Does Oakland need a Public Ethics Commission?

How much do you know about Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission (PEC)? If you’re like most Oaklanders, you probably didn’t even know we had one. (Yes, I realize that my readers, of course, are much more aware of these things than the average resident.) Anyway, the Public Ethics Commission deals with sunshine, transparency, lobbying, campaign laws, and stuff like that.

The Commission’s website describes their function like this:

The City of Oakland Public Ethics Commission was established in November, 1996 with the passage of Measure J which amended City Charter §202 (see Governing Legislation).

The mission of the Public Ethics Commission is to promote the highest confidence in the ethics of the government of the City of Oakland. We help ensure that government works the way it’s supposed to – that you are treated fairly, with honesty and integrity. We do this by:

  • Informing you about your rights to obtain information about your City government;
  • Creating easier access to information and meetings of public bodies in the City;
  • Educating City officials, employees, Board and Commission members, and candidates for elected office about ethics laws;
  • Investigating complaints about possible violations of ethics laws under our authority;
  • Recommending changes in laws to promote ethical government; and
  • Setting the standard, by example, for ethical conduct.

So how does that work in practice? Well, let’s take a look at two upcoming PEC discussion items. At the PEC’s March 1st meeting (PDF), the Commission will be considering ethics complaints involving Mayoral candidates Jean Quan and Don Perata.

The first, filed by Pamela Drake, claims that City resources were improperly used (PDF) to promote the Mayoral campaign of Don Perata. Some of you I’m sure will remember this controversy from last fall, when Oakland Police Officer’s Association (OPOA) President Dominique Arotzarena announced at a community meeting introducing new Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts that the OPOA would be endorsing Don Perata for Mayor. The event was held at OPOA headquarters, but invitations to the event were sent out to community groups by City Neighborhood Services staff.

Drake says that since the OPOA used the event for political purposes, they should have to pay back the City for the time and resources used to promote the event. Commission staff basically says that since Neighborhood Services Staff didn’t know the OPOA was going to announce their endorsement of Perata at the event, and since OPOA didn’t know that City resources were being used to promote the event, nobody did anything wrong, and the Commission doesn’t have the authority to demand reimbursement.

The second complaint, filed against Jean Quan by Anthony Moglia, alleges that Jean Quan acted in violation of law by using City resources to promote her Mayoral campaign (PDF). Visitors to Quan’s City Council website are invited to join her Mayoral campaign e-mail list. Additionally, Moglia objects to a feature included in one of Quan’s constituent newsletters regarding the implementation of Instant Runoff Voting for the 2010 City elections. Moglia claims both actions violate laws prohibiting the use of public resources to promote political campaigns. Commission staff basically says no big deal (PDF). The reasoning is that since Quan claims she maintains a strong separation between her Council work and her campaign for both her and her staff, it’s all totally okay.

This is pretty much how ethics complaints usually go. Either nobody did anything wrong, or maybe they did, but the Commission doesn’t have any power to do anything about it, or they did do something kind of iffy but it wasn’t that big a deal and it’s too late to fix it now. Almost everyone I’ve ever known who has filed an ethics complaint in Oakland has been disappointed in the result. (For a current example of this, see today’s post on Marleen Sacks’s blog, about a complaint she filed regarding the Measure Y Oversight Committee.) And maybe that’s how it should be. After all, people who are passionate about a particular issue tend to get really obsessive about all sorts of improprieties, both real and imagined, that in the long run, don’t really matter all that much. I don’t say that with judgment – I am often guilty of the same thing myself. It’s just the way things work.

Do I believe for a second that the OPOA had no clue that city resources were being used to promote the event with Chief Batts? Um, no. Do I believe for a second that Jean Quan is careful to separate her Mayoral campaign from her Council work? Um, no. Give me a break. When the decision about IRV came to the Council, she gave this interminable speech about how IRV is so great because it will make her more likely to elected Mayor. But Councilmembers do stuff that is technically illegal or against the City Charter or whatever all the freaking time, and as much as I personally hate that, I also don’t know what you’re going to do about it.

Or maybe I’m wrong and the Public Ethics Commission is a total failure and they should be doing something about all this and other people have better ideas of what. In any case, I do think it’s good for people to at least make an effort to draw attention to these sorts of things, and to that end, I’m grateful for the people who keep filing complaints, even if nothing ever comes of them. It’s important to remind ourselves that just because something’s the status quo that doesn’t mean we should be okay with it.

Does the Public Ethics Commission perform a vital function? Does it ensure transparency in government? Does the Commission do a good job? Or is it a toothless waste of time and resources? These are all important questions, and who better to help you answer them than Oakland’s League of Women Voters?

At this month’s League hot topics meeting, Andrew Wiener, immediate past chair of Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission will be on hand to talk about the Commission’s role in ensuring open and transparent government. Regarding the discussion, this month’s League newsletter offers:

Come join the League in a lively discussion of what “sunshine” means in the affairs of your city and your rights as a citizen to know what and how your government is doing. Oakland passed the Sunshine Ordinance in 1997. Among other things it created a Public Ethics Commission to administer the Ordinance. It was the LWVO Task Force on Sunshine in the early 1990s that shone a light on the need for the public to have access to public records and the activities of their elected officials. To this day debate follows the decisions of the PEC as it administers the Sunshine Ordinance.

The event will take place next Wednesday, February 24th, from 6:30 to 8 PM at the Redwood Heights Community Center, which is located at 3883 Aliso Avenue (Redwood Road just below Highway 13).

As long as we’re talking about the League, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another upcoming event, a party celebrating the 90th Anniversary of the founding of the League of Women Voters. Gotta love that 19th Amendment! The party will be held tonight – Friday, February 19th from 6 to 8:30 PM at the Pro Arts Gallery, 150 Frank Ogawa Plaza (by Broadway and 15th). There’s also a great article about the history of the League in this month’s VOTER newsletter.

And if you’re not yet a member of the League, I strongly recommend you consider joining. They do great work. And you can join online!

69 thoughts on “Does Oakland need a Public Ethics Commission?

  1. MarleenLee

    Lively discussion, huh? I’ll be sure to be there, and I guarantee you, I’ll make it even livelier, given how much I know about the City not being able to comply properly with a public records request to save its life! So, yeah, I do worry sometimes about turning into (or being perceived as) one of those obsessive whackos. But I’m pretty sure I’m not. I’m pretty sure the Public Ethics Commission is a total joke and toothless waste of time and resources. The City should never encourage people to tilt at windmills, which basically is what they’re doing. The only thing that might change my mind is when I see what they end up doing with my pending complaint (the one having to do with public records that got unceremoniously bumped from the schedule for March 1). If that is the one and only complaint in the history of the commission that actually gets sustained, there may be hope.

