Daily Business Report: Thursday, May 25, 2023, San Diego Metro Magazine

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May 22, 2023

Daily Business Report: Thursday, May 25, 2023, San Diego Metro Magazine

by Alejandro Lazo and Wendy Fry | CalMatters Gladys Balcazar says she can barely

by Alejandro Lazo and Wendy Fry | CalMatters

Gladys Balcazar says she can barely afford food after paying rent to her new landlord, Blackstone Inc, one of the world's largest private equity firms.

Balcazar, a 60-year-old janitor, lives with her 27-year-old son in a two-bedroom apartment in Imperial Beach. She supports her son, who has a disability, on a salary of $2,800 a month.

Blackstone bought her building and 65 others in San Diego County in 2021, becoming one of the region's biggest landlords and alarming lawmakers, affordable housing advocates and Balcazar. In March Balcazar's monthly rent rose $200 to $2,000.

"All of this has really depressed me because I don't see a way out," she said in Spanish. "I only earn enough to pay the rent, and after that there is nothing left."

Adding to her stress were large swaths of dark mold outside her building, on walls and window ledges, climbing to a roofline. A building manager said she would be responsible for mold remediation in her unit if she moves out, Balcazar said.

"They said we’re responsible because we’re not ventilating the unit," she said

When asked by CalMatters, Blackstone said in a written statement that Balcazar would not be responsible for mold remediation.

Balcazar isn't the only tenant getting the squeeze from Blackstone, advocates say.

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Gladys Balcazar in her apartment in Imperial Beach on April 18, 2023. Balcazar, who puts 83 percent of her income toward rent, is a single mom living with her son who has a disability. (Photo by Ariana Drehsler for CalMatters)

General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded a $736 million modification to the existing T-AO contract for construction of a ninth ship in the John Lewis-class fleet oiler program. The exercised option comes in addition to the earlier awarded eight ships, bringing the total contract value to approximately $5.5 billion for construction of nine ships. Construction of T-AO 213 is scheduled to begin in the third quarter of 2025.

Designed to transfer fuel to U.S. Navy carrier strike group ships operating at sea, the 742-feet vessel has a full load displacement of 49,850 tons, with the capacity to carry 157,000 barrels of oil, a significant dry cargo capacity, aviation capability and up to a speed of 20 knots. The first ship, the future USNS John Lewis (T-AO 205), was delivered to the Navy last year.

Local victims of wage theft can turn to a County Workplace Justice Fund for help while trying to regain their lost wages. The Board of Supervisors approved the introduction of an ordinance Tuesday which would put $100,000 into the new fund. The board will meet on Tuesday, June 13, to consider and adopt the ordinance which will then formally establish the Workplace Justice Fund.

Payments of $3,000 or $4,000 would help wage theft victims get by while waiting for their claims to make their way through the legal system or waiting for employers to pay the wage theft judgments against them.

Locally, nearly 1,000 workers in the past six years have suffered from unpaid wages or wage theft judgments that were not paid out. Lost wages amount to nearly $13 million dollars.

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A federal investigation of a San Diego environmental remediation and demolition contractor's pay practices has recovered $363,444 in back wages and liquidated damages for 125 employees denied their rightful overtime and minimum wages.

The U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division found Watkins Environmental Inc. did not pay hourly employees for pre-work time spent preparing for jobs and attending required training, which led to minimum wage and overtime violations. Investigators also determined the employer's employee records were not accurate and complete, as required by the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Specifically, the division recouped $181,722 in back wages and an equal amount in liquidated damages for the affected employees. Watkins Environmental also paid the department $28,462 in civil money penalties for its reckless disregard of FLSA requirements.

County Supervisors approved setting aside $32 million in state and county funds Tuesday to help create housing for people experiencing homelessness, or who are at risk of homelessness, and $4.6 million a year in services to support them. The board action came on the heels of the state making over $34 million for the San Diego region available in Homekey funding in late March.

California's Homekey program was started in 2020 to provide funding to local governments to rapidly buy housing options to help the most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic. It is now in its third round of funding. The county is partnering with the San Diego Housing Commission and the City of San Diego to apply for the Homekey funding to buy and rehabilitate housing focusing on four development projects.

SAN DIEGO — North Island Credit Union announced that it is the first credit union in San Diego County to receive certification as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) by the U.S. Treasury Department's CDFI Fund. The CDFI certification is available only to organizations that have proven they provide financial services and products in communities that have historically lacked access to traditional banking services.

SAN DIEGO — Mapp, the international provider of insight-led customer experiences, announced the appointment of Eric Lubow to the position of chief product and technology officer. In this role, Lubow will lead all aspects of Mapp Cloud's technologies, leveraging more than 20 years of executive engineering and technology leadership in MarTech. Lubow most recently served as the VP of engineering for Thrasio, the fastest-growing acquirer of Amazon FBA businesses.

