Real-estate interests spend $92K to help elect candidates

Mayoral candidates Laurie Capitelli and Jesse Arreguín butted heads Tuesday night over the minimum wage proposal. Photos: Mark Coplan
The PAC for the National Association of Realtors has spent more than $60K on mailers supporting City Councilman Laurie Capitelli’s mayoral campaign. That leaves City Councilman Jesse Arreguín’s mayoral campaign at a severe monetary disadvantage. Photos: Mark Coplan

The political action committee of the National Association of Realtors has poured $92,486 into the Berkeley election in recent weeks, with almost two-thirds of that going to support Laurie Capitelli in his race for mayor.

The realtors spent $60,382 to send out flyers in support of Capitelli, whose main challengers are fellow City Councilmen Jesse Arreguin and Kriss Worthington. Those two are running in tandem and are encouraging voters to rank them first and second on Berkeley’s rank-choice ballot in a bid to defeat Capitelli.

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(Berkeleyside reported on Oct. 12 that the realtors had spent $36,342 in support of Capitelli’s campaign, but the group has since filed additional documentation.)


The National Association of Realtors Fund is considered an independent expenditure, which means the organization does not coordinate with the candidates’ campaigns. These groups are not restrained by Berkeley’s $250 limit for individuals.

The independent expenditure funds are on top of the $104,000 that Capitelli has already raised. In contrast, Arreguin has raised $69,000 and Worthington has raised $5,804, according to campaign reports. The fourth most viable candidate is Ben Gould, who has raised $8,885.

The realtors’ group also spent $10,074 on mailers and online ads for City Councilwoman Susan Wengraf; $13,018 on online ads for Stephen Murphy, who is running against Sophie Hahn for the District 5 seat currently held by Capitelli; and $9,012 on ads for City Councilman Darryl Moore, who is facing Cheryl Davila and Nanci Armstrong-Temple.

It’s no surprise that the realtors’ group would favor Capitelli over Arreguin and Worthington. Capitelli is a real estate broker and became a partner in Red Oak Realty in 1999. He sold the bulk of his ownership to new partners in 2010 and while he remained the broker for a few years, he is no longer an active part of the firm, he said. Much of Arreguin’s message in the campaign is about what he considers the displacement of residents who are leaving Berkeley because of spiraling rents pushed up by the construction of “luxury housing.” Some people also perceive Arreguin to be anti-development because he was the major backer of 2014’s Measure R, which tried to add more “green” to the downtown but which would have also tightened restrictions on development. Arreguin has said he is not anti-development but thinks developers should build more affordable housing or offer more in community benefits than many currently do. Worthington and Arreguin often vote on the same side of issues.

Changing Berkeley by Melinda Stuart
In the last few years, ever since the economy bounced back after the 2008 recession, developers have been building apartment buildings in Berkeley. Currently, there are about 2,000 units in the pipeline or recently completed. These are the Garden Village Apartments at 2201 Dwight Way. It has 236 beds for students. Photo: Melinda Stuart

Wengraf and Moore have also tended to vote with Capitelli and are regarded as more moderate than Arreguin and Worthington on development measures. Wengraf is facing two challengers, Fred Dodsworth and Isabelle Gaston who have both said they think too much high-end housing is going up in Berkeley. Moore’s challengers, Davila and Armstrong-Temple, have also criticized developers and said they believe their needs are being put ahead those of long-time Berkeley residents.


Berkeley police involvement

The Berkeley Police Association PAC, which contributes in most every Berkeley election, spent $17,952 on mailers to support Murphy over Hahn, according to campaign finance records. It appears as if every Berkeley police officer chipped in about $10 to fund the PAC.

Two Berkeley developers also contributed to the Berkeley Police Association PAC, thereby allowing them to bypass Berkeley’s $250 individual campaign donation limit. Patrick Kennedy of Panoramic Interests, who is constructing a multi-unit building on Telegraph Avenue, contributed $1,000, according to campaign records. Ali Kashani, who brought the Parker Place projects through the entitlement process and who is now helping Honda move into the old Any Mountain site on Shattuck Avenue, gave $500. Michael Alvarez-Cohen, a former member of the Zoning Adjustments Board who works in UC Berkeley’s innovation department, gave $100.

10/18: This story was updated to clarify that Capitelli was not a founding partner of Red Oak Realty but became a partner in 1999.

Learn about candidate events that have been scheduled before Election Day.

Related:
With 28 days until the election, fundraising gap widens between mayoral candidates (10.11.16)
Berkeley mayoral candidates square off about budget, homelessness (10.05.16)
With Bernie Sanders, Robert Reich endorsements, mayor’s race goes national (09.15.16)
The mayor’s race is off and running: Where do campaign coffers stand? (08.04.16)


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