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.