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Despite Promises, Downtown San Diego Residents Have Not Yet Been Refunded

Last month, KPBS reported that San Diego could owe about 3,000 downtown property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars in overcharges on their property tax bills. When the story aired, the city said some people would get their money back. But nothing has happened yet.

The city of San Diego said downtown residents who were overcharged on their property taxes would get their money back. But nothing has happened yet.

Photo by Katie Schoolov

Safe Haven resident John Scarborough serves himself lunch next to other residents of the homeless shelter for the mentally ill.

Photo credit: Downtown San Diego Partnership

A map of the area included in the downtown San Diego PBID.

The city told residents who were overcharged that they could file claims to get their money back. Safe Haven, a downtown homeless shelter for the mentally ill, was overcharged about $7,000. The shelter’s executive director Lesslie Keller filed a claim with the city, but said she hasn’t gotten a check.

The city’s Economic Development Corporation, which handles the refunds, said they need additional information from Safe Haven to process its claim. But Keller said despite many attempts, her staff hasn’t been able to talk to anyone at the city.

“We have made three phone calls to the city and to date we have not had a response or a call back to explain to us what’s going on with our refund," she said. "So I would say we’re at this point very discouraged.”

Kathy Casey, a Golden Hill resident who has been fighting the city for a long time to get people's money back, also filed a claim and has not been refunded. She said she was told by the EDC that her claim would be processed March 1.

About 33 claims have been filed so far, and three are currently being processed, according to City Councilmember Todd Gloria’s office.

Property owners in the Core, Columbia, Marina, Gaslamp Quarter, East Village and Cortez neighborhoods of downtown San Diego pay the extra fee called a Property and Business Improvement District, or PBID. Those fees pay for additional services like palm tree trimming and sidewalk cleaning. The amount downtown residents pay is based on the size of their properties. Their property sizes were calculated incorrectly, leading to overcharges.

The city of San Diego is now suing SCI Consulting Group, the engineering firm that calculated the property sizes.

Although residents can file claims to recoup these overcharges, most property owners will not get all of their money back. That’s because there’s a four-year statute of limitations on claims and the property size errors started more than four years ago.

Video by Katie Euphrat

The city of San Diego owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to people who live downtown. While city officials acknowledge these overcharges took place, they haven't yet repaid anybody.

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