SAN DIEGO — PlusMusic.ai, an innovative start-up specializing in adaptive audio AI for the gaming industry, announced the appointment of gaming industry veteran Shawn Layden to its board of directors. Layden brings a wealth of experience and leadership from his time at Sony Interactive Entertainment, where he previously held key roles such as chairman of Worldwide Studios and president of Sony Computer Entertainment America. His deep understanding of the gaming industry and passion for music make him an invaluable addition to the PlusMusic board.

SAN DIEGO — Wiliot, the Internet of Things pioneer whose ambient IoT platform is enabling trillions of "things" to gain intelligence, announced the appointment of Antony Yousefian to the position of VP of climate and circularity. In his role, Yousefian will oversee the company's climate strategy, where he will accelerate the development and implementation of climate products that, for the first time, enable businesses to track in real-time their supply chain's impact on nature and carbon footprint. Yousefian previously held executive positions at climate technology startups and impact investment funds.

SAN DIEGO — Sweetwater Union High School District has selected CyberCatch Holdings Inc. as its cybersecurity partner. The school district signed up with CyberCatch to enhance its cyber risk management program and ensure full compliance with NIST Cyber Security Framework (CSF) and continuous cyber risk mitigation. Sweetwater Union High School District was founded in 1920, and has grown to more than 36,000 students in grades 7 through 12 and more than 10,000 adult learners.

SAN DIEGO — Alexandria Real Estate Equities Inc. announced the completion of the sale of 11119 North Torrey Pines Road in its San Diego cluster to DivcoWest, a DivCore Capital company. The fully leased 72,506-square-foot, single-tenant property sold for $86 million.

Alexandria purchased the property in 2007 as a fully occupied stand-alone building in its Torrey Pines submarket and successfully redeveloped it into a Class A laboratory facility.

SAN DIEGO — Sempra has been named the top-ranked utility company in the U.S. for diversity, beating out its peers to earn the No. 1 spot on DiversityInc's Top Utilities list for 2023. Recognized as an industry leader for its commitment to cultivating an inclusive and high-performance culture and for its dedication to advancing programs that support historically underrepresented communities, Sempra also earned spots on DiversityInc's Top Regional Employers and Top Companies for Philanthropy lists.

SAN DIEGO — Baha Mar, a leading luxury resort in The Bahamas, and San Diego-based Quick Custom Intelligence (QCI) announced the successful upgrade to version 5.2 of Quick Custom Intelligence's Enterprise Platform. Version 5.2 enhances the award-winning QCI Platform with the automation of operational tools that become a central part of the daily management of a gaming facility. The QCI Platform aligns player development, marketing and gaming with powerful real-time operational tools developed for the gaming and hospitality industries.

SAN DIEGO — Adjoin, a nonprofit, charitable organization that creates limitless pathways for individuals with disabilities and veteran families throughout California, announced the availability of Path-Now, a new, accessible mobile application that enables individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) to safely and easily connect with community service providers electronically. Path-Now quickly matches users to service providers that meet their unique needs and preferences.

SAN DIEGO — TriLink BioTechnologies, a Maravai Life Sciences company, announced the expansion of its mRNA manufactuing capabilities to serve late-phase drug developers. TriLink's construction of the new 32,000-square-foot, cGMP-grade facility solidifies its commitment to advancing the field as more mRNA-based therapeutics and vaccines enter later-stage clinical trials. Just minutes from the company's San Diego headquarters, the new facility boasts ISO 7 cleanrooms and increased mRNA capacity, with comprehensive in-house analytical services also available.

Corporate landlord's California buying spree alarms tenants ‘I only earn enough to pay the rent’ General Dynamics NASSCO awarded $736 million to build ninth ship in fleet oiler program County supervisors approve Workplace Justice Fund Labor Department recovers $363,000 in back wages, damages for 125 construction workers denied full pay by San Diego contractor Supervisors approve homeless housing fund North Island Credit Union earns CDFI certification Eric Lubow appointed chief product and technical officer for Mapp Shawn Layden joins PlusMusic board of directors Wiliot appoints Antony Yousefian as vice president of climate and circularity Sweetwater Union High School District selects CyberCatch Holdings as cybersecurity partner Alexandria Real Estate Equities sells Torrey Pines building for $86 million Sempra ranked No. 1 employer for diversity among U.S. utilities Baha Mar Casino upgrades to Version 5.2 of QCI Enterprise Platform Adjoin nonprofit launches Path-Now for individuals with disabilities TriLink BioTechnologies announces expansion of its manufacturing facility