Late money floods into Berkeley election campaigns

A TUFF rent board slate mailer also urges a “no” vote on Measure U. Complainants argue Measure U has been included to skirt contribution limits

Money continues to pour into a few Berkeley campaigns, including some significant independent expenditures filed after the recent Oct. 20 reporting date.

The East Bay Rental Housing PAC contributed $31,000 to support slate mailer organization Berkeley Tenants United for Fairness (TUFF), which promotes both a four-person slate for the rent board and opposes the so-called Sunshine Ordinance, Measure U.

The California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee channelled $19,750 to support incumbent Laurie Capitelli in District 5, and $18,350 to support incumbent Darryl Moore in District 2. And Berkeley Firefighters Association Local 1227 PAC gave $7,212 to support District 5 challenger Sophie Hahn.

The amounts raised for TUFF are particularly striking compared to previous races. Four years ago, candidates for the rent board all filed short form expenditure statements, certifying that they had raised under $1,000 and would spend under $1,000. This year, TUFF had raised $32,920 by Oct. 20, including $19,000 from East Bay Rental Housing PAC. It filed a further $12,000 from East Bay Rental Housing PAC on Oct. 25, bringing the TUFF total to at least $45,000.

Planning commissioner Patti Dacey filed a complaint last Thursday with Berkeley’s Fair Political Practices Commission concerning TUFF. There is a $250 limit on individual contributions to candidates in Berkeley. According to the complaint, TUFF is skirting around the limit by tying their individual campaigns to opposition to Measure U. There are no contribution limits on ballot measures. In addition to the funds from East Bay Rental Housing PAC, TUFF has had $5,000 from property management company Diablo Holdings and $1,000 from Premium Property Management and Development.

The commission considered the complaint at its meeting Tuesday. Commission staff will prepare a full investigative report on the complaint and present it at the commission’s Nov. 15 meeting. The Daily Californian quoted TUFF candidate and rent board incumbent Nicole Drake as saying, “We’ll see what the commission finds, but we haven’t done anything illegal.”

TUFF’s formation as a slate mailer organization (SMO) is unusual in Berkeley. Slate mailers are defined by the state as mailers that support or oppose four or more candidates or ballot measures. An SMO is an entity that produces slate mailers and receives contributions for their production. Commission secretary Kristy van Herick said SMOs hadn’t come up in the last 10 years in Berkeley.

The Los Angeles-based California Real Estate Independent Expenditure Committee gave $38,100 to Capitelli and Moore. The committee is the political funding arm of the California Association of Realtors. The Berkeley Association of Realtors recommended the two incumbents to the state association, according to Sally Dunker, BAR’s executive officer. “The candidates are selected on who has been great supporters of realtors and real estate issues,” Dunker said. BAR interviewed all the candidates in Berkeley and “maxed out to everyone” with direct contributions, according to BAR’s government relations advisor Lars Skjerping.

The firefighters’ independent contributions to Hahn’s campaign have attracted vigorous criticism in Berkeleyside comments, suggesting the funds were because Capitelli would advocate a tougher line on the firefighters’ contract negotiations than Hahn. James Geissinger, president of the firefighters’ association, said in a letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet that “there’s simply no hidden agenda.”

Bates ouraises opponents by 70%; S supporters give $90K [10.30.12]

Visit Berkeleyside’s Voter’s Edge Berkeley for complete coverage and tracking of the city’s 10 ballot measures. Visit Berkeleyside’s Election 2012 section to see all our coverage in the run-up to Nov. 6.

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  • Free enterprise can be used to advantage, especially when the playing field is tipped in the direction of good planning and the public interest.

    I’ve always found it strange that we have strict limits on building heights and floor area ratios, but then we seem to encourage, and even require, more off-street parking. wider roads and more paving as “mitigation” for higher density.

    We end up restricting the part of urbanization that we like (convenience, density and proximity to diverse culture and commerce) while encouraging the parts we don’t like (cars, paving, traffic). It’s backwards. Measure T is a step away from that.


  • Haselstein

    That’s great–but a shuttle isn’t going to do it. Have you stood at the intersection of San Pablo and Park in Emeryville? All that heavy traffic and one little shuttle. A shuttle isn’t going to take care of what we need. It’s true–traffic in Berkeley without the West Berkeley project is going to be godawful, and then add in the project.

    The Sharkey mentioned Bus Rapid Transit. We already have Rapid Bus on San Pablo. I use it, but I can’t say many regular work commuters are using it, because the connections to West Berkeley are poor. At this point in time, people are driving to work. The majority of drivers coming into Berkeley for work are coming from within 5 miles. They’re not getting out of their cars.

