If money is the mother’s milk of politics, as a legendary California Democrat once explained, then development is its cash cow.
From the time of the railroads and their bankrolling of early Golden State elections down to today’s transit-oriented development schemes, the wallets of would-be builders have fueled many of the state’s most effective political campaigns.
Add in the donations of suppliers, unions, lawyers, real estate brokers and banks which profit from their projects, and the development machine proves a formidable beast—even in a city like Berkeley.
For proof, just look at the latest lists of donations fueling the city’s current mayoral race, where development interests have claimed a champion.
The clear winner in the development cash sweepstakes is Mayor Tom Bates, who has collected at least $13,650 from those who stand to profit from more development. That accounts for nearly a third—31 percent—of his recorded $44,346.80 in contributions between July 1 and Sept. 30, putting him far ahead of rival Shirley Dean.
That figure includes only those identified by a reporter as having industry ties, including:
• Charles Adams, listed as an official of Strategic Economics, the firm which did the building height feasibility study for the pending Downtown Area Plan, $250;
• Landlord and developer Michael Berkowitz, $250;
• Council colleague and real estate broker Laurie Capitelli and spouse Marilyn—each gave the $250 maximum ($500 total);
• Real estate broker Stephen Block, $100;
• Michael Brodsky, an attorney who also owns a tile store and opposes the city’s existing Landmarks Preservation Ordinance, $250;
• Developer Peter Buckey, $250;
• Ed Church, who headed the aborted task force to build a large transit-oriented project at Ashby BART, $50;
• Jim Clark, vice president of the Cornish & Casey commercial real estate brokerage, $100;
• Former Chamber of Commerce president and developer Dennis Cohen, who gave $250;
• UC Berkeley planning professor and founder of the Berkeley Planning Associates company Fred Collignon, who gave $100, as did spouse Joan;
• Construction and General Laborers Local 304 PAC, who gave $250;
• Caleb Dardick, a publicist who often represents developers and their projects, who gave $150;
• Frank Davis Jr., president of the Black Property Owners Association, who gave $100;
• Broker Tracy Davis, who gave $150;
• Peter Diana, Massachusetts-based vice-president of the company developing the UC Berkeley-instigated downtown hotel project, who gave $250;
• Electrical Workers Local 595 PAC, $250;
• Broker/developer Dana Ellsworth, $250;
• Transportation development planner Michael Fajans, $100;
• Attorney and developer Bill Falik, $250;
• SeagateProperties investor Dennis Fisco, $250;
• Oliver and Co. construction manager Steven Friedland, $250;
• “Smart growth” advocate and union organizer Mike Friedrich, $100;
• Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO Ted Garrett, $100;
• AC Transit administrator Jim Gleich, $250 (the agency wants to develop Bus Rapid Transit from Berkeley to San Leandro);
• C.B. Godfrey of Curtis & Tompkins, a company which wants to change West Berkeley zoning to help it build a new facility, $250;
• Judith Gonzalez-Massih, administrator of Kaza Massih Architects, $250;
• Broker/developer John Gordon, $250;
• Architect Mark Gorrell, $50;
• Robert Hartman, general manager of Golden Gate Fields, which fought a losing battle to develop a major shopping center on its property in adjacent Albany, $250;
• Broker Barbara Hendrickson, Red Oak Realty, $250;
• Land use permit specialist Jennifer Hernandez of the law firm Holland and Knight, $250;
• Real estate law specialist Robert Herr, $250;
• Emeritus law and regional planning professor and former UC Berkeley Chancellor Michael Heyman, $250;
• Developer Takeo Hirahara of Lamorinda Development, $250;
• Developer Christopher Hudson, $250;
• Elizabeth Jewel, a lobbyist for the firm headed by former Assemblymember Dion Aroner and which represented the failed shopping center development at Golden Gate Fields and which also represents the Houston Group, representatives of much of the state’s cement industry, and the Safeway Corporation, now planning 2 new stores in Berkeley, $250;
• Developer and landlord John Line-weaver of Diablo Holdings and spouse Rose, who each gave $250 ($500 total);
• Lobbyist Linda Muir, whose clients include Canadian-based Magna Entertainment, which owns Golden Gate Fields, $100;
• Berkeley Hills Realty broker Nancy Mueller, $50;