    In the meantime, one of my suggestions for the PEC is that, even if they don’t find a technical violation, they should make specific suggestions on how government can be improved, based on the investigation, and somehow acknowledge the person who took the time and effort to highlight the problem. For example, in my MYOC complaint, I highlighted the fact that the MYOC is the only advisory committee in the whole City that for some bizarre reason was not complying with conflict of interest provisions. The City quickly added the committee to the list, but the Executive Director is dismissing my complaint without so much as a “thank you for bringing this oversight to our attention.” They have the specific power to make recommendations, even absent findings of violations, and they should do that. Not that it would make any difference, since nobody at the City listens, but still…..

  2. John Klein

    I’ve spent a lot of time at the PEC in the last year. My current evaluation of our PEC is that it provides zero benefits to the public. It’s got several major problems (and a host of smaller ones).

    First, they lack staff. This is easy to say, impossible to change, but it is killing its effectiveness – completely. Our PEC is staffed by two people: the Executive Director and one support person. San Francisco has roughly 30 people in its PEC and LA has about the same. If Oakland had even one or two more staff members, especially investigators, our PEC might have a chance. But right now it is simply impossible for the Executive Director, Dan Purnell, to conduct adequate and thorough investigations. What makes it worse, however, is that sometimes he has a personal interest in an issue.

    Here’s an example. As part of the current update to the lobbying law, on two separate occasions I submitted lists from others cities (SF and LA) showing their ‘designated employees’, city employees who lobbyists must report their contacts with. I also spoke more than once about this at PEC meetings. We need the list because we currently use a completely undecipherable definition of a designated employee that requires you to read specific sections of the state constitution, Oakland’s Conflict of Interest filings, and then a raft of exclusions to boot. I think this is why those other cities opted for a list: the lay person can understand a clear list of position titles.

    However, neither my submissions nor my proposal ever appeared in any staff report produced by Mr. Purnell. Finally, at the February, 2010, PEC meeting, I spoke about it again and read our current undecipherable definition to the PEC so they could hear it themselves. It turned out only one person in the room understood it: Mr. Purnell. As the discussion proceeded, it also turned out that Mr. Purnell himself does not support the list, saying it would include “hundreds of names.” That was simply wrong, like, really wrong. It would include no more than 30 position titles, such as “Department Director” or “Board Member or Commissioner.”

    That is not the problem. The real problem is that because Mr. Purnell didn’t like the idea, he never submitted any analysis or discussion of the proposal to full PEC. In his gate-keeping function, he screened out a proposal HE did not like and, hence, the Commissioners never saw it except when I spoke about it. The worst part of this is that because it never appears in staff reports, the proposal does not appear in the public record for the issue, either.

    Excluding credible and legitimate proposals from the PEC and the public record is completely unacceptable, especially since other major cities in California make such a list. This is only one of several major problems our PEC has. They’ve tentatively scheduled to begin amending their procedures in mid-2010, but things are a mess right now.

  3. MarleenLee

    Mr. Purnell’s investigation of my conflict of interest complaint about the MYOC came across as sloppy, incomplete and biased. I’ll be addressing that in a later post. I have no doubt the Mr. Purnell is extremely busy. But the sloppy and incomplete issues could be addressed with additional staffing of the PEC. Money should not be an issue. I bet that if Mr. Purnell made an effort, he could find volunteer lawyers, or at least volunteer law students who would be happy to help and get valuable experience. All of the commission members are volunteers, and at least two of them are lawyers. I myself used to volunteer at the City Attorney’s office many years ago, and there were other volunteers there as well. In a recession, volunteers are much easier to find.

  4. Max Allstadt

    Our municipal rules regarding ethics are overly broad, and written in a way that makes them often too difficult to follow to the letter.

    There are, however, plenty of examples where people clearly break rules, and V’s examples are good ones.

    The commission itself is effectively toothless, particularly when it deals with incumbent politicians. The only person who’s truly empowered to do anything is the DA, and I don’t think there’s any history of the DA’s office taking action against local politicians. Makes sense, the DA is also a politician, and everybody in town is in the same party.

    The ethics commission, as best as I can tell, de facto does the following: embarrasses people. sends unheeded advice to the council. lets almost all politicians off the hook with a warning, some sort of mandated re-education class, or just requires people to come into compliance with whatever law they were caught breaking.

    They could definitely be meaner, particularly with elected officials. They also should stop pulling punches when they pursue allegations against losing political campaigns. Losing doesn’t excuse cheating.

  5. John Klein

    If withholding documents or information from the Commissioners happened once, I’d call it an accident. But it has happened several times.

    1. Regarding email and whether sending email to designated employees is considered lobbying, the Commission asked for an analysis on two separate occasions. Yet, in the February staff report, analysis was still missing. When asked about it, it turns out that Mr. Purnell did not want to discuss electronic issues, saying it was too complicated, basically. I mean, if it’s too complicated, just say that in the staff report. The PEC directed him, for a third time, to bring back information about email for their consideration.

    2. In my complaint regarding several OBA members, Mr. Purnell never gave the Secretary of State documents I’d submitted to the Commission. Those documents showed that the OBA individuals were also officers and directors of private businesses and corporations when they met in private with council members. This is the exact definition of a lobbyist. Mr. Purnell did not discuss the state documents in the staff report, either. Rather, he simply referred to them as ‘a set of documents’ without any elaboration.

    What does this one mean? It means the PEC never saw the State documents and they weren’t in the staff report. What is the real result? They never became part of the public record. I checked the City Clerk’s documents for that meeting, and my documents were not in the Clerk’s official record.

    3. On a slightly different issue, on my complaint for Novak and his lobbying on behalf of Dogtown Development, in his investigation of Novak, Mr. Purnell simply asked Novak if he was a ‘salaried employee” (a qualifier as a lobbyist). Mr. Novak answered that he was not. This was the extent of Mr. Purnell’s “investigation.”

    By this I mean, I asked Mr. Purnell that if Mr. Novak is not a salaried employee, what is his employment status: a contractor? A volunteer? What? I made the point that it isn’t possible to say Mr. Novak is not a salaried employee unless his true employment status is known. Mr. Purnell refused to ask any follow-up questions about this.

    I asked further whether Novak goes to work everyday? Does he have an office, desk, computer? Does he get company benefits? What is the form of compensation Mr. Novak receives? What is Mr. Novak’s tax filing status?

    Mr. Purnell refused to conduct any follow-up questions when I challenged him on accepting Mr. Novak’s statements without verifying them. It’s like asking a defendant, “did you do it?” and when the defendant says, “No” – case closed. Incredible.

