Berkeley developers are making a last-minute push to flood the coffers of Terry Doran as he battles to win the city council seat representing downtown Berkeley.
The result, wrote one of Berkeley’s most prominent developers in an email to “friends and colleagues,” would solidify their control of the city council.
In the digital epistle to fellow developers, Ali Kashani said Doran had “held off on receiving contributions from the development community previously because he did not want to suffer from the negative press the Daily Planet would provide. Now we are close enough to the election that Terry is ready for us to participate with him by donating.”
Kashani emphasized his plea by hitting the “caps lock” key of his computer for the next sentence: “PLEASE CONTRIBUTE THE MAXIMUM $250 PER PERSON TO TERrY’S (sic) CAMPAIGN.”
Once a developer for the non-profit housing sector, Kashani has joined the commercial sector, partnering with former city Land Use Planning Manager Mark Rhoades. One of their first projects is a planned five-story apartment at the corner of Ashby and San Pablo avenues.
The developer told his colleagues that the race for the fourth district council seat is “the most important race right now, and probably in Berkeley’s last 20 years. We have an opportunity to elect Terry Doran who will solidify the very shaky majority that we currently have on the council.”
Reached at his office Thursday afternoon, Kashani acknowledged sending the email.
He said that while Doran had initially discouraged developer contributions, “he didn’t raise enough money to cope with your editor’s champion of the masses,” a reference to Jesse Arreguin, a rival candidate for the seat endorsed by Daily Planet Executive Editor Becky O’Malley.
Asked about response to the email, Kashani said “I have a lot of responses from people who said they are going” to a Sunday afternoon fund-raiser for Doran, a former school board member who has been endorsed by every member of the current council except for Kriss Worthington.
Worthington had been a close ally of Dona Spring, the Green Party activist who had held the seat until her death earlier this year. Two years ago, Spring had soundly defeated another developer-backed candidate.
Kashani immediately surmised the reason for the call he received from a Daily Planet reporter. As soon as the journalist introduced himself, Kashani said, “You got my email. There were people on that list I knew would give it to you.”
Kashani wrote the introductory paragraph to a longer text which he forwarded on from Doran campaign manager Merlin Edwards II.
His statement in full:
“We are entering the final two weeks of the election, and we have some VERY important races to consider. The most important race right now, and probably in Berkeley’s last 20 years, is District 4 (formerly held by Dona Spring). We have an opportunity to elect Terry Doran who will solidify the very shaky majority that we currently have on the Council. This is a watershed opportunity and if we miss it we will be subject to the same old Berkeley politics. Terry held off on receiving contributions from the development community previously because he did not want to suffer the negative press the Daily Planet would provide. Now we are close enough to the election that Terry is ready for us to participate with him by donating. PLEASE CONTRIBUTE THE MAXIMUM $250 PER PERSON TO TERrY’S CAMPAIGN. Terry is having a fundraising party this Sunday. Come if you can. If you can’t, send a check. His website is http://www.terrydoran4district4.com/donat.html.”
When questioned about his claim that the pro-development majority on the council was “shaky,” Kashani laughed.
“I was very surprised when I heard about it,” said Arreguin. “I think it really represents what’s at stake in this election. They really don’t want someone who’s an independent advocate for the community; they want a rubber stamp. He’s been a rubber stamp for their projects on ZAB. I will not be a rubber stamp.”
Both Doran and Arreguin served on the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee (DAPAC), which drafted the initial version of a plan which the city council is scheduled to adopt in May.
Arreguin’s positions on the committee closely tracked those of Spring, which Doran favored a minority view which called for a concentration of high rises in the city center, so-called “point towers” which Spring had criticized.
Doran said that, contrary to Kashani’s email, he had never refused any developer contributions, nor had he discussed the issue with Kashani.
“Maybe he is using that kind of rhetoric to encourage people who have not given me any money,” he said.
Asked about his position on development, Kashani said, “Are you trying to suggest that the developers who have produced all this new housing in Berkeley are tainted or bad people? I have been a strong advocate of appropriate development on transit corridors.”
Doran said “a great many environmentalists have agreed with me,” while Arreguin points to his own endorsement by the Sierra Club.
Arreguin’s website is at www.jessearreguin.com.