Blackwater inquiry sought
Union Tribune (2008-05-06) Tanya Mannes
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How city permits obtained at issue
By Tanya Mannes
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
May 6, 2008
San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders wants to know whether Blackwater Worldwide misrepresented itself when it sought city permits to set up an indoor military training facility in Otay Mesa.
Blackwater has leased an industrial building near Brown Field where it will operate a shooting range, a simulated Navy ship and classrooms.
Yesterday, Sanders sent a memo to the city's chief operating officer, Jay Goldstone, asking for an investigation into the company's permits with a report by May 23.
“Questions have been raised as to the appropriateness of this location for the uses planned by Blackwater and the means used by the company to acquire the necessary permits from the City,” the memo said.
“Specifically, allegations have been made that the company potentially used misleading names . . . to inappropriately disguise the true identity of the occupant.”
In March, San Diego's Development Services Department granted the permits for interior improvements at the Otay Mesa facility without public hearings. The site was zoned for a vocational school, and city staff members decided that Blackwater's training of Navy personnel qualified.
Blackwater's permits were obtained by Raven Development Group. Southwest Law Enforcement's name is on the design plan that the city reviewed.
Brian Bonfiglio, a Blackwater vice president, said those companies are “known affiliates” of Blackwater.
“I don't think the claim about misleading names has any merit,” Bonfiglio said. “I'm very content that we have done everything required of us by the city.”
Sanders' memo was sent four days after Rep. Bob Filner, D-San Diego, wrote a letter asking for Sanders' support “in preventing Blackwater's presence in San Diego.”
The Courage Campaign, a statewide political group that focuses on grass-roots efforts, said it has gathered 2,500 signatures to pressure San Diego officials to “block Blackwater from building a base on our border.”
Filner joined City Council President Scott Peters and Councilman Ben Hueso in an April 25 rally to oppose the plan, saying the public deserved advance notice.
Blackwater, a North Carolina company, has leased a 61,600-square-foot building in a business park on Siempre Viva Road, three blocks from the U.S.-Mexico border. Until last year, the building was used as a distribution warehouse by the Los Angeles company Hometex.
Blackwater recently scuttled plans for an 824-acre training center in Potrero in East County after noise tests showed gunfire at the site exceeded county standards. The company's plans there had sparked intense opposition.
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