    Paul, I believe you were against the ferry at the Berkeley waterfront, and I completely agreed with you. (I saw a not very effective transit option, one that would have meant a need for a lot of parking on city property, not to mention its fairly low client use.) I think a lot of what goes into a person’s thinking about development is: Is this going to affect ME? If it doesn’t, great, I’ll support it.

    I am not supporting T for the reasons I have previously given, mainly that it feeds speculation and the scope and nature of the developments are unknown.

    One other thing: I’m not the only person believing globalization is in decline, and it’s not just because fossil fuels are becoming more scarce.

  • Tired

    Berkeley TUFF is standing up to the Goliath rent board! They’ve been operating outside of their purview, with no oversight, for far too long! Anyone who is following this race, and aware of the critical findings of the Grand Jury, knows that Berkeley TUFF and their values do not threaten rent control. They threaten business as usual! Rent Control is voter approved and can only be done away by the voters, not the commissioners! It’s obvious that the opposition to Berkeley TUFF does not understand this, nor do you/they acknowledge the severity of the Grand Jury’s findings!!

    Vote Berkeley TUFF for oversight!

  • anonymous

     And this is why they’re funded by the national real estate PAC?  Need any bridges–I could sell you one?  And what do they have against Measure U?

  • Lance Cortland

     Thank you Paul. Someone who actually knows what he is talking about!
    So refreshing.

  • Lance Cortland

     The TUFF slate takes the Grand Jury Report seriously. The other candidates do not. The landlords are supporting the TUFF slate because they know, first hand, that the Rent Board is not well-managed and is wasting their money.

  • Anonymous

     Fascinating stuff which I never would have known of otherwise, thank you.

  • Gus

    I agree. The neighborhood associations are pretty conservative. U and V are bald-faced anti-government proposals that would make John Boehner  proud. And one of the mayoral candidates is attacking public employee unions a la Scott Walker in Wisconsin.

  • hilldah

    We also have those that claim to be Progressive and are entirely against any progress.

  • Charles_Siegel

     Hear, hear.  I am glad to see a commenter who can get beyond the usual argument (“Some people are against all development, no matter how good; therefore, I am for all development, no matter how bad.”) and instead can argue for development that is well designed to attract pedestrians and bicycles.

  • I’ve been advocating for the Berkeley Ferry for many years, and only recently became critical of their poor terminal siting and other design decisions. Check out ridership levels on the new South SF route – only about 20 passengers per ride.

    At the risk of boring you all with actual numbers again, the new WETA ferries consume about 3.5 gallons per mile at a moderate cruising speed. With 20 passengers, that works out to 5.7 MPG.  In other words, each passenger could make the same trip four times in their own SUV and the carbon footprint would be lower than what this ferry is spewing out. One other metric: WETA’s own numbers predicted a subsidy level of $47 per one-way ride. At current passenger levels, the subsidy is $133 per one-way ride.

    WETA is doing one thing very well: They are making BART look lean and efficient…

  •  >”They’re not getting out of their cars.”

    Well of course not, if the only projects we ever allow to be built are the ones that preserve the ability to drive anywhere, any time, with minimum inconvenience to the driver. And then we require “mitigation” by adding even more lanes and more parking.

    Think regionally and think long-term. Mixed use, high density infill development is not the problem. It’s the best solution.


  • franhaselsteiner

    I feel like the Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s Berkeley, but … people are supporting six real estate developers and no defined limits after 10 years instead of West Berkeley’s existing small businesses? Oh, it’s Progress, the New Berkeley.

    In my view, “smart growth” is real estate jargon. Charles, with all due respect, I do understand the concepts of walkability and bikeability, but we’re talking about an area that is currently being used as freeway entrances and exits. Let’s do some real thinking and planning here, folks, instead of engaging in demonizing people who have demonstrated commitment to the Berkeley community and are here for the long term.  

  • franhaselsteiner

    Okay, but we’re not talking about the ferry. I am attempting to focus attention on the seriously bad congestion in West Berkeley now and in the future and to find some real solutions that improve health and safety.  You advocate for “no improvements”–which seems to indicate an acceptance of gridlock. That may be fine for someone who doesn’t have to live with it, but we in the flats do. This isn’t an abstraction. 

  • (this is in response to a later post, but we were running out of right margin)

    >”Okay, but we’re not talking about the ferry.”
    Haselstein, you brought up the ferry. As if my opposition to design decisions was indicative of self-interest. Just the opposite, I would benefit greatly from a highly subsidized ferry, especially if ridership remains low.

     >”You advocate for “no improvements”–which seems to indicate an acceptance of gridlock.”

