25 October 2010

More developers finance the Yes on R campaign

The second filing by the Yes on Measure R campaign of California Form 460, Monetary Contributions Received, reveals that between 1 and 16 October 2010, the campaign received $21,950, bringing the total contributed so far to $54,400.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that a good many of the contributors are the familiar developers whose names are perpetually linked with controversial land-use projects in Berkeley.

Tied in first place, having contributed $5,000 each, are Pacific Gas & Electric and the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council PAC. The carpenters recognize an opportunity for more jobs in the promise of accelerated development offered by Measure R. As for PG&E, $5,000 is peanuts compared to the $46.1 million the utility spent on vainly trying to pass the anti-green Proposition 16 in June.

In second place, with $2,000 each, are First Shattuck, LLC and Constitution Square, LLC. First Shattuck owns and manages the 13-story Great Western Building—known since 1997 as the Power Bar Building and soon to be known as the Chase Building—in the heart of downtown Berkeley. Between 2001 and 2009, First Shattuck earned $917,347 in Federal contracts through lease or rental of office facilities.

Constitution Square, LLC of San Rafael is just another name for Wareham Development, a major commercial developer and landlord in West Berkeley. The name comes from the Constitution Square Building at 2168 Shattuck Avenue, which Wareham developed in 1983 and sold in 2004 to Seagate Properties, also of San Rafael.

Seagate Properties, which gave $1,000, owns and manages five properties in central Berkeley, including the Wells Fargo Building, the aforementioned Constitution Square, 1950 and 2030-40 Addison Street, and the Promenade at 1936 University Avenue. Seagate was the initial developer of the 9-story Arpeggio at 2055 Center Street, which it sold in 2005 to SNK Realty Group of Phoenix, Arizona.

Four other contributors came into play with $1,000 each. Developer Patrick Kennedy sold his seven apartment buildings to Sam Zell’s Equity Residential, but he continues to develop properties in Berkeley and owns the landmark Ennor’s Restaurant Building (formerly the Act 1 and 2 cinemas) at 2130 Center Street.

Townsend 1, LLC of San Francisco is a private company categorized under Private Elementary and Secondary Schools. However, when this reporter phoned their office, the recorded greeting identified the business as Townsend Properties.

Doug Herst, who also contributed $1,000, is a lighting industry veteran. His family founded Peerless Lighting in 1892, and Herst managed the company from 1965 until his retirement in 2006. Upon his retirement, Herst turned his attention to property development in Berkeley. Currently he is chairman and CEO of Herst Ventures, Inc. and working with Darrell de Tienne on a planned work-live development called Peerless Greens. Like a number of other Yes on R contributors, Herst is a generous donor to the Berkeley Repertory Theatre—the Rep’s 2009 annual report places him in the Presidents category ($3,000–$5,999).

The cypher among the $1,000 contributors is Fair-Hill Enterprises, Inc. of Danville. This company is run by its president, James A. Hill, out of his home in the Diablo Highlands subdivision. It was incorporated in May 2009 and was preceded by Fair-Hill Enterprises, LLC, formed in January 1997 and converted out.

Five entities contributed $500 each. Rue-Ell Enterprises, Inc. is familiar to most Southside and Northside dwellers as the owner of rental properties, commercial arcades, and food courts. Hotel Shattuck is owned and operated by BPR Properties of Palo Alto. A few years ago, before the economic bubble burst, BPR proposed to build a 16- or 19-story tower in the hotel’s rear. Measure R would help make that dream a reality.

1950 MLK LLC is another name for Hudson McDonald, developers of the 148-unit New Californian apartment complex, popularly known as the Trader Joe’s Building. A fourth contributor who gave $500, Eat/Work Development, is a real-estate development limited partnership headed by Michael Goldin, an architect, furniture designer, and landlord to various commercial tenants in West Berkeley.

The fifth entity who gave $500 to Yes on R is Berkeley Foundation for the Arts, a non-profit associated with the ACCI Gallery at 1652 Shattuck Avenue. Interestingly, only this past June, councilmember Jesse ArreguĂ­n, a leader of the No on R campaign, relinquished $750 from his council office budget to be granted to Berkeley Foundation for the Arts to fund the design and execution of a large-scale mural on the south-facing wall of 1690 Shattuck Avenue.