    If it were only one instance of poor investigation or forgetfulness, it could be overlooked, but it is systemic to the PEC.

  6. MarleenLee

    Max, actually the PEC has jurisdiction over numerous sets of laws, including campaign finance, the Public Records Act, and conflict of interest laws, among others. These laws, both state and City, include very specific requirements, and are not at all vague. I think the power of the commission to embarrass people could be pretty strong, if the people being embarrassed actually cared, or if the press bothered to report on that type of stuff. Also, they have the power to drag people back to make sure their recommendations have been implemented. I’m not sure they actually do that. If they do, it’s probably like all the other recommendations that get made in this City, be it by the City Auditor or the Grand Jury or whatever. A finding is made that the City screwed up. Recommendations are made to improve. Then nothing happens. And nobody, not even the people who made the recommendations to begin with, seem to care. Except people like me.

    With respect to actual enforcement, most of the laws are civil, not criminal, so of course the complainants always have the right to file a lawsuit regarding those violations. With respect to conflict of interest laws, some of those carry criminal penalties, but they can be reported to the FPPC (Fair Political Practices Commission), or alternatively, members of the public can seek independent “advice” from the FPPC.

  7. John Klein

    Marleen,
    I agree with you that the PEC could be doing much, much more in supporting and driving open government and transparency. The irony is that I’ve never even heard these words mentioned by the PEC.

    They should be issuing Advice Letters to clarify ambiguities. For example, in my OBA complaint, the respondents dodged the lobbyist bullet claiming they were volunteer non-profit board members and the law didn’t cover them.

    Fair enough.

    But the PEC totally ignored that the OBA folks were also officers and directors of private, for-profit business at the same time. The PEC allowed OBA to argue this and to exempt themselves from disclosing their other corporate interests.

    What the PEC should have done at that point was to issue an Advice Letter directing officers and directors that they must disclose ALL of their corporate interests – not just one, especially if one xempts them from lobbyist disclosure.

    The same goes for PEC decisions. The PEC should issue formal opinions. They don’t need to be long, even a one-liner would work. But now the only way the public knows the outcome of a complaint is to search the meeting minutes found on following month’s PEC agenda. Also, often the PEC doesn’t even give a reason or rationale for a decision. None of this is very transparent or open.

  8. Max Allstadt

    Marleen, didn’t say the rules were vague, I said they were too broad to follow.

    For instance, everybody who is required to fill out a form 700 financial disclosure form has to list every gift over $50 from anybody who isn’t in their nuclear family. Along with all of their personal investments in stock and bonds, including where their 401k is invested or where their IRA is invested.

    That’s an appropriate level of disclosure for a council member. But the california FPPC requires the same level of disclosure from hundreds of city employees and minor board and commission members. If a member of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board has a diversified retirement investment in a few mutual funds, for instance, they would have to disclose all the individual stocks that make up those investments. It’s impractical, it needs to be simplified, and until it is, enforcement will by necessity become arbitrary.

    John,

    From my understanding, Matt Novak didn’t lobby on behalf of Dogtown development. He contacted the City as a private citizen about a government matter, and his contact made no mention of his employer.

    If the fact that he works for Dogtown makes him a lobbyist any time he mentions planning issues, we have to broaden the definition of lobbyist to a ludicrous extent. For example, any realtor in the city who contacts council or high ranking CEDA staff about zoning would also be construed as a lobbyist. A mechanic who contacts the city about auto body shop regulations would be a lobbyist. A musician who contacts the city about cabaret reform would be a lobbyist.

    In short, your complaint against Mr. Novak was dismissed because it was wholly without merit. It’s not the PEC’s job to agree with your reasoning. It’s their job to evaluate it. I that case, they disagreed. So they did their job.

  9. John Klein

    Max,
    Dogtown Development, Novak’s employer, got two entitlement extensions soon after the legislation passed. Novak was lobbying and working directly with De La Fuente’s office on this legislation beforehand. Novak’s name is listed on the entitlement extension received by Dogtown Development.

    The problem with the PEC is that it simply won’t take principled, or hard decisions. Unless they catch the politician at the massage parlor, holding a bag of money with an attached note from a lobbyist saying, “thanks for pushing through our legislation”, the PEC plays dumb.

    As far as the rules being too broad, this is exactly why the PEC should be issuing clarifying Advice Letters.

  10. MarleenLee

    The rules regarding the filing of Form 700s are not municipal; they derive from state law. Also, according to the FPPC, there is no requirement that stock owned through mutual funds be disclosed. If it is disclosed, it would not be considered a conflict of interest, because ownership of stock managed through a mutual fund is considered to be indirect ownership where the member has no control over the business of the company. The City should give proper training to all members of boards and commissions on conflict of interest issues, as well as Brown Act requirements etc., and a lot of potential violations and confusion could be avoided.

  11. Max Allstadt

    John,

    It is utterly irrelevant what happened before or after Matt Novak, as a private citizen, petitioned his government for a redress of grievances.

    When cabaret reform passes, hundreds of musicians who I asked to contact the City Council will directly benefit from the legislation by booking gigs in new venues.

    When Industrial Preservation Zoning passed, there was a a direct benefit to multiple business owners and employees who lobbied for that legislation.

    By your logic, a lobbyist is anybody who works in this city and who contacts a senior government official outside of a public meeting asking for something to be done about anything related to commerce. That’s an unmanageable definition.

    If the PEC were to set that precedent, as I said back when all of this was going down, my reaction would be to file a massive public records request and then file complaints against hundreds if not thousands of citizens who are not complying with the ordinance. The subsequent logjam would end the precedent you seem to want.

    Mr. Novak was not paid to contact the city. He did not mention any specific Dogtown Development project in the records you obtained. I don’t think he mentioned the company at all, actually. Ergo, he isn’t a lobbyist.

    If a business owner or employee can’t talk to the government about business/government relationships without registering as a lobbyist, you basically set up a situation where business just can’t talk to the government.

    Meanwhile, because CALM and OHA are not commercial entities, they get as much contact as they want under your interpretation of the law. So developers can’t talk without registering, but NIMBYs can? Sounds like you’re just trying to set up a paradigm where your personal pet interests have an unfair advantage. That’s probably part of why the PEC disagreed with your interpretation of the law.

  12. Max Allstadt

    Marleen,

    The issue is more that the PEC often oversees compliance with FPPC rules, and at the very least they refer to FPPC rules in the decisions they make.

    The number of mandatory form 700 filers in this city is staggering, and the level of detail mandated by the law is inappropriate for all but the most powerful people in town. The level of staffing necessary for any true oversight of the current mob of 700 filers would be enormous.

