Thursday, October 27, 2016

Civic Center - 99-Year Lease?

On September 9, 2014 there was a workshop for the City Council and staff to discuss the Civic Center.  City staff wanted to go forward with what they called a "Public-Private Partnership".  This was to include the 99-year lease of 14 acres of the Civic Center, demolition of the existing library, public safety building, and city hall and building a new library at the Community Center off Remington Dr. near El Camino.  The leased acreage was to be developed into high-rise offices along El Camino and high-rise residential along Pastoria.  This had been approved in a workshop on July 31, 2012 but in the intervening period two members of the city council were replaced in an election so the city staff requested re-affirmation of the earlier decision before going ahead.  The only public input that would be accepted was whether to go sole source with a single developer or open it up to competitive bidding.  Documents obtained under the CA Public Records Act indicate only one developer was involved.

I recorded the entire two hour meeting as is permitted by California law in regards to public meetings.  I made no secret of the recording.  I did it openly and in full view of all work-shop participants.  I edited the essential points down to just under 10 minutes as seen below:


The Public-Private Partnership is summarized in the photos below.  The first two are from a  document available on the city web site at :

Click on any photo below to enlarge:

Civic Center Now
Civic Center after 99-Year Lease
El Camino & Mathilda Now

El Camino & Mathilda after development
Pastoria Now

Pastoria After Development

A related post on this is here:
http://cspgs.blogspot.com/2014/02/private-development-of-civic-center-in.html

In the workshop it was mentioned that a lot of developers expressed interest.  Since I had only heard Jay Paul's name I wondered who the others were.  I obtained documents from the City of Sunnyvale under California's Public Records Act (the CA equivalent of the US Freedom of Information Act).  The request was for all documents relating to all developers who expressed an interest in developing the Civic Center.  The only documents released - which were stated to be all there were - related only to Jay Paul, a billionaire office developer who has done several high rise office buildings in the north of Sunnyvale.

He invited all city council members to view his plans for the Civic Center at his facility.  Some have argued this might have been perceived as a violation of the Brown Act:
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brown_Act

One email is seen below in a sequence of four JPEGs.  Click on any image to enlarge.

part 1

part 2
 Part 3
 Part 4

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Why Real Estate Developers Oppose Measure M

Measure M does nothing to change the ability of big moneyed interests to initiate or support ballot measures to take over city lands.  They can do it now without Measure M.  The reason they don't is that it is much easier and cheaper to finance the campaigns of select City Council candidates once every four years than to initiate very expensive ballot initiatives that might fail.  

If the Council Members owe their position to the money provided by out-of-town and out-of-state developers, there is no need to initiate costly and problematic initiatives.  I'm not saying council members "are bought and paid for" but if candidates receive money from billionaire developers from places like South Carolina and Georgia it is because the developers expect a council favorable to their interests.

Anyone can look at contributions.  Just go to the Sunnyvale City candidate financial filing web site:


scroll down to the bottom and with a few clicks look at who contributes to whom and how much. 


For example, on Tara Martin-Milius ( http://nf4.netfile.com/pub2/AllFilingsByCandidate.aspx?id=122396247&candidate=Tara+Martin-Milius ) form 497 filing for 9/27/2016 



you see $1,000 from Greystar development in South Carolina.  

They are a very large property developer and manager.  In 2011 they were the largest property owner-manager in the US with over 187,000 units.
https://www.multihousingnews.com/post/profile-greystar-real-estate-partners-llc/

They have 37 ratings on "Yelp" with an average rating of 1 star.  I've never seen a business get such a low rating.

Why would a South Carolina company contribute to a Sunnyvale candidate?  Because they were asked to contribute.  It is not a spontaneous action.  And what would a real estate developer be looking for in a candidate with a 4+ year voting record?  Consistently voting in the interests of developers perhaps?

Looking at the various contributions on forms 460 you find even more developers giving large amounts.  For 6/30 you find another billionaire developer - Marcus - based in Palo Alto.

According to Forbes Marcus is worth about $1Billion.


He has his own Wikipedia entry showing his co. turned over $34 Billion in property in 2014 and was investigated by the NY State under the Federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  Those cases were eventually dismissed.  The firm tried to ruin a competing broker by suing him but their case was thrown out by a judge.  They "regret" having initiated the lawsuit.


Marcus also contributed to Russ Melton.  Marcus contributed over $403,000 to various candidates and organizations around the state, including such organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters.  These organizations endorse the candidates he supports.  Below is from:
http://cal-access.sos.ca.gov/Campaign/Committees/Detail.aspx?id=1222033

In fact, a lot of realty based organizations from around the country contributed to a number of candidates.  One might think that if Marcus, Greystar and other large real estate investors support Sunnyvale politicians, it is because they expect a return on their investment.  These real estate investors are businesses.  They are interested in profit.  They invest in politicians like they invest in land.

Measure M puts a partial check on this.  It would be better to get the money out of politics entirely with publicly financed elections - which the CA legislature just authorized http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article99167697.html - but until then we can at least safeguard our parks, golf courses, Civic Center and other green open spaces.

- Michael Goldman