Nick Inzunza, mayor of National City and candidate for state Assembly, passionately talks about how hard he works to improve the lives of poor people by giving voice to their struggles.
He has publicly taken credit for investing the millions he has made in real estate “to create affordable housing in the inner city.”
What Inzunza never mentions, though, is that nearly all of the properties, with more than 100 rental units, have been the subject of lawsuits, complaints by tenants and code enforcement investigations.
“Excessive rats,” one woman wrote to a judge. “Cockroaches … crawl on bed and on the baby,” wrote another. “Toilet broken. My kids had to walk to Burger King to use the public restroom,” still another said.
The complaints are similar: no heat, no hot water, no screens, no smoke detectors. Broken windows, broken stove, broken shower, broken toilet. Rats, ants, roaches.
All of those who spoke up were evicted.
Asked recently about the condition of the properties, Inzunza said they belong to his wife, and that he hasn’t “stepped foot on them in years.” The mayor’s name, however, is on all of the deeds except two, one of which he transferred solely to his wife this week, after being told The San Diego Union-Tribune examination of his properties was about to be published.
In a June 2003 interview with San Diego Metropolitan magazine, Nick Inzunza touted his accumulation of real estate.
“Through a seven-year period of acquiring property, I was able to make acquisitions totaling $3.2 million. I have since been able to reinvest my cash in these properties to rehabilitate them and create affordable housing in the inner city, keeping in mind when I bought these properties, most were abandoned or vacant housing structures. Today, these properties are valued at $9.4 million, 132 units, no single-family units.”
Inzunza said he has no direct control over the properties, even though he owned them before transferring them to his wife, Olga Payan. He said he wishes he could play a larger role in the apartment management, but his hands are tied.
“I wish I could play a stronger role in what occurs in these properties, but the truth is, they are under the Payan family trust,” Inzuzna said. “It’s not the Inzunza family trust. My family doesn’t have a family trust.”
Still, Inzunza has said he will look into the complaints.
“I’ve talked to my wife; she says she will do some work on the properties, but she has to talk to her family, you know,” Inzunza said.
So, when he says that he acquired the properties he meant he married into them, and when called on it, he hides behind his wife. Which leads us to this:
National City Mayor Nick Inzunza transferred ownership of nine San Diego County properties to his wife this week, three weeks after telling The San Diego Union-Tribune the properties weren’t his.
On Thursday, the Union-Tribune published the results of a nine-month investigation into the mayor’s real estate holdings and detailed conditions at the Inzunzas’ 15 properties. Nearly all of the properties, with more than 100 rental units, have been the subject of city code compliance investigations, lawsuits and tenants’ complaints.
On Nov. 22, Inzunza, who is a candidate for the state Assembly, said in an interview with the Union-Tribune that all of the properties belonged to his wife, Olga Payan. However, the San Diego County properties the couple owned jointly were transferred to Payan just this week, according to the San Diego County Assessor’s Office.
Of the 15 Inzunza properties, 13 are in San Diego County. Payan purchased one of those properties, a Coronado home, under her name alone 14 months ago. Last week, after being interviewed regarding his properties, Inzunza and his wife deeded a property on Myrtle Avenue in San Diego to Canza LLC. Earlier records for that property show Nick Inzunza as a “managing member” of Canza, along with real estate agent Lori J. Canales and her husband, Michael Canales. The mailing address for Canza was listed on the most recent document as the same post office box in Coronado the Inzunzas have been using for the past year and a half.
On Tuesday, the San Diego County Assessor’s Office received the property transfer request for eight of the properties. One of the transfers showed up in the assessor’s records the next day, Wednesday. The others appeared yesterday.
On Monday, Inzunza said the property transfers have been “in the process for 12 months.” However, the assessor’s office said transfers usually take two to four weeks.
“It’s not going to take 12 months unless something went horribly, horribly wrong,” said Sharon Ferguson, the assistant division chief of the assessor records department.
Inzunza said it took months to create a family trust for his wife, which delayed the transfer process.
After the Union-Tribune made two attempts to contact Inzunza’s wife to verify her role in the properties’ maintenance and ownership, she faxed a letter asking for privacy on Dec. 9. She stated the properties were “personal matters.”
“I would very much appreciate it if you did not contact me at any further time,” the letter reads. “I want to live my life, not have it recorded, so please accept my wholehearted request and allow me to keep my life and my children’s life private.”
The letter had no letterhead and was not signed. The fax number was traced back to a lawyer’s office in San Diego.
On Thursday, Inzunza told television reporters to direct all questions regarding the properties to his wife.
So the husband hides behind the wife who, in turn, hides behind her children.
…and to think that Inzunza had big plans:
So when is he running for governor?
Inzunza gives himself four years to get his projects either completed or so far down the road that his re-election is secured, and then, frankly, heâ€™ll look beyond. The county Board of Supervisors, state Assembly, Senate and Congress are all possibilities. Supervisor Greg Cox is a close friend; Rep. Bob Filner isnâ€™t, although Filner showed up for the mayorâ€™s swearing-in. Inzuznaâ€™s ambition is not exactly a secret, but he quickly answers whether he or brother Ralph Jr. will run for governor first. â€œRalph,â€ he says, â€œbecause I want to be his campaign manager,â€ the same position he held during Ralphâ€™s first campaign for student body president in the sixth grade.
Actually it looks like neither Nick or Ralph will be sitting in the governor’s chair anytime soon:
Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted Monday on federal corruption charges, with a jury finding the politicians conspired with a strip club owner to ease restrictions on such clubs.
The two elected officials had contended they accepted only legitimate campaign contributions and were just doing their jobs. But jurors accepted the prosecution’s case that the contributions and cash the councilmen accepted came in exchange for their promises to scale back the rules.
Inzunza was found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy and three counts of extortion.