    In general, there are issues with the Brown Act and the Sunshine Ordinance and the FPPC rules that can rapidly devolve into hair splitting arguments, and as a matter of laziness or expedience, the PEC seems to walk away from anything that isn’t entirely clear cut. Inaction seems to be the safest action for them in many cases. Not a good situation.

    They need bigger teeth and bigger balls.

    They also need a charter-mandated hire and fire authority over their staff, along with a modest charter-mandated budget for that staff. The PEC is built up over multiple mayoral terms, and if their staffers cannot be fired by the city administrator and the staffers’ jobs cannot be eliminated from the budget by the council, the PEC has far more real independence from the politicians it is supposed to keep an eye on.

  13. John Klein

    Max, it is not irrelevant and laws requiring certain individuals to report their lobbying contacts exist. The reason is because certain individuals, notably those who work for specific business and corporate interersts, have away of corrupting the legislative process in their favor. That’s what federal case law says and that is what state law draws from. Read ‘em and weep.

    The problem is as I stated, that unless the PEC finds a bag of money, they play stupid. It is sheer folly on the part of the PEC to look the facts of the Novak instance and say Novak was acting on his own. This is because his name appears on the business’ documents which claim the benefits of the government action he help to create. No wonder so many people think the PEC is a waste of time.

    In the Novak instance, the PEC never concluded whether Novak was an employee. Nor did they ask about his contacts, which revolved around his email account. As it turns out, everyone at Dogtown uses Yahoo. So, the PEC didn’t know how to make the call. What they did not do was to simply ask Novak, who was in the room at the time:

    1. What is your status as a Dogtown employee and how are you paid? These questions go to the very definition of a lobbyist.

    2. Is Yahoo your work email? All the emails I’ve seen from Dogtown employees use Yahoo.

    But the PEC didn’t do this, they would not do this. Therefore, they had no basis for dismissing the complaint. And so they didn’t.

    On what basis did they dismiss the complaint? They looked at the Novak emails I submitted and said, “these aren’t enough,” and don’t rise to the level of lobbying. Even one Commissioner, Alex Paul, said he was “embarrassed” by the complaint.

    Believe it or not, this is where things get more weird. There is nothing in the PEC procedures that allow them to do this – this was the first time they ever did this. Not only that, but Plazola’s complaint toward me did not contain a single private email from me to a council member. But, the PEC didn’t think it was an issue – a blantantly inconsistent process and result.

    As the law currently defines lobbyists, they are individuals who are officers, directors, or salaried employees of corporations, organizations, or associations. The PEC is considering adding volunteer non-profit board members to the definition of a lobbyist.

  14. Max Allstadt

    Yes, John, all of those questions are relevant to the definition of a lobbyist under our law. But answering any of them would open up precisely the can of worms I just enumerated at length.

    As I said, if Novak is a lobbyist because he contacted the city regarding an issue that mattered to his livelihood, essentially there are thousands of lobbyists in this city.

    Do my musician friends use their yahoo or gmail addresses to book gigs? You bet. Do some of them have sole proprietorship business licenses or even LLCs? You bet. By your logic, if any of them contacted the city regarding cabaret reform, they’re lobbyists. If they email each other first, they’re creating “business documents” that endorse the same.

    The reason the emails don’t rise to the level of lobbying is simple. They don’t mention the employer. They don’t mention any position taken officially by the company. Oh, and Matt Novak wasn’t paid to contact you, nor ordered to do so by his company.

    While we’re at it, I’m very very curious as to why your interest in lobbying law only becomes passionate when a certain group of people are involved.

    I bet if you did a blanket public records request you could find numerous other “individuals who are officers, directors, or salaried employees of corporations, organizations, or associations” who should be registered as lobbyists. Maybe you could even find some personal friends or political allies on that list and tell them that they need to register as lobbyists because it’s the right thing to do, and that you’ll feel compelled to report them if they don’t.

    That would be the even handed, principled approach to this issue, no?

  15. Naomi Schiff

    Max, not having been terribly closely involved in the discussion, I’m not commenting on the substance of the above–but is it necessary to gratuitously take out after Oakland Heritage Alliance and call them NIMBY? I’d like to respectfully request that you eschew the namecalling. Oakland Heritage Alliance is a historic preservation organization, and while sometimes it does oppose a development on specific grounds, has just as frequently assisted developers with projects, has worked closely with quite a number of them, and has repeatedly at their request written letters supporting projects to help them win eligibility for federal tax credits and other funding.

    We aren’t generalizing or labelling you or any organization, and I’d like to suggest that it is not helpful to a good discussion to do so. It may even undermine your reasoning, such namecalling, and make you sound more brash than brainy.

  16. John Klein

    Max,
    Lobbying contacts become relevant when the person is an officer, director, etc., and/or with payment to that person for making the contacts. Some jurisdictions count the number of contacts, too – it becomes lobbying beyond a specificed number of contacts.

    Lobbying laws don’t stop or prevent people for expressing themselves. They do require people whose interests might be contrary to the public good, to simply disclose or to otherwise be open and transparent in their attempts to influence public officials in their official acts.

    The lobbying law doesn’t have any sort of test with regard to the motivation of the person filing the complaint. As has been discussed before, it is an adversarial system – friends don’t file lobbying complaints against their friends.

    At best, the PEC could have issued an Advice Letter with regard to ‘garden-variety ISPs’. It is clear in the Novak complaint that the garden-variety ISP provided a means for that business and individual to exempt themselves from lobbyist disclosures. The PEC could have driven and supported openness and transparency by implementing a rule that such ISPs won’t insult businesses or individuals from the requirement to disclose lobbying contacts.

  17. dto510

    Naomi, you say the Heritage Alliance does more than oppose projects and advocate for anti-development policies such as small-town height limits, but what exactly has the OHA done to support new construction or historic renovation in Oakland? All of the most exciting recent downtown historic renovations I can think of had no assistance from the OHA.

  18. len raphael

    NIMYB: what’s intrinsically wrong with opposing development private or government controlled that negatively affects one’s immediated surroundings? is that compared with the more noble putting the greatest good of the greatest number above the interests of oneself and one’s neighbors? and not doing that calculation on two generations into the future?

    or is the property rights should be strictly construed and nimbys want to give priority to existing residents (even if not owners)?

    50 or so years ago it would have been nimby to oppose the freeways cutting up oakland. now it’s nimby for oakland to oppose the oac which could benefit many residents of other neighbors while screwing the locals. brt brings similar issues to mind.

