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San Diego Property Owner Gets Refund From City After Four Years

Photo by Claire Trageser / KPBS

Above: Downtown property owner Kathy Casey lobbied the city of San Diego for four years to get a refund. She finally has her check.

Kathy Casey is holding a check from the city of San Diego in her hands. She’s been working for four years to get this money. The city overcharged her in taxes on her downtown condo, and she has been fighting since then to get that money back.

"When the check finally arrived, I wondered if I was seeing things," Casey said. "It’s been so long and like I have said it wasn’t about my check that I was doing this. My check will be going to charity.”

By Claire Trageser

Kathy Casey's refund check and a letter from the city of San Diego informing property owners they've been overcharged.

Kathy Casey is holding a check from the city of San Diego in her hands. She’s been working for four years to get this money.

Casey’s check is only for $112, the full amount she was overcharged, which she acknowledges isn't very much.

But other downtown property owners were overcharged thousands in fees and they won’t be getting all their money back. That includes Safe Haven, a homeless shelter for the mentally ill, which is likely owed $7,000. Lesslie Keller, the executive director there, said as of Friday, she hadn't received a refund.

Property owners in the Core, Columbia, Marina, Gaslamp Quarter, East Village and Cortez neighborhoods of downtown San Diego pay an extra fee for something called a Property and Business Improvement District, or PBID. PBIDs provide additional services the city doesn’t, like palm tree trimming and sidewalk cleaning. The amount downtown residents pay is based on the size of their properties.

Problem is, their property sizes were calculated incorrectly. These mistakes were first covered in the San Diego Reader in 2010 and by this reporter in a story for Voice of San Diego in 2011.

These incorrect property sizes meant 3,000 home owners were overcharged a combined amount of about $300,000, according to Casey's calculations. KPBS independently verified the overcharges and obtained similar numbers.

The city is now working to repay property owners, but not the full amount they're owed because there’s a four-year statute of limitations on claims made against the city. So if property owners file claims now, they will only be refunded back through about 2008, even though the overcharges started in 2005.

The city sent out letters to property owners in March informing them of the overcharges, but it is too late for many of them to ask for a full refund.

Now that her own fight is over, what will Casey do?

“Everybody’s been asking me that!" she said. "Um, I don’t know. I’m going to travel some I think.”

Plus, Casey will continue to lobby the city for others to get all their money back.

"So the work is not over," she said.

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