Smell the Glove
Mayor Frank Jordan may have landed a punch on Speaker Emeritus Willie Brown.
Or maybe not.
For the first time, Jordan is claiming that Brown personally lobbied him in December 1992 on behalf of a well-heeled -- and well-paying -- client, and that the deal Brown was pushing would have benefited the client at the expense of San Francisco's interests.
What was at stake was a Truly Big Deal: A $30 million-plus contract for Brown's client, Olympia & York (O&Y). In 1984, the gigantic real estate company had signed a deal to develop Yerba Buena Center, a forlorn but well-positioned patch downtown today demarcated to the north by Market Street's commercial district, and to the south by the Moscone Center and newly built yuppie condo-land.
The company renegotiated its payment plan in 1990 but needed more breathing room two years later when Jordan claims that Brown called him. At the time, it was well-known that O&Y was in financial trouble, and city officials were naturally fretting that extending the deal could mire the site in O&Y money problems. As it turned out, O&Y was in such severe financial trouble that three months later it declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Jordan made his charge in a recent, undated letter to Brown challenging him to sign an "Ethics Contract." The letter got much attention as a publicity stunt, but unnoted in the hype was Jordan's specific claim that Brown directly lobbied Hizzoner.
Jordan says that Brown, who reported O&Y's Yerba Buena Center project as his client in annual Statements of Economic Interests between 1980 through 1992, urged him to give in to O&Y's request.
"My personal experience with you," Jordan wrote in his letter to Brown, "lobbying me in your capacity as a lawyer on behalf of Olympia & York to have the City grant financial leniency worth millions of dollars for the Yerba Buena Center is another example of a flagrant conflict."
Asked for more specifics about his charge that Brown lobbied for O&Y, Jordan says, "Willie Brown called me and asked for an extension for Olympia & York for their payment, and I felt that it wouldn't be in the best interests of the city to grant that extension."
"Our advice to the mayor's office was that no extension be given," says the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency's David Madway, the attorney for the negotiations. "Olympia & York appeared perched on the precipice of bankruptcy. It seemed unwise to us to risk a situation in which the city and the agency would be in a relationship that would somehow draw it into Olympia & York's enormous financial difficulties."
The Yerba Buena Center call was the Redevelopment Agency's to make, but Jordan backed its decision to tell O&Y no. The company lost the right to a major parcel of prime San Francisco real estate and forfeited some $30 million it already had put on the table in partial payment of the deal.
"They did leave a lot of money on the table," says Madway. "It's what made possible the construction of the esplanade and the cultural center on Yerba Buena Gardens."
Brown says Jordan's version never happened.
"He never made a call to the Mayor's Office representing Olympia & York," says Brown spokesperson Pat Reilly. "In fact, he ceased to represent them in 1992, so he has no idea what Jordan is referring to."
Nor does Redevelopment's Madway: "I was frankly the point person in all of this. No such contact ever came to my attention. I would have been made aware of it."
End of Round 1.
It's not easy being the head of the Assessor's Office, as Doris Ward knows all too well. Just try to get information you need to reassess property after improvements are made. Especially if the ones making the improvements are Frank and Wendy Paskin Jordan.
On May 11, Chief Real Property Appraiser David Busse wrote the Jordans to inform them that state law required that the assessor be informed of all the costs for the improvements the first couple had done on their 2529 Fillmore manse.
"Article XIIA of the Revenue and Taxation Code of the State of California requires the following information," Busse wrote, noting five areas including an itemized list of all construction costs (direct and indirect).
"Since this is a matter of extreme importance to you as a taxpayer," went Busse's letter, "the information should be returned no later than May 26, 1995."
There was no response two weeks after that deadline came and went, but surely the Jordans' letter is in the mail.
Then again, an earlier letter to the Jordans sent March 17 never got a response.
City Hall phone records show the four supervisors up for re-election last fall dialed like crazy in the three months prior to the Nov. 8 election.
Using phone logs of each extension at the Board of Supervisors provided by the city, Paper Trails' abacus tallied the totals supe by supe. The winner: Annemarie Conroy, with 1,819 outgoing local calls in August. Second-place honors went to Kevin Shelley (1,497), followed by Carole Migden (1,450) and Susan Leal (1,196).
The seven supervisors not facing re-election tallied an average of just 655 calls during the same period.