San Diego's Chief Operating Officer Resigns Amid 101 Ash Street Debacle
Kris Michell, the city of San Diego's chief operating officer, announced her resignation Monday. She is the latest high-level city official to step down amid the fallout from the city's disastrous attempt to purchase the high-rise building at 101 Ash Street.
Michell joined the city as a deputy chief operating officer for special projects in October 2017 and was promoted to chief operating officer the following January. She had previously worked as CEO of the Downtown San Diego Partnership and chief of staff for former Mayor Jerry Sanders.
Michell announced her resignation in an email to city employees Monday afternoon, saying nothing about what motivated her decision.
"It has been a privilege to see what you have accomplished in these past three years, and there certainly is more good work to do," she told city staffers.
Michell's resignation will take effect Oct. 2. Two other top city officials involved in the 101 Ash deal also resigned their posts earlier this year: Rob Villa as deputy COO; and Cybelle Thompson as head of the city's Real Estate Assets Department.
The San Diego City Council unanimously approved a 20-year lease-to-own deal on 101 Ash Street a year before Michell's most recent stint at the city. But it was under her tenure that the scope of renovations to the building and its overall cost to taxpayers ballooned to tens of millions of dollars with little to show for it.
The city had hoped to move hundreds of employees into the high-rise office building to consolidate its downtown workforce. But the move-in date was repeatedly delayed as the city discovered more and more problems with the building's HVAC and electrical systems.
Renovations were halted in August 2019 after the work dislodged asbestos into the air, earning the city a citation from the county Air Pollution Control District. Despite that violation, Michell pushed ahead with moving city employees into the building — only to evacuate them in January.
City Council members have periodically vented frustration with Michell and Mayor Kevin Faulconer for not including them in previous decisions made on 101 Ash. In June 2018, as she sought council approval for $30 million in renovation work, Michell apologized for poor communication on the project.
"I would first like to acknowledge and apologize to all of you for the lack of communication regarding this project," Michell told the council. "There certainly can be many excuses provided. But at the end of the day, we’re all professionals and we have to own the fact that we did not keep you informed."