Page One

Chamber of Commerce Spends Big Bucks to Stop Landmarks Update

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday October 31, 2006

The second round of campaign filings reveals that the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce has outspent proponents of Measure J by nearly three to one. 

That initiative would update the city’s Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, preserving its key features while—backers say—bringing the law into conformity with all state ordinances. 

Business for Better Government — the chamber’s Political Action Committee —spent $61,793.58 between July 1 and Oct. 21, according to their filing with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. 

Most—64 percent, or $39,600—went to mailers opposing Measure J, and much of the rest went to candidates who oppose the initiative. 

Despite logging $36,720 in cash and $800 in in-kind contributions, the chamber PAC reported an outstanding debt of $59,059.84 at the end of the filing period. 

That compares to $17,123 in contributions and loans received by backers of Measure J, a campaign which reported a debt of just $278. 



Major chamber donors 

The biggest guns in the chamber’s arsenal are developers, with Wareham Development—which is the major office and industrial builder in West Berkeley—topping the list with $10,000. 

Other big donors include: 

• Patrick Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests with $5,000; 

• UC Berkeley professor and private developer David Teece with $4,000. Teece was the backer of many of Kennedy’s projects and reportedly now backs Hudson McDonald LLC, which gave $250; 

• Seagate Properties, co-developer of a 9-story condo project on Center Street, with $5,250; 

• Development firm Ruegg & Ellsworth and its leasing arm, Ruell Enterprises, Inc., which gave $3,250. Owners are David Ruegg and Robert Ellsworth;  

• Tenth & Parker, reportedly a limited partnership, but with no filing listed with the California Secretary of State, with $1,000; 

• Bisno Development Co., LLC, with $1,000. The Oakland-based firm is headed by Los Angeles attorney Robert B. Bisno, who was reportedly the source of funding for the Library Gardens apartment complex—which is holding a grand opening this weekend. 

• Berkeley attorney William Falik, $1,000. 

• Abrams/Millikan, the firm headed by Denny Abrams, who spearheaded the redevelopment of Fourth Street into an upscale shopper’s delight, $500. 

• Aquatic Park Science Center, LLC, a Corte Madera corporation formed to develop the office/industrial complex of the same name in West Berkeley, $500.  

• Architects Marcy Wong and Donn Logan, $500; Peter J. O’Hara, president of Pacific Property Asset Management of San Francisco, $500. 

• Landmarks Preservation Commissioner and realtor/developer Miriam Ng, $350. 

Among other prominent names in the development community with $250 contributions were land-use attorney Rena Rickles, developer James E. Hart, and Essex Property Trust’s Pre-Development Projects, the funding partner of Urban Housing Group, which is planning a major housing over commercial project that would occupy a city block at 700 University Ave. 

BBG head Jonathan DeYoe also chipped in $250. 


Battle lines 

Mayor Tom Bates and Councilmember Laurie Capitelli proposed—and the council passed on first reading—a rival ordinance that Measure J backers say would greatly weaken protections for historical structures. 

Bates, Capitelli and other Measure J opponents say that the initiative could result in expensive litigation and claims that it removes state definitions of historical integrity in the landmarking process. 

The Bates/Capitelli ordinance didn’t become law because the council held off on a second vote until after the Nov. 7 election and the outcome of the Measure J vote. 

If voters pass the initiative, the law couldn’t be changed without another ballot measure, effectively derailing the Bates/Capitelli ordinance. 

While the anti-Measure J mailers accounted for the lion’s share of the BBG expenditures, the group also spent $7,290 each on mailers opposing City Council incumbents Dona Spring and Kriss Worthington and $2,440 each on mailers supporting Mayor Tom Bates and Worthington opponent George Beier. 

Chamber targets Spring and Worthington were two of the three councilmembers who didn’t support the Bates/Capitelli measure. The third was Betty Olds, whose term doesn’t expire until 2008. 

By comparison, the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance Update PAC—the campaign supporting the Nov. 7 initiative—logged $13,824 in expenses. 