    -len raphael
    temescal

  19. Naomi Schiff

    Oakland Heritage Alliance played a key role in the resurrection of the Fox Oakland Theater, beginning in the early 1980s, and eventually founding, incubating, and then spinning off the group Friends of the Oakland Fox. I personally started advocating for the Fox in 1975. For that project as well as many others we have provided letters of support for acquiring federal tax credits, as well as a voice at the State Historic Preservation Office when it is needed. We worked hard to raise the profile of the Fox project long before it was a project. We blew the whistle when leaks at the Fox caused terrible mold and deterioration to set in, and we got the press to report it, so that City Council came up with money to reroof and save the structure. We helped to keep the Floral Depot (along with Sweet’s Ballroom and the rest of that block) standing, through many threats, beginning in about 1981. After the Loma Prieta earthquake, we established a joint committee on historic buildings with the East Bay AIA, provided experts to help do damage assessments and walkthroughs, advocated for the preservation of the Broadway Building, the Rotunda, what is now the DeDomenico Building, and City Hall itself (preserved with FEMA funds). We were involved in rehabilitation of the Hotel Oakland, the recent Altenheim housing, have been in discussion with the Swig Company about their planned Kaiser Center high-rises–working with them to preserve the nationally-known roof garden, have been monitoring and working towards preservation of 1100 Broadway, now owned by SKS, pushed to get a Mills Act tax abatement project started (just for the current year, about 11 projects are now in progress). Working with EBALDC and John Protopappas we saved the historic Madison Park Apartments (about 95 units) from demolition by BART. After the quake, as a mitigation for demolition of the Pardee Building (250 Frank Ogawa Plaza stands on the site), I was on a subcommittee of OHA members which first proposed and outlined what is now the city’s facade improvement program; it has expanded to other areas around town, and has assisted many property owners. OHA members were major participants in the Lake Merritt Master Plan, which is the planning document behind Measure DD. We helped advocate for the renovations to four or five Carnegie libraries, and for what is now the AAMLO. We advocated for Swan’s Market to be preserved. On a statewide basis, we worked with California Preservation Foundation and other historic pres. groups to get historic preservation monies for publicly-owned buildings included in ballot measure Prop. 40, then worked to make sure it passed. Oakland projects have received substantial help from these funds. Our group kept Heinold’s First and Last Chance Bar from being swallowed up by the new building behind it; it was proposed to be within the lobby. For years we assisted Ellen Wyrick Parkinson and her band of determined residents in pushing for official recognition of the Oak Center Historic District, Oakland’s largest such district.
    Our efforts resulted in the partial retention of Cox Cadillac to build Whole Foods, instead of truly dismal proposals including a suburban-style Rite Aid. We helped concerned parents prevent the OUSD from tearing out 550 windows at Oakland Tech, saving the district money and saving the grand architecture at the same time. I could go on. When we had our 25th anniversary we had so many examples of project successes, that we had to edit it way down. I invite you to join OHA, and to become active in an organization that believes that historic preservation and economic development go hand in hand. Our annual Partners in Preservation awards program is currently looking for nominees, as we each May recognize outstanding projects. Every year we put on about 20-25 walking tours all over town, often in areas where new development and preservation projects are coming together in interesting ways. oaklandheritage.org

  20. Ralph

    whatever happened to paragraph breaks.

    my issue with OHA is their insatiable need to preserve everything, which brings me to Sweets – why?

    OHA members which first proposed and outlined what is now the city’s facade improvement program – i love the smell of lobbying in the morning :)

  21. dto510

    The Oakland Heritage Alliance may have played a role in keeping the Fox from being torn down in the 70s, but it was Pat Dedekian and Phil Tagami who found a way to reopen the theater. The OHA did not recruit Whole Foods to restore the Cox Cadillac building. I appreciate the organization’s efforts on behalf of Heinold’s, and of course your advocacy for a pedestrian-friendly downtown is great. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of the OHA’s public time is spent opposing projects and advocating for unbelievably uneconomic planning policies like three-story height limits on Telegraph in Uptown.

    Thank you for the kind invitation to join the OHA. I look forward to continuing to work with you on ways we can fulfill your ideals of encouraging economic development along with a respect for our architectural heritage. Over the last few years, though, Max’s characterization of the OHA as NIMBY is more accurate than your stated goals for the organization.

  22. Naomi Schiff

    Pat Dedekian was on the board of Oakland Heritage Alliance and then both she and I along with some other dedicated advocates, were founding members of FOOF. Once Phil got interested he did an amazing job. There is a long story to be told about this project.

    OHA advocated for historic preservation at Cox Cadillac for years, through three different project proponents. It was the Bond Company that did the project.

    The overwhelming majority of OHA’s public time is not in fact spent opposing projects. Lets have a talk about this sometime, but I won’t bore everyone further here. My point is that I am not characterizing anyone with generalizations and insults, and I think it would be helpful if we could all agree to exercise some restraint in this regard, in the interest of a civil discourse.

  23. Naomi Schiff

    Ralph: I apologize about paragraphing!

    About Sweet’s: There is a really great history behind Sweet’s. But more to the point, that entire half-block is pretty interesting: Lyon’s building on the corner, Floral Depot and its neighbors on Telegraph, and Sweet’s.

    About facade program: CEQA required mitigations for the destruction of a large historic building. We wanted to save that building, but eventually we worked out a deal that among other things established the very successful facade program. The main method we used to acomplish this was thoroughly commenting in the public input period during a CEQA process.

  24. Ralph

    Naomi, from what I have read, the history behind Sweet’s is not that great/interesting. I just don’t see why the facility was worth preserving. I could undertand it if maybe this were the site of the 1st Civil War fatality, but it isn’t. Maybe I am missing something but what is the big deal about a place where big bands played and people danced. The place didn’t seem to have any character worth saving.

    but it is your 2nd sentence which gets me – the entire half-block is interesting. OHA cleaves to one simple principle; if it is standing, then it must be saved.

  25. Naomi Schiff

    Ralph, I understand that you may insist that Oakland Heritage Alliance has no point, but we’ll disagree on that, so why belabor it? There is a lot of support for the idea that cultural, historic, and architectural assets should be preserved. (In a state as young as California, you might be levelling quite a few landmarks if you set a date of 1860 for historic significance.) Within OHA we have frequent discussions about whether to advocate for a particular site or building; as you probably realize your last sentence is a major exaggeration.

  26. Ralph

    Naomi, I would prefer you not put words in my mouth. For the record, I have never said OHA has no point. I think OHA has been overly broad in its mission. Its insatiable need to save every building standing has been a hindrance to development as a result and seems to have a resulted in a poor use of scarce resources.