• Skylight & Sun, Inc. President Richard Nagler, $100;
• Broker/developer John Norheim, $250;
• John Oliver, Oliver & Co. Construction, $250;
• Trina Ostrander, community relations manager for Bayer Healthcare, a major developer in West Berkeley, $250;
• Real estate law specialist and Berkeley Planning Commissioner Harry Pollack, $250;
• Wareham Development president Richard Robbins, $250;
• Real estate broker David Ruegg, $250; • Construction and engineering consultant Andy Sabhlok, $250;
• Planning Commission Chair and retired architect James Samuels, $250;
• Real estate development and transit systems investor Kenneth J. Schmier of Emeryville, $250;
• Bill Savidge, construction program director for the West Contra Costa County Unified School District, $100;
• Marcia Smolens, a powerfully connected San Francisco lobbyist who represents real estate interests as well as Comcast, the city’s cable TV carrier, $250;
• Rick Spickard of Oliver and Co. Construction, $250;
• Planner and city planning commissioner David Stoloff, $250;
• Oakland developer and California Commercial Group managing partner Phil Tagami, $250;
• Architect David Trachtenberg, $250;
• BCDC Executive director and Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee chair Will Travis, enthusiastic supporter of downtown “point towers,” $250;
• Pacific Racing Association administrator Peter Tunney, operator of Golden Gates Fields, $250;
• Architect Thomas Lee Turman, $100;
• Architect Reza Valiyee, $250;
• Truitt and White Lumber Co. owner Dan White, $200;
• Architect and city landmarks preservation commissioner Steven Winkel, $250;
• Oliver and Co. Construction administrator Marzette Woods, $250;
• Broker/developer Donald Yost, $250.
Dean, running against Bates for the council chair’s seat, has raised $18,704.99 in cash contributions from all sources, just 42 percent of the mayor’s total and less than $5,000 more than Bates raised from development-related sources alone.
Dean, who was unseated as mayor by Bates six years ago, has raised only small amounts from identifiable development-related sources—$1,048, or 7.7 percent of the comparable sum raised by her rival.
• Architect Christopher Adams, $50;
• Barbara Allen, spouse of architect Bob Allen, gave $250;
• Architect Henrik Bull, $50;
• Cassandra Gaenger, executive assistant to Wareham Development president Richard K. Robbins, gave $99;
• David Halligan, a civil engineer with Navigant Consulting (which does some construction-related energy consulting), $100;
• Wareham president Richard Robbins, who gave Bates $250, gave Dean $99.
• Ira Serkes of Pacific Union Real Estate gave $50;
• Contractor David Webershapiro gave $250;
• Mortgage consultant Robin Wright gave $100.
Other financial support
Only one council candidate has supported Dean: Sophie Hahn, who is challenging developer-backed incumbent and real estate broker Laurie Capitelli, has given her $250.
Bates is backed by Terry Doran, the developer-friendly candidate seeking to fill the downtown City Council seat vacated by the death of Dona Spring; council colleagues Linda Maio and Gordon Wozniak; Nancy Skinner, former mayor and a shoe-in for the state assembly seat vacated by Bates’ spouse, Loni Hancock, and San Leandro councilmember Jim Prola.
The mayor has also won the support of Nicky Gonzalez Yuen, who is running for reelection to the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees, and Assemblymember Betty Karnette, D-Long Beach.
On the environmental front, Bates has the backing of Green Info Network Executive Director Larry Orman, housing coop organizer Jack Sawyer, and Sierra Club activist Norman La Force (who is also running for a seat on the East Bay Regional Parks District board). Dean is supported by Sylvia McLaughlin, founder of Save the Bay and perhaps the Bay Area’s most venerable living environmentalist.
While Bates is favored by developers, Dean is backed by preservationists and neighborhood slow-growth advocates and supporters of the current city landmarks ordinance, though they can’t match the big bucks coming from developers.
Their numbers include:
• Susan Cerny, $75;
• Susan Chase, $250;
• Julie Dickinson, $150;
• Gale Garcia, $100;
• Kristin Leimkuhler, $50;
• Roger Marquis, $250;
• Dean Metzger, $250;
• Merilee Mitchell, $250;
• Martha Nicoloff, $100;
• Janice Thomas, $250, and
• Anne Wagley, city landmarks commissioner and Daily Planet arts and calendar editor, $250.
And for both candidates, the single most common occupation reported is “retired.”