Greenbelt Alliance contributed $250 to Yes on R, having apparently fallen for its “green” promise.

David Fleishhacker of San Francisco gave $100. A career educator and author, he is president of the Fleishhacker Foundation and a member of the Berkeley Rep board of trustees. The Rep’s 2009 annual report places him in the Associate Producer donor category ($6,000–$11,000).

Closing the current Yes on R contributors’ list with $75 is architect and sometime developer David Trachtenberg, whose practice seems to have evolved toward the type of commercial construction that would benefit if Measure R wins in November.

On the expenditure side, the Yes on R campaign reports having paid $1,500 to the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Chapter for [campaign] literature; $20,922.30 to the campaign firm Terris Barnes Walters for literature (the trifold mailer designed to look as if it had come from the Sierra Club); and $755, also for literature, to Californians Vote Green of Los Angeles.

Why would the Yes on R campaign pay $755 to Californians Vote Green? Because CVG is a sleazy political promoter who will back anyone who pays. In June, CVG supported PG&E’s Proposition 16. Its new slate mailer for November just landed in Berkeley mailboxes. Naturally, it includes the endorsement Yes on Measure R*. In the bottom margin, the following legend was added in mousetype: “Appearance is paid for and authorized by each candidate and ballot measure which is designated by an *.”

12 October 2010

Ten excellent reasons to Vote No on R

Berkeley Planning Commissioner Gene Poschman, who knows the ins and outs of land-use politics better than anyone in town, wrote a position paper entitled Ten Excellent Reasons to Vote No on R.

Read it here.

06 October 2010

“Sierra Club” Yes on R mailer financed by Sam Zell

If you’re a Berkeley voter, you’ll have received the colorful mailer from the Yes on Measure R campaign conspicuously designed to look as if it had come from the Sierra Club.

Like Measure R itself, the mailer harps on the word “green” numerous times. Of course, there is nothing in the ballot language that guarantees any green (or even rosy) outcome for downtown Berkeley.

What we have here is a case of flagrant greenwashing, financed by developers.

California Form 460, Monetary Contributions Received, was made available yesterday. As of 30 September 2010, the Yes on Measure R campaign reports having received $32,450 in contributions.

By far the largest contribution—$25,000 (see a scan of the disclosure form)—was given by Equity Residential, an S&P 500 company and landlord to over 200,000 tenants nationwide.

Equity Residential’s chairman is Chicago billionaire Sam Zell (yes, he who bought and destroyed the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times).

Why would a Chicago real estate firm throw money into a Berkeley race? Because Equity Residential is one of downtown Berkeley’s largest landowners. In 2007, it acquired developer Patrick Kennedy’s portfolio of seven apartment buildings. Recently, the company purchased the Acheson properties on University Avenue between Shattuck and Walnut, where it plans a major development.

Equity Residential has a serious stake in Berkeley, and it’s anything but green.

Nor is the second-largest donor to Yes on Measure R a green environmentalist. In fact, he’s none other than the infamous Lakireddy Bali Reddy, major landlord, developer, and convicted importer of sex slaves.

The L.B. Reddy Estate Co., LLC, donated $2,500 to the Yes on Measure R campaign.

In third place is William Falik, who contributed $1,000.

Falik’s bio on the U.C. Berkeley Law School’s website tells us that he has “practiced land use, real estate, and environmental law and mediation in Northern California for the past 37 years and during this period he has pursued a dual career as attorney and real estate developer. [...] Currently, he is the Managing Partner of Westpark Community Builders which developed 1,500 acres in Roseville, California and planned and entitled 4300 residential units which were sold to the three largest builders in the United States. In addition, as CEO of Live Oak Enterprises, he has developed the Whitney Oaks master planned community in Rocklin, California with a championship Johnny Miller designed golf course and 2000 homes.”

And here’s an even more interesting fact about Falik, reported by Peter Byrne:
In the late 1980s, [developer Angelo] Tsakopoulos and [Phil] Angelides were trying to plow over protected vernal pools in the flood plains of Sacramento county. But their development projects were stalled due to federal and state environmental concerns. Suddenly, a real estate partnership called Live Oak Associates II bought up part of the flood plain adjacent to AKT Development’s land. Government disapproval of wetland development vaporized.

