Following the Money Behind Berkeley Ballot Measures

By Becky O'Malley
Friday October 12, 2012 - 09:58:00 AM

If you want to get a good idea of how Berkeley is being governed, the list of who’s contributed to the shucking-and-jiving measures on the November ballot is a good place to start.

Why do I call Measures S and T shucking-and-jiving measures? Because the Bates-controlled majority on the Berkeley city council voted to place these two issues on the ballot as a way of ducking the responsibility vested in them to make things work in this city.

As far as Measure S is concerned, there are plenty enough laws on the books to control anti-social street behavior anywhere in the city at any time, but the current administration doesn’t enforce them, preferring instead to sucker the citizenry into thinking that prohibiting sitting down is going to bring nirvana to our mean streets.

And Measure T is an end run around perfectly workable provisions in the existing West Berkeley plan, notably the development agreements explained by Toni Mester in the last issue, by enacting spot zoning for a small handful of favored developers.

How do we know this? Well, who’s paying for these campaigns?

You can use the extremely useful Berkeley Ballot Measure Browser to quickly get the contribution information buried on the City of Berkeley’s web site. 

First, let’s look at Measure S. Here’s the lineup: 


First Shattuck LLC (Berkeley CA 94704) $10,000
Panoramic Interests, LLC (Berkeley CA 94705) $10,000
Constitution Square (San Rafael CA 94901) $5,000
Everest Properties (Berkeley CA 94704) $5,000
Hirahara Family Ltd Partnership (Orinda CA 94563) $5,000
Mrs. Aileen Dolby (Oakland CA 94618) $5,000
NFLP Berkeley Center (Berkeley CA 94709) $5,000
Segula Investments Inc (Berkeley CA 94704) $5,000
Townsend II, LLC (San Francisco CA 94111) $3,500
Diablo Holdings Ltd (Alamo CA 94507) $2,500
Ventri LLC (Mill Valley CA 94941) $2,500
Segerberg Family Trust 1-18-89 (Albany CA 94706) $2,000
Berkeley Alliance for Progress (Berkeley CA 94707) $1,000
1950 MLK LLC (Berkeley CA 94709) $500
Toyota of Berkeley (Berkeley CA 94704) $500
Vested Income Properties (Napa CA 94558) $300
1080 Delaware LLC (Berkeley CA 94709) $250
Anh Hong - Bo 7 Mon, LLC (Berkeley CA 94704) $100
If you do simple searches on the names on the list, you’ll soon discover that by and large these are not the iconic small businesses that Tom Bates (and Mitt Romney) love to cite as the focus of their political activities. 

They’re by and large major players on the giant Monopoly board that ten years of the Bates administration has created in downtown Berkeley, big-time commercial property speculators and developers. Even Mrs Aileen Dolby, for example, who might sound like just a private citizen looking for the illusory “civil sidewalks”, is a commercial real estate executive. The two top funders so far, at $10k each, First Shattuck LLC and Panoramic Interests, LLC, manage many square feet of downtown Berkeley commercial office and apartment space for big out of town corporations. Panoramic, developer Patrick Kennedy’s baby, now fronts for Equity Residential, owned by the notorious Sam Zell, since Kennedy sold his buildings to Zell’s corporation. 

Sam is famous for buying and bankrupting major American newspapers among other misdeeds. Check out many previous Planet stories for the gory details about how these two have treated Berkeley in the past. 

And speaking of Zell, another one of the listed big spenders on S is Berkeley Alliance for Progress, most notorious for bankrolling a phony “Sierra Club” mailer designed successfully to fool Berkeleyans into voting for last election’s Measure R, a green-washed bit of ballot arm-waving which was the previous Bates-backed simulation of doing something to improve the downtown business climate (not to be confused with this election’s Measure R, which is about letting councilmembers gerrymander their district lines.) 

We smoked out the Zell-Equity-Measure R connection back then: almost all the money for the Berkeley Alliance for Progress came out of Zell’s corporate pocket via Equity. That Measure R passed, but has accomplished nothing at all since the last election. 