    I love bldgs which have either some historical significance or add character to a neighborhood. But people dance in a number of buildings, does OHA plan to save them all? I just don’t see the point in saving a bldg because that is where one’s parents met or this were a bunch of old folk held their senior prom or this is where the fball captain kissed me.

    So, to recap, I never said OHA had no point. I think OHA could be more selective and flexible.

  27. Naomi Schiff

    I invite you to join, and to participate in our activities. We have a dedicated and vibrant preservation committee that tries to think through what projects we should weigh in on. You might enjoy thinking about things from a different angle, and perhaps you would enjoy finding out more about Oakland’s history.

  28. John Klein

    Back to the PEC, it is clear that the complaint procedure doesn’t work. One person acting as gate keeper for what the Commission sees/does not see, is fundamentally wrong. Complaints should be investigated in a more thorough and independent way. The investigative reports should be presented to the PEC in much the same way as a staff report is presented now in any other meeting, by a separate and independent investigator.

    Another structural problem with the PEC is that no contact information is available for the commissioners. Again, this means the commissioners rely solely on the Ex. Director for information. Most other commissions provide contact information – the contact information for Planning Commissioners is available, why not Ethics Commissioners? This would allow the public to submit uncensored and unscreened information to them. Some people may think the current method insulates the PEC from possible corruption – I don’t believe this, just like I don’t believe contacting a Planning Commissioner corrupts the process.

  29. MarleenLee

    John, try doing a public records request for the commission member email addresses. I did a similar request for the MYOC, and met with some initial resistance. After raising a huge stink, I finally got all the addresses, except for maybe one (they gave me a fake address). The fact that the City initially refused to give me their addresses is part of one of my pending complaints before the PEC, ironically enough.

  30. livegreen

    The Floral depot has a nice exterior.

    Question: Some of these nice buildings are so short, they might be shorter than originally intended. Could it be that some of them were structurally founded to be taller, but then couldn’t be completed? (Such as during the Great Depression).

    There are famous examples of this in NYC, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it were the same here (with earthquake preparedness being a major variance). It would be nice if this or other ways could be found to preserve the historical facades AND build up, like the Cadillac/Whole Foods. Only taller…

  31. Naomi Schiff

    To take your last item first, there was a reasonable plan (alert: which was NOT opposed by Oakland Heritage Alliance!) to put a substantial number of residential units alongside Whole Foods, but at the last minute the developer (Bond Companies) changed the plan–after it was already at Planning Commission–and backed out of doing the housing. Maybe that was smart, in hindsight, given what the market was about to do.

    Some buildings in Oakland were indeed planned for greater height. I don’t believe Floral Depot is one of them (it has a tower sticking up). Our group has discussed how best to add on to possible candidates, and whether to step back or remain flush with the extant structure. We provided photographs to the planning commissioners showing various examples good and bad of how to do this. It has occurred on one of our old Broadway bank buildings, in fact. The truth is, though, that it hasn’t been that easy to get people to build tall, even on bare ground. Our city center was at one time supposed to be a whole lot more dense than it is today, and OHA was among those who advocated for some high rise residential in the uptown residential development. But the required investment is much much greater, so it is hard for developers to finance.

  32. livegreen

    The perennial examples of NYC buildings meant to be sky scrapers but never finished are the Met Life North Building, and of course Grand Central. If Oakland finished one of it’s original sky scrapers it would get automatic positive press, & such iconic comparisons WOULD be made.

    If the economy picks up & development comes back, such a project would be very attractive. (Don’t rain on my parade, one can always dream…).

  33. John Klein

    Marleen,
    It appears your MYOC complaint has gone through the usual and pointless ‘investigation.’ The Executive Dir. asks the respondents, “Did you do it,” and then recommends dismissing the complaint when they answered, “No we didn’t.” The practice of the Executive Dir., i.e., the lead investigator, of taking respondents’ denials at face value has got to stop.

    And your follow-up questions appear to have been ignored, too. This happened to me as well with both the OBA and Novak complaints. Of course you asked an initial round of questions. But then one must go back with additional questions. But this is were the investigations are always stopped short and as the complaintant, you are the “odd person out” and anything else you have to offer is devalued or ignored.

    Regarding your letter, you will need to take affirmative steps on your own to make sure it is included in the public record. Just because you submitted doesn’t mean it will be. Oftentimes, the PEC gets the staff report but documents from the public are distributed separately with no attempt to marry them to the final version of the public record. I’ve seen this plenty of times. When that happens, the public records simply shows was is in the staff report and there will not even be a record of your opposition.

  34. len raphael

    lg, it’s not that there won’t be skyscrapers one day in dto, but there could well have been a whatyoumecallit paradigm shift in job and population growth in california. the past real estate, economic cycles that always seemed to lift oakland up, and then drop it back partly back down, might be much further apart and smaller than before. or longer cycles but bigger if say there is another flight of asian capital like there was before HKong changed hands.

    i don’t really see Oakland as becoming the next London for foreign investors and tourists. But the Chiodo Creature might just pull that money in like a magnet.

  35. Max Allstadt

    Re: my NIMBY remark.

    Give me one example of when you’ve advocated for any of the following:

    1. A tall building
    2. Increased density anywhere
    3. increasing the population of the city
    4. A building designed without references to any pre-war style.
    5. Increased height in any zoning update.

    Maybe you can come up with a couple. I say they’re the exceptions that prove the rule.

  36. John Klein

    dto510: are you still a paid consultant to the Emerald Views project? What other downtown projects have you worked on and been paid for? Are you still involved in the downtown real estate market? Full disclosure here, please….thank you.

  37. V Smoothe

    John, stop being an asshole. Your personal attacks against people whose positions you disagree with are completely over the top and out of line, and I am not going to allow you to use my blog as a platform for your petty, personal war against the OBA and anyone you decide is associated with them. Neither dto510 or Matt Novak have done a single thing wrong, nor have either of them ever made any effort to hide what they do for a living. Get a grip and a sense of decency, or find somewhere else to vent.

  38. John Klein

    V. I think Max, DTO510, etc. can speak for themselves. They don’t need you protecting them. I think you’re the asshole here for being so obviously biased. I mean, these guys are your drinking buddies.

  39. Max Allstadt

    She isn’t protecting me, nor does she need to.

    Everybody who knows anything about me has heard it before, but just in case here’s my full disclosure: Nobody has paid me to lobby, opine, advocate, or act on their behalf in City business. Ever.

  40. John Klein

    Thanks, Max. The same is true for me. I was asking about DTO510 and I’d still like an answer because his business interests could drive his overall beliefs and views, especially about preservation. I think we should know whether he is willing to knock down a historic building just to make a few bucks.

    V: if you think I’m still picking on OBA or Novak, you’ve missed the point entirely. I’ve been talking about the PEC processes. Those names are the names of the complaints and each has its own contours.