The anti-J mailers were recorded as two expenditures, both estimates, of $19,800 each, the first on Oct. 16 and the second four days later. 

That mailer, which carried endorsements from Mayor Tom Bates and five councilmembers, was in the form of a color postcard mailed from Carlsbad. 

The chamber PAC held a $250-a-head fundraiser Sept. 21, attended by 40 or so members and other invitees. 

Oddly, BBG filing doesn’t record any receipts on that day and only one the next day, with most contributions reported on Sept. 29. 


Measure J backers 

Supporting the initiative is the Landmarks Preservation Ordinance 2006 Update PAC—LPO 2006, headed by Roger Marquis and Laurie Bright. In the group’s first financial filing—for the period May 1 to June 30—logged in by the City Clerk on July 26, the group reports receiving $6,006 in contributions, of which more than half, $3,460, was in the form of loans. 

The largest contribution for that period was $1,000 from the Council of Neighborhood Associations (CNA), of which Bright is president. 

The next largest—$500—came May 12 from Lesley Emmington, a preservationist who is a member of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, the body which administers the LPO. 

Emmington made two other contributions during the filing period, $200 on June 11 and $100 on June 22. 

Bright recorded $263.13 in contributions during that period, with Marquis’s contributions totaling $299. 

The only other contributor was Pat Devaney, with $100. The remainder of funds received, $3,469, came from Marquis as a loan. A $75 non-monetary contribution was recorded for an article from the CNA newsletter. 

Expenses for the first filing period included $214.39 for copies, $99 for a legal ad required before circulating an initiative petition, $4,665 in costs for signature gathering, $500 in legal fees and $95 in shipping costs, and a $75 non-monetary contribution for a total of $5,998. 

The LPO initiative backers’ next filing covers the period July 1 to Sept. 30, reporting $6,628 in monetary contributions and $1,513 in non-monetary gifts, less a $1,149 loan repayment and $4,162 in expenses of which $1,513 were non-monetary. 

The largest single gift in that period—$1,400—came from the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association (BAHA), the city’s most prominent preservationist group. 

The second largest gifts came as LPC member Emmington added another $556 to her contributions, and Prince Street neighborhood activist Erica Cleary gave $300. 

Daily Planet Arts Editor Anne Wagley gave $250, as did Tim Hansen and Elliot Cohen, activists whose letters and commentaries frequently appear in the paper. 

Former Mayor Shirley Dean gave a total of $228 in the filing period. 

Gale Garcia, another frequent writer to the Daily Planet, logged $200 in monetary contributions and provided postage and printing totaling $242. 

Councilmember Spring provided $166 in printing and postage costs. 

The latest report, covering the Oct. 1-26 period, lists $5,991 in cash contributions and $176 in non-monetary gifts. Adding in a $2,051 loan repayment, the total received came to $4,116, with expenses of $3,664, including a $426 value on non-monetary gifts. 

The largest single contributions of $1,000 each came from BAHA—bringing its total to $2,500—and Carl Bunch, a San Francisco Deputy City Attorney who is a Berkeley resident and preservationist. 

Gifts of $250 each came from Barbara Allen, who has been active in Neighbors on Urban Creeks, and her sometimes-opponent, creeks activist Juliet Lamont. Another $250 came from pathologist Diane Tokugawa. 

Many names are neighborhood activists whose names are also familiar to readers of the Daily Planet’s letters to the editor and commentary pages, including Robert Lauriston, Stephen Wollmer, Robin Wright and Jerry Sulliger.  

One donation came from a candidate endorsed by BBG, George Beier—who is running against Worthington. Beier gave $100. 

While Measure J backers filed both expenses and contributions with the office of acting Berkeley City Clerk Sherry Kelly, BBG only filed its expenditures. 

BBG contributions were filed only with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. While Berkeley posts its electoral filings on the city website, the county records are only available by an in-person visit to the county courthouse on Lake Merritt. 

The chamber earlier explained that it filed with the county because the group wanted the option of being able to endorse state Assembly candidates.