[Part 1 in a series exploring all aspects of the 101 Ash St building deal] By Arturo Castañares Editor-at-Large Internal emails from key city staff and officials in 2016 document their efforts to raise the value of a building by the City signing a 20-year lease-to-own agreement to help the sellers secure financing they couldn’t otherwise obtain, and, in an exclusive interview with La Prensa San Diego, the former City Attorney focuses attention back on current City Attorney Mara Elliott as the final backstop for the now-crumbling deal. The lease deal has recently come under increased scrutiny and is being investigated by outside lawyers hired by Mayor Kevin Faulconer, and the current City Council is now focusing on ‘who knew what, when?’. In a sign of the growing cloud over the deal, the City this week announced it will stop making the $545,000 monthly lease payment for the building that now sits vacant, signaling that the entire agreement may be undone. The Back Story The issue began with the City’s desire to find a new City office building to replace the outdated and crumbling offices within the City complex at 202 C Street in downtown. For years, city officials had looked at options, including new construction at the current site or finding a suitable nearby building. In 2014, city officials zeroed in on the 19-story Sempra Energy headquarters tower building built in 1968 that sits just across the street from City Hall, known by its address at 101 Ash Street.