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Developer Cries ‘Libel,’ Planet Stands By Story

Tuesday October 28, 2003

Dear Becky:  

I am aware that you purchased the Daily Planet to allow the residents of Berkeley greater access to your views on development in Berkeley. You have been a vigorous and colorful opponent of many development projects in Berkeley, and virtually all of the mixed-use, mixed income projects I have done downtown. As a private citizen you are, of course, granted enormous latitude in your rhetorical excesses, such as likening the construction of the Gaia Building to the development of "strip mall." (Oak. Trib. May 6, 1998) 

In the past, I have cheerfully accepted such dialogue as part of the give and take that accompanies development in Berkeley.  

Your most recent article about me in the Daily Planet, however, was not an opinion piece, but was offered as a "news article." It contained several statements that were misleading or false, and is evidence of a a reckless disregard for the truth.  

Your headline, to begin with, is a libelous, and erroneous statement of "fact." It states "Two Kennedy Buildings Pay No Berkeley Tax."  

This is false.  

Fact: The Gaia Building paid property taxes in 2002 of $153,881.26, including $26,043.72 that went to the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley School District, and $2,131.95 to Peralta Community Colleges. 

Fact: The Berkeleyan Apartments paid property taxes in 2002 of $78,677.76, including $14,751.35 that went to the City of Berkeley and the Berkeley School District, and $956.16 to the Peralta Community Colleges. 

Your headline states that no taxes were paid to the city, and intimates that that no taxes were paid at all. 

A cursory investigation of the property tax records would have shown you falsity of your claim. You apparently chose not to actually investigate the details of the matter, or to ignore them altogether. 

We have paid all taxes assessed by city and the county on both buildings, and will work with them to correct any oversights in their record or procedures. It is worth noting that whatever errors may be involved here are solely the responsibility of the city, and that all the other properties that I am involved in—including 3 now under construction are accurately assessed. (Your reporter, Jesse Taylor, informed me that, among others, he looked up the ARTech Building, completed in 2001, and found it is accurately assessed on the tax rolls Any reason why he failed to mention that?) 

I request a retraction of the falsehoods in your article in the next edition of the Planet, in a place of similar prominence and size on the front page.  


Patrick Kennedy 


Dear Patrick, 

The Planet stands by the accuracy of its story on your buildings which appeared in Friday’s paper. Nothing in that story is in conflict with the two “facts” which you cite, both of which are true but not the whole truth. You do not cite any particular statement in the article as being “misleading or false”. 

Regarding the headline, it was perhaps excessively condensed to meet space requirements. “Berkeley Tax” was intended to be a short way of describing Berkeley’s own special fees and assessments, and did not include the state ad valorem taxes which you mentioned, none of which are assessed by the city of Berkeley. If you had any further information to offer regarding any more taxes which you pay on your buildings, you could have given it to Jesse Taylor when he talked to you last Thursday. Nevertheless, if you say so, we would be happy to run the lead from Friday’s story as a front page headline in a later paper in order to make our point even more clearly: 


At least two major properties built by prominent developer Patrick Kennedy are not paying Berkeley special fees and assessments, according to Alameda County property tax records and officials interviewed by the Daily Planet. 


But are you sure that’s what you want us to do? 

Best regards, 

Becky O’Malley