When is free not good enough?
It’s an intriguing question, given the tale told by long-time Republican JD Bols about his efforts to lighten the financial burden of the Republican Party of San Diego County, challenged enough as it is these days in retaining members and finding candidates to run in 2020.
But money, apparently, isn’t a concern over in the fountain-burbling, Spanish-style Rancho Bernardo environs of the local GOP. In a recent interview, Bols said he offered the party free office space for four years in a Miramar commercial building he owns, but never got a reply.
When he made the offer in 2018, Bols figured he’d be saving the party coffers about $300,000 over four years. In a Christmas Eve letter to party Chairman Tony Krvaric, Bols wrote the savings would “greatly assist in covering expenses or salaries.”
“The space is move-in ready, and I am willing to make some modifications, if the party chooses, to make the space even more functional for the party.”
Carl DeMaio headquartered a previous failed congressional run in the Black Mountain Road building that Bols offered. San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate staged a campaign office there as well.
“When I talked to people about the office building,” Bols recalled recently, “a lot of them who had volunteered on those campaigns knew the building, saying, ‘Oh yeah, that was perfectly fine.’ It wasn’t like, oh that’s a trashy place, we can’t have the party there.”
Bols, who’s been in the real-estate business for 30 years, said he made the offer last year when it appeared Krvaric, chairman since 2007, was finally stepping down from the post and signaled that Bols, a consistent donor and an alternate in the local GOP’s 80th Assembly District Caucus, should consider stepping up.
As he campaigned for the position, Bols said he heard rumblings that the party was paying an “extraordinary” amount for its headquarters in the Rancho Bernardo Courtyard, described on its website as a “gem” that “is the fusion of modern technology, classic architecture and unparalleled tranquility.”
As Spin detailed at the time, the party moved there in 2011 — where Krvaric operated a “wealth-management” business — after controversially breaking its lease in its long-time Sorrento Valley headquarters. The landlord there claimed the party trashed the place and left before giving notice.
Ironically, that landlord recalled Krvaric asking on several occasions if he’d consider donating the rent as a party gift, which he said he declined. (The party eventually settled into a roughly 1,600-square-foot office at Rancho Bernardo Courtyard, with Krvaric moving his personal office to another suite.)
Bols looked into the rumblings last year and determined that the party was paying $6,000 a month for 1,631 square feet, or roughly $3.67 per square foot. “Being in commercial real-estate myself, this seemed like an extraordinarily high amount,” he said. He then spoke to the building’s leasing broker and discovered the asking rate for the building at the time was $2.50 a square foot.
Why the discrepancy? Bols suspects the party was also paying for Krvaric’s 500-square-foot personal business suite. Adding his space to the party space brought the rate down to $2.81 per square foot, “much closer to the asking rate in the building,” Bols explained, adding that he has found no evidence of any party approval to pay for Krvaric’s personal office space.
Hoping to “eliminate this cozy arrangement,” Bols made the free-office-space offer. He also argued his Miramar office building was more centrally located and “easier to get to.” He said party members “loved the idea. And, of course, Tony hated the idea.”
That may not be quite a fair assessment, given Krvaric’s near-silence on the matter. He declined to respond for this column, and the only known time he reacted to the proposal came last January, when he made what Bols described as a “rare” appearance at an 80th Assembly Caucus meeting in Chula Vista.
Lincoln Pickard, a Republican office seeker who said he’s challenging state Assembly tour-de-force Lorena Gonzalez in the 80th, confirmed that he asked Krvaric about the free-office-space offer, to which the chairman only replied “something like, ‘It wouldn’t work.’”
Just the previous month, Krvaric surprised some by announcing that he would be staying on as party chairman, but insiders said the self-proclaimed “volunteer” chairman conditioned it with a request to be paid $300,000 over the two-year term. That proposal never materialized, but Bols now wonders, “Perhaps he figured out another way to get paid?” (Krvaric receives $1,000 a month from the party for “office expenses,” according to campaign filings.)
During annual budget discussions at an executive committee meeting a week after the 80th Caucus appearance in January, Krvaric said the party was moving to larger quarters in the Rancho Bernardo Courtyard and “he had just executed a lease where he prepaid two years of rent in the amount of $200,000,” Bols said.
In his decades of commercial real-estate experience, Bols said he’s “never known a tenant to pre-pay two years of rent, especially when it is not their own money. And with an offer of free office space on the table. It was shocking.”
A church has expanded into the space he offered, Bols noted, but he didn’t reject making a similar offer in the future. “Obviously that isn’t going anywhere under the current regime,” he said.
Asked why he’s going public, Bols joked, “I’m not leaving the Republican Party because we have a bad uncle,” but added, “The party is not going to cleanse itself. Tony runs it as a dictatorship, and no one’s been willing to stand up to him.”
As far as becoming party chairman, Bols is doubtful. “If I was still interested,” he said, “this interview would be the worst thing I could do because I become the Judas. But that’s OK. You believe in the cause. You don’t need to believe in the man.”
Spin Cycle appears every other week.