    I find it completely hypocritical of you to call me out of a few long posts on a particular topic, when you’ve got 5-8 regular posters who post ad naseum daily.

  41. Max Allstadt

    She is somewhat justified in being bothered by the fact that you’re still complaining about the PEC process months after all of your complaints were dismissed.

    And Matt Novak isn’t V’s drinking buddy. Not an accurate perception at all. I am. Matt, not so much. As for DTO, I’m sure he can answer for himself, but what you were suggesting is also not accurate.

  42. dto510

    John, thank you for your interest in my career. Regarding your specific questions, I of course am careful to disclose business ties when appropriate or ethically necessary.

  43. dto510

    John, it’s telling that you frame questions of preservation as making money. Too often it is true that preservationist policies offer nothing in the way of job or economic growth, while new construction and development-led revitalization offer job and economic opportunities to many.

  44. Matt

    Woops, that wasn’t finished…

    dto510, if that is your real name :-) If a property is the focus of preservation vs demolition, then it’s more often than not in a state of disrepair. Heritage properties in good condition usually are not often targets for replacement. To bring a building back from the dead costs a lot of money and employs a lot of people. If we’re talking about demolishing a building in good condition to replace it with something larger then I kinda see your point. Even still an old building can be preserved while increasing its economic impact on an area with well throughout improvements and modifications.

    V. what do you say to a 1000 character limit on “comments” :-)

  45. Naomi Schiff

    Back to answering Max: “Re: my NIMBY remark.” I will not give the entire list. Please call me if you want more.

    1. Tall building–
    SKS: 12th/Broadway,
    Consensus with Swig on Kaiser Center, two high-rise commercial buildings proposed.
    Advocated repeatedly for height at Uptown Forest City which did not happen.
    Attended meeting re proposal for 56 stories between 19th and 20th on Broadway. Didn’t object but the project could change.

    2. Increased density anywhere:
    Extracted council promise of 600 units housing at City Center (Lionel was mayor!) where fed bldg now stands, alas.
    Supported dense housing next to Cox Cadillac as part of Whole Foods project.
    Assisted in reawakening the Altenheim, Hotel Oakland, Madison Park Apts.
    We don’t focus on new construction, but don’t object except where it damages historic structures.

    3. increasing the population of the city–
    I personally played a key role in increasing our population by two. I have looked at ABAG projections.

    4. A building designed without references to any pre-war style.–
    Assessing new projects not OHA bailiwick, but I personally have supported some. We did support the new cathedral after they moved the project to the current site. (I hope the ivy grows fast.) Our purview is stuff more than about 50 yrs. old (now quite post-WW2!)

    5. Increased height in any zoning update.
    Trick question, since for decades there were unlimited heights in CBD, but we did map a lot of empty lots we thought ripe for development. In current updates (not passed yet) we agree with staff proposals in many areas, and limit our focus to historic areas.

    Max, we have helped a lot of developers and are proud to recognize that many of them are members of Oakland Heritage Alliance. Come to some of our events. You might be surprised.

  46. Max Allstadt

    1. So the one tall building that you bring up is in the absolute center of downtown. As I expected, the exception that proves the rule.

    2. “Reawakening” doesn’t count. That’s not what we mean by increasing density. That’s blight abatement. City Center, again, because it’s right in the middle of downtown, and because it happened before I was out of high school, also doesn’t exactly count….. Cox Cadillac, there’s one I accept.

    3. Unless the father of your children has kids with someone elst too, having two kids is zero population growth. It’s also a hell of a stretch. Last night, Dellums said he wanted this city to have 500,000 people in it. Do you concur? I disagree with him. I think his number is too low.

    4. If you guys don’t support new, creative, bold, audacious architecture, the Oakland of the future will have no heritage. Think of your great grand children. In 80 years, don’t you want them to have their own version of Biffs to argue with my great great grand children about?

    5. Trick answer. Since you haven’t ever supported raising height limits, you made an excuse by redirecting the readers. True, the heights downtown were once unlimited. A lot of areas are now more limited due to a new zoning ordinance which you supported. And there’s more to height limits than downtown.

    Ultimately, I think it’s against your own interests to support no-growth policies at almost every turn. If the Council and Planning Commission know before you even email them about a project that you’ll want it smaller or not to happen, you lose credibility. That credibility loss potentially prevents you from being able to protect historic structures that really matter. It’s a cry wolf problem, really.

  47. Max Allstadt

    I’m with her on the cathedral design.

    Basically the history of the Cathedral was that one of the best living architects on earth, Santiago Calatrava, was supposed to design it. Local NIMBYs didn’t like the site that had been selected, and forced the location to be moved.

    This was one case where the NIMBYs were right, the current site is better. But the process that got the site moved also pissed of Calatrava so much that he walked away from the project altogether.

    So instead of Calatrava, we get SOM. The exterior is well detailed but uninspired. The interior is pretty damn impressive. But Calatrava is a luminary, and if he hadn’t run away, the Cathedral would be attracting great hods of archi-tourists.

  48. Naomi Schiff

    Calatrava designed structures for the Athens Olympics after that. He’s a fine architect, especially wonderful with bridges. But this project was not so well-conceived–perhaps not his fault, though.

    The site (public land) was fraught with problems. It is old fill, was once open water, and there would have needed to be pilings every three feet or so. It wasn’t clear where any road could run. The Diocese hoped the road could go under the plaza of a church high above and slightly projecting over the Lake. The cost would have been even more prohibitive than what they have now built.

    Max, I don’t know why you insist I am antigrowth, but we’ll leave it for another day. (Where are you supporting highrise buildings that aren’t downtown but which are likely to have a chance of being built, by the way?) I look forward to having a conversation with you about this in person, not here.

  49. Naomi Schiff

    Livegreen, The cathedral: looks to my eye a bit too much like an office building when approached from Grand/Harrison, with a wimpy access stair on that corner. That was a missed opportunity to do something that would open the site in a more welcoming way. (The architect Craig Hartman originally wanted to do something with flowing water but it was too costly.) The podium is the thing I see the most, since I walk by it daily, thus my comment about ivy, which is slowly growing and apparently intended to reach up to the plaza. All in all, it is way way way better than the design of the office building which was originally proposed for the site, and I do like the feeling of open space around the nonrectangular shape (almost said “massing” but that architectural term seems like a pun when applied to this structure).