There were other big contributors, however, a percentage of whose money has now been passed through to the Anti-Sit committee. These include PG&E at $5,000 and a variety of unions, including Carpenters ($5,000) , Electrical Workers ($5000), Sheet Metal WorkersSEIU 1021 (which represents city employees), as well as building industry corporations like Oliver and Company of Richmond. Many were from outside Berkeley. 

For even more details about who paid for Yes-on-R, check out Daniella Thompson s full dress investigation . Many of the same backers are now Yes-on-S people. 

The COB website doesn’t list any recent contributions to the BAP (listed on the site as Berkeley Alliance for Progress-Yes on R), so presumably their recent $1,000 contribution to Yes on S was just the machine’s way of disposing of the last few bucks in the Alliance slush fund, as a cover-up of Equity’s contribution to this new measure. But do watch for some other expensive and deceptive mailer late in the season listing BAP as the funder, and probably with a big picture of Candidate Bates on the front. 

It’s a somewhat different story, so far, with Measure T. Measure T, a canny bit of spot zoning for a few special clients, is tricked out to appear to be yet another “green” plan, when in fact it’s a serious environmental threat to what is now a thriving sustainable community in West Berkeley. 

The funders of Yes-on-T: 

Herst Ventures (San Rafael CA 94901) $10,000
deTienne Associates (San Francisco CA 94110) $2,100
Nancy Skinner for Assembly (Sacramento CA 94815) $1,000
Moore for City Council (Berkeley CA 94702) $250
Herst Ventures of San Rafael is Doug Herst, who inherited his family’s Peerless Lighting company, whose now-moribund factory is at Bancroft and 4th. Darrell deTienne is the guy he’s hired to promote his scheme to redevelop the property into an extravaganza of everything currently trendy and greenish, in conflict with its zoning under the West Berkeley Plan. 



There’s a smarmy puff piece about Measure T, full of factual errors, in the Express this week. Here’s the over-written lead: “On a recent weekday, Fourth Street between Bancroft and Allston ways in West Berkeley was mostly abandoned. Unlike the upscale stretch of shops and eateries on the other side of University Avenue, this section of Fourth Street, a former hub of West Berkeley's once bustling industrial and warehouse sector, is now an empty reminder of glory days gone by. Doug Herst, who owns the property on both sides of this area of Fourth, once operated a successful manufacturing business here. Peerless Lighting, his family business, designed and produced energy-efficient lighting fixtures. But faced with stiff competition from overseas companies using cheap labor, the West Berkeley Peerless Lighting manufacturing plant closed in 2006.” 

Well, this is an area I know well, since I worked there for many years. This is what I posted in the comments to the piece (no use wasting a perfectly good bit of invective): 

“As it happens, my family and I ran a successful high tech company just two blocks away from the Herst property in the 90s, at 6th and Bancroft. Even then, the Peerless property was getting seedy. I can attest that the lead on this hyped article is pretty much a total fabrication. Things in the neighborhood there are if anything livelier now than they were then, with many vigorous small businesses like Vik's thriving and expanding. It's too bad that Doug Herst wasn't up to keeping the fine business his family founded alive in his generation, but that happens all the time, and has happened in many other families before his. It doesn't entitle him to a personal re-zoning so that he can become a land speculator on his inherited property, which is what Berkeley Measure T is all about. If you want evidence, check who's paying the lion's share of the campaign financing for Yes on T, posted on the city of Berkeley website: Herst and his associate Darrell deTienne. Much of the rest of the article is similar hyperbole. Gammon has seldom met a development he doesn't slaver over. He needs to get some real world business exposure before he pontificates.” 

A few big property owners like Herst with visions of dollar signs in their eyes are pushing Measure T, completely oblivious of a very useful maximum which I learned when I was in the software business: if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. West Berkeley works as it is. Leave it alone to prosper. 

And what about the contributions from Skinner and Moore? Someone with more time on their hands than I have might profit from checking the list of their campaign contributors past and future. Bread cast on the waters might return a thousand fold, right?