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Developer Dollars Fell Short in District 4 City Council Race

By Richard Brenneman
Wednesday February 25, 2009 - 07:57:00 PM

Development dollars played a powerful but ultimately doomed role in the election to represent a City Council district targeted for the lion’s share of housing and commercial development over the coming two decades. 

Four candidates battled to fill the fourth district seat left vacant by the death earlier in the year of a Berkeley political icon, Dona Spring, who had succumbed to complications from her decades-long struggle with rheumatoid arthritis. 

The City Council has designated the district, which encompasses the heart of downtown Berkeley, to receive most of the new housing that regional government demands the city accept. 

City Planning and Development Director Dan Marks has told planning commissioners that the downtown is the only area where dense, high-rise development could be built because of inevitable opposition from neighborhood activists in other parts of the city. 

So it’s no surprise that developer dollars poured into the race, backing the one candidate they knew to be friendly to their cause.  

While three contestants fought from the left, one candidate, retired teacher and serving member of the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board (ZAB) Terry Doran, proved the favorite of both developers and the pro-development City Council majority. 

While Doran reportedly told developers earlier in the campaign to hold off with their contributions to avoid bad publicity, one of Berkeley’s best-connected developers, Ali Kashani, e-mailed fellow developers late in the campaign to start sending in the cash. 

“Please contribute the maximum $250 per person,” the developer urged. 

Kashani, who began on the nonprofit side before switching to the for-profit side of the development business, has partnered with Mark Rhoades, formerly the city’s land use planning manager. 

The timing of Kashani’s e-mail insured that the resulting contributions wouldn’t have to be reported to the city clerk until after the election, avoiding the stigma that he said Doran told him he wanted to avoid. 

Doran has denied the account, but as the filings showed, he didn’t spurn the money that followed, some of it from the city’s best-known real estate industry players. 

Doug Herst, the retired former owner of Peerless Lighting and would-be developer of the former plant site in West Berkeley, came up with Kashani’s maximum, as did his spouse, Carolen. 

The couple has a major interest in the outcome of proposals to ease zoning regulations in West Berkeley now being hashed out by the Planning Commission at the orders of the pro-development council majority. 

John DeClerq, developer of the Library Gardens project, also donated the maximum amount. One development company alone, Hudson McDonald, provided $2,000 of the post-e-mail cash, including: 

• Chris Hudson, co-developer of the so-called Trader Joe’s project on University Avenue and Martin Luther King Jr. Way. 

• Hudson’s spouse, Cindy Chang, a physician at UC Berkeley. 

• Evan McDonald, partner in Hudson McDonald development. 

• McDonald’s spouse, Christine, a photographer. 

• Tobias Lieberman, Hudson McDonald project manager. 

• Sean McKinley, another Hudson McDonald employee. 

• McKinley’s spouse, Jessica, a corporate biosciences researcher. 

• Aaron Villaroya, still another Hudson McDonald staffer.  

One of Berkeley’s richest and most secretive sources of development largess also appears, a man who has bankrolled projects for both Hudson McDonald and Patrick Kennedy—the man whose name has become a lightning rod in Berkeley development storms. 

David Teece, a New Zealand native, who has built both Islamic banks and a rugby gear business while battling the IRS over allegations of tax dodging, is a shadowy figure in Berkeley politics. 

A professor at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, he earns millions from LECG, one of the nation’s leading economic consulting firms, of which he is both a founder and a director as well as a paid consultant. 

He has bankrolled both Hudson McDonald and Kennedy’s Panoramic Interests, yet refuses interviews. With the sole of exception of the university, he could well be considered Berkeley’s preeminent developer, a man whose millions have reshaped the face of the city. 

But in this race, his overt effort was limited to the $250 maximum. 

Other Doran contributions from the development sector include several from architects, a professional group that has seen its billings drop during the ongoing economic crisis to the lowest levels ever recorded since the industry began indexing them. 

Architectural contributors include: 

• Rebecca Hayden of Baker, Vilar Architects, $100. 

• David Trachtenberg of Trachtenberg Architects, $100. 

• Erick Mikiten, Mikiten Architecture, $150. 

• Carl Bridgers, Holly Associates, $25. 

Other late Doran contributors from the land-use sector include: 

• The California Real Estate Political Action Committee, $250. 

• Marvin Gardens real estate broker Ronald Egherman, $100. 

• Joe DeStefano, an urban planner for Calthorpe Associates, $100. 

• Publicist Caleb Dardick, who represents developers, $100. 

• Planning commissioner and land use attorney Harry Pollack, $100. 

• Developer David Mayeri of DMM Associates, $250. 

Together, the development-related contributions for Doran’s final reporting period totaled $4,275, or 62 percent of his $6,904 in contributions reported between Oct. 19 and Dec. 31. 

During the previous reporting period, Doran received at least $5,100 from the land-use sector, bringing the total to $9,375, or 42 percent of the $22,323 he took in during the campaign. 

Developer contributions helped Doran recoup the $1,000 he had loaned himself during the campaign. The candidate also received $700 in contributions from family members. 

The ZAB member also brought in contributions from two Berkeley councilmembers during the final reporting period, $50 from Max Anderson (bringing his total to $100) and $100 from Darryl Moore (bring his total to $200). 

Doran had earlier received $250 maximum donations from Mayor Tom Bates, City Councilmember and real estate broker Laurie Capitelli and Councilmember Gordon Wozniak. Doran had also taken donations from three planning commissioners, including Chair James Samuels, the leader of the commission’s pro-development majority. 


Jesse Arreguin 

Doran’s closest rival in the fund-raising race was the eventual winner at the polls, Jesse Arreguin, the council’s youngest member and its first Latino. 

As the aide to Councilmember Kriss Worthington and a member of the city’s housing commission, he has been critical of the council majority’s generally laissez-faire approach to development. 

Since his election, Arreguin has observed many of the Planning Commission sessions where members have been drafting revisions to the new downtown plan the council is scheduled to adopt in May. 

Only a small percentage of Arreguin’s contributions came from the land-use sector, including those whose interests stemmed from their membership on related city commissions:  

• Real estate attorney Maryland Cleveland added $20 to the $150 she had already given. 

• Landmarks Commissioner and Design Review Committee member Carrie Olson gave a total of $220. 

• Nonprofit environmental planner and East Bay MUD Director Andrew Katz gave $100. 

• Transportation Commissioner Wendy Alfsen gave a total of $190. 

• Susan Chase, director and former president of the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association gave $150. 

• Mary Lou VanDeventer and Daniel Knapp of Urban Ore, which is involved in the struggle over West Berkeley zoning changes, gave a total of $500. 

• Central Labor Council Solidarity Political Action Committee gave $250. 

• Ted Garrett, Berkeley Chamber of Commerce CEO, who had earlier given Doran $250, gave Arreguin $50 after the election. 

Those donations, added to contributions reported earlier, give Arreguin a total of $3,480 from people with interests in land use decisions—almost entirely from interests opposite those of Doran’s donors. 

The total accounts for 20 percent of Arreguin’s campaign contributions for the entire election period of $17,097.77. 


Others candidates 

L A Wood, who reported $4,053.42 in contributions, took in $350 from development-related interests for the entire campaign period, while the fourth candidate, Asa Dosworth, reported no land-use sector donations.