intended to become, creating jobs and growing our tax base,” the city attorney said. “The border region will receive an important economic stimulus.”

He said lawyers created 61 drafts of what ended up being a 53-page settlement, with 700 additional pages of exhibits, to avoid a trial that had been scheduled for early next year.

Councilman David Alvarez, who represents the area, said the industrial development of the business park was a key missing piece for Otay Mesa to tap its economic potential.

De la Fuente did not appear at the news conference. He has filed papers with the Federal Election Commission to run for president as a Democrat.

About half the park has been developed over the years, and the deal is intended to clear the way for the other half to follow suit. The money that goes into escrow will be paid out as the company reaches certain benchmarks involving the correcting of code violations, obtaining permits and making specified property improvements.

— City News Service

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