    We are nowhere near gridlock, with or without Measure T or the Peerless Greens project. We might have a minute or two of additional delay at some intersections. In the eyes of auto-centric transportation planners this requires “mitigation.” But it’s not gridlock.

    Again, think regional and think long-term. Even in terms of auto-based transportation, putting more people and more commerce in the middle of the transportation grid makes far more sense than putting them on the outskirts. Or do you thing it’s okay to have more traffic everywhere except in your neighborhood, and more air pollution everywhere?


  • With all due respect, “smart growth” really does mean something.

    Perhaps it was people who understood the meaning of smart growth who elected not to impose arbitrary development restrictions in the course of the aforementioned ten years of planning discussions.

  • Haselstein

     Actually, Paul, I live on Dwight Way, which has a lot more traffic than a 36-foot-wide residential street should have. I do think that if people drive, they should be bearing some of the negative effects of their behavior. Currently, with street barriers, for example, they do not.

    It’s hard to think regionally when Berkeley already has a great deal of automotive traffic by virtue of the university. Oakland and El Cerrito, for example, do not appear to have the same levels generally.

  • Haselstein

    We’re talking in circles here. Real transportation planning and infill development must occur simultaneously or it’s only magical thinking. Paul, have you looked at University and San Pablo lately? Take a bus on University during rush hour.

  • Haselstein

    How is Measure T “a step from that” when we’re relying on the same grid to handle the additional automotive traffic? In an area already experiencing serious health issues (asthma rates in the flats)? Yes, part of that is poverty and access to health care, but the direct sources are proximity to heavy freeway traffic and diesel and other automotive emissions. Paul, I am thinking regionally.

  • Haselstein

    Please furnish the occupancy rates of the new developments on San Pablo and University, as well as the vibrant new retail that was supposed to show up as well, as well as the new transit that has been developed to accommodate all those new residents. We’ve had “smart growth” for a while, after all, so there should be something to show for it by now. How many family-size units have been built? I want to be wrong, Paul.

  • >”Berkeley already has a great deal of automotive traffic by virtue of the university.”

    And there would be considerably less if we had more housing in West Berkeley. It’s an easy bike ride to Cal.

  • It’s a step away from the auto-centric paradigm because high-density mixed use infill reduces the need for automotive transportation. This is not a new concept. 

  • Smart growth in Berkeley is just barely getting started. It has a long way to go, and as you can see from this discussion there are still obstacles to overcome and counter-productive policies to change (e.g. required parking spaces that lock us into more cars and more traffic). Measure T, as a referendum for smart growth, will lower some of these obstacles. 

    Occupancy rates appear to be sufficient to attract new investors, especially if higher densities are permitted. 

    As for “vibrant new retail:” It takes a lot of growth just to hold even. Between the big box stores and internet shopping, local retail is in big trouble. Smart growth will not turn back the clock to the ’60s or even hold even unless we accept some fundamental changes. 

  • Yes, I have done both very recently. And when I lived in central Berkeley in a 10-unit building I voluntarily put my car in mothballs. Didn’t need it. Benefits of high density mixed use.


  • fabuberkeley

    The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury’s investigation of the Berkeley Rent Board (begins on Page 63 on the link below) has many critical findings of the sitting board and concludes that only Berkeley voters can change the direction of the board. Its conclusions are on page 73 of the report.  The Grand Jury report was issued in September of 2012.  Read it for yourself.

  • Howie Mencken

    Berkeley politics has been run by a small group of insiders since the early 70’s . This election is as close to a revolution as we’ve had in 50 years. This ‘outside’ money is funding a rebellion long overdue.

  • Guest

    Don’t read the Grand Jury report without also reading the Rent Board formal response to the Grand Jury, here:

    The Daily Cal in its endorsements said “The report has been a major issue in the election, and for good reason. But the Tenants United for Fairness slate has placed an exceedingly narrow focus on supporting the report, to the extent that most of the candidates seem to be running on little else.” Enough said. Or perhaps enUFF said?

  • Tired

    The current Rent Board is dismissive. Period. EnUFF said!! I do not consider running on the recommendations of te grand jury a narrow focus. Many share my views. Time to clean up the corruption on the Rent Biard!!

  • Guest

    And you propose to do that by reelecting Nicole Drake who missed more meetings than she attended?

  • Charles_Siegel

     If you follow the issue regionally or nationally, you will see that developers (and Tea Party members) on the fringe of metropolitan areas believe that smart growth is a socialist scheme to prevent real estate development.

    If people on one extreme attack smart growth for being pro-development, and people on the other extreme attack smart growth for being anti-development, then smart growth must be doing something right.