The land was lifted from the flood plain—on paper. Live Oak Associates II mysteriously obtained permission to roll over the wetlands.
Tied with Falik in third place is City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, who also contributed $1,000.

Two contributors came in with $500 each:

  • Diablo Holdings Ltd. of Alamo, CA, is a property & asset management company representing The Lineweaver Trust, a private investment company (John L. Lineweaver is president of Diablo Holdings). The company manages real estate assets in Alamo and Berkeley, including the Cambridge Apartments at 2500 Durant Avenue and an office building at 2000 Center Street.

  • Marjorie Randolph, senior vice-president of Human Resources and Administration for The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank. She resides in Los Angeles.

  • Three contributors came in with $250 each:

  • S. Osborn Erickson, chairman of the Emerald Fund. On its website, the company claims to be “San Francisco’s premier real estate developer” and displays an array of large developments.

  • Julie Matlof Kennedy of Piedmont, a lawyer and lecturer at Stanford Law School, is married to Patrick Kennedy.

  • Jack Schafer of San Francisco is president of Jack Schafer Associates, which provides consulting services to shopping centers and department stores in Asia.

  • Liveable Berkeley contributed $200.

    William Falik, Marjorie Randolph, S. Osborn Erickson, Julie Matlof Kennedy, and Jack Schafer have something else in common: they are all members of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre’s board of trustees.

    Other Berkeley Rep trustees who contributed to Yes on R are John Field of San Francisco, retired chairman of Field Paoli Architects ($100); David Cox of San Francisco, former president and CEO of Cowles Media Company ($100); Sandra R. McCandless of Lafayette, a partner in the international law firm SNR Denton LLP (formerly Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal LLP) ($100); Thalia Dorwick of Oakland, an author and editor retired from McGraw-Hill Higher Education ($100); Jean Z. Strunsky of San Francisco, vice-president of administration and trustee of the Ira and Leonore Gershwin Trusts ($100); Kerry L. Francis of Oakland, former chairman of Deloitte Financial Advisory Services LLP’s Corporate Investigations practice ($100); David Hoffman, associate director of External Collaboration with the Mathematical Sciences Research Institute at Stanford University ($100); and Dale Rogers Marshall, president emerita of Wheaton College ($100).

    The Rep’s managing director, Susan Medak, also contributed $100 to Yes on R.

    That leaves one individual. Pamela Nichter of Novato, who is vice-president, COO and CFO of Osterweis Capital Management in San Francisco, contributed $100. Nichter and her husband are donors to the Berkeley Rep. In the Rep’s 2009 annual report, their donation is listed in the Directors category ($1,500–$2,999).

    Julie and Patrick Kennedy’s donation to the Rep is listed in the Presidents category ($3,000–$5,999), and Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests is listed as a Berkeley Rep corporate sponsor, under gifts of $6,000–$11,999. S. Osborn “Oz” Erickson, who sits on the Rep’s finance committee with Julie Kennedy, is a donor in the Associate Producers category ($6,000–$11,999). Bill Falik, who is chair of the Rep’s facilities committee, donated even more. He and his wife are listed in the Executive Producers category ($25,000–$49,999). This might explain why Susan Medak is so eager to support Measure R.

    And there you have it. These are the “green” individuals and companies who paid for the “Sierra Club” Yes on R mailer.

    05 October 2010

    Garden Party to Benefit the McCreary-Greer House Maintenance Fund


    Photo: Daniella Thompson

    McCreary-Greer House is badly in need of repairs and maintenance. In addition, the BAHA Board of Directors is committed to making our headquarters more compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

    Phase 1 of our plan calls for repaving the driveway and rebuilding the back porch. Phase 2 will include installing a lift and creating a wider entry door from the back porch. This door will replace the south window. We consider the changes minimal and believe that will not compromise the historic character of the house.

    While BAHA currently has funds for Phase 1 of the project, we are fundraising for Phase 2. We launched our fundraising campaign on Sunday, 3 October 2010, with a garden party and barbecue whose proceeds are earmarked for the McCreary-Greer House Maintenance Fund.

    See pictures of the event in our Photo Gallery