  50. Chris Kidd

    The concrete podium the Cathedral stands on may be beautiful one day – once it is overgrown with ivy and the trees flanking the approach are mature (and not nearly as anemic-looking as they are now) – but the current iteration of the Cathedral is imposing, stark, and inaccessible. All the things you’d hope a house of worship *wouldn’t* be. Also, the south side of the complex, housing the offices, approach ramp, etc. really looks like an architectural afterthought. It’s like they only realized halfway through construction that the Cathedral would only take up half of the block and scrambled to find use for the rest of it.

    Yes, the interior is gorgeous. I get the whole interior/exterior dynamic, but maybe they took the idea a bit too far…

  51. Max Allstadt

    The office building that’s on that site is a travesty. It looks like a bunker.

    The cathedral itself, well, let’s just say it’s something very much in the spirit of Maude Lebowski’s aesthetic.

  52. livegreen

    I don’t mind the Cathedral’s exterior, although I preferred it during construction when the wood was well exposed & soaring into the sky. With all the glass, some of it a little to plasticized, I think it is a somewhat “suggestive” symbol, and quite ironic for the male dominated church…

  53. Born in Oakland

    More to the point, I am thrilled the Catholic Church (or the local diocese) still had the power to build this ode to Mary of the Light. While not religious myself, I have found the Bay Areas Progressive Bubble of hammering all religious institutions, great or small, have led to a decline in the quality of services of available to the poor, the ill and the destitute. The government, the non-profits and the predatory now care for warehousing Oakland’s needy and the Little Sisters of the Poor have long since left their convent they occupied here since time immemorial. Next time you go after priest pedophiles and joke about those of faith (they are Republicans anyway). THINK ! As services decline, and your favorite municipal government can no longer care for the needy, remember there used to be entities that provided those services for FREE! Progressive thinking is so hip, so right and so cool. No military, no Catholic priests and nuclear research in our town; just pot, pols and promises. Way to go, and I’m talking about my generation. How could we?

  54. Naomi Schiff

    Yes, well yes there is definitely that. Virginal is not the word for it.
    The reason for the tall basement is the desire to sell a large no. of niches, and that office wing is indeed way brutal, Max. I have been thinking about stealthily supplementing the fertilizer ration on those little ivy plants so they will grow faster. To their credit, the Diocese originally had almost no access from the lake whatsoever. At least they put in that stairway. But yeah, not a friendly approach on the lake side.

  55. Born in Oakland

    Way to go intelligentsia. a little Freud, a little Marx and some undergraduate art and architecture history and voila, we have what passes for a serious discussion. The point might be better served by asking what positive benefits will this artifice and its congregation provide to our bankrupt city?

  56. Chris Kidd

    I’m pretty sure Oakland has always supported housing the bay area Catholic diocese. They were welcomed by Jerry Brown and by Ron Dellums. And when their first site was deemed infeasible, a second site was found for them. And it all worked. The Cathedral is there. The proof’s in the puddin’. I’m not sure where this supposed political rancor towards the Catholic church is visible in all of this process, BiO… For an area that’s supposedly so against the church, they’ve managed to sell a heck of a lot of those crypt niches.

  57. John Klein

    dto510: if you are paid by the very interests you defend here and on other blogs, you have an ethical duty to disclose those interests. This is especially true since you are so vehemently against historic preservation.

    If you believe you practice good blogging ethics, those ethics include disclosing your conflicts of interest. I agree with one blogger who wrote, “You don’t need to be unbiased, just transparent.” http://bit.ly/4YCH

    In your case that would be if you have a direct financial interest in a new or proposed development project where a historic property might now exist, for starters.

    You have not always been so forthcoming. At lease one planning commissioner, the Chair of the ZUC, did not know you were a paid consultant for the Emerald Views project until I mentioned it to him back during the CBD rezoning. This was after you had spoken against building heights in the CBD on numerous occasions at the Planning Commission. It was only after you were called out on it that you began your disclosures.

    Given that you needed to be reminded about your ethical duty to disclose your financial interests then, and given the veracity of your opposition to historic preservation now, this might be a good time for you to disclose any financial interests you’ve got regarding real estate and real estate development downtown.

  58. Naomi Schiff

    Chris, you are right. The Diocese is a substantial enterprise, employs people, runs schools, and owns property in Oakland. Think of it as a large Oakland-based business. There is a spectrum of opinion within and around any big enterprise; some parishioners were worried about a large new cathedral because they worry about the impacts on their parishes. But looking at it from the outside, the only disadvantage I see, apart from whatever views one holds about Catholicism, is that it is all off the tax rolls. That would be true wherever they built, of course.

  59. Robert

    I think that the sanctuary itself is very nicely done. The rest of the site design is ugly, and will remain so even after the ivy is grown. I can’t understand why Oakland allowed them to get away with such a monstrosity.

  60. Chris Kidd

    John,
    Just to clarify (I can’t seem to remember), but wasn’t Emerald Views one of the few parcels of land that would not be effected by height limit changes in the CBD zoning update?

  61. Barry K

    Which agency is best to use for reporting allegations on political fundraising?
    There seems to be a bit of overlapping functions from the local-county-state-federal levels.

    We have the PEC for Oakland. Alameda Grand Jury for the County. The CA Fair Political Practices Commission, and, the FBI on Public Corruption. (The FBI ranks Public Corruption as the #4 crime in the USA by the way.)

    What about those that intentionally make false and/or baseless allegation(s)against a candidate? Is there no recourse?

  62. John Klein

    Chris Kidd: yes, the EV site was exempted from height limits – clearly the result of lobbying.

    Max, it was early 2009, I believe.

  63. Max Allstadt

    John, it was exempt because their paperwork was already in when the zoning change came up.

    Not lobbying at all, just good governance. If the city was in the habit of changing the planning rules for projects that were ongoing, two huge problems would arise: 1. The US Constitution has provisions against ex post facto lawmaking. 2. The uncertainty that would result would scare all development out of this town.

  64. Chris Kidd

    Right, Max. Emerald Views was hands-off due to their submission of proper paperwork before the zoning update. Therefore, DTO wouldn’t have a dog in the height limit fight w/r/t his work for EV. In fact, fighting for height limits would preserve views of City Hall/Trib Tower on the non-lake side of EV, making them more valuable. How counter-intuitive of him…

    Even if someone happens to be a consultant, they can still advocate in an altruistic manner for something they believe in. It doesn’t happen all the time, but it’s not outside the range of possibilities. Being a developer/consultant doesn’t require you to surgically remove your soul. Shocking, I know.

  65. John Klein

    The deal to exempt EV from height limits took place during the last month of the CBD rezoning. It was not part of the planning commission recommendations sent to council. That deal first surfaced at the CED committee. Dto510′s advocacy against height limits took place for an entire year before that and continues today. Hence the question whether he is still a paid consultant to any downtown real estate interests like he was then.