A similarly well-funded effort failed just four years ago.
The difference is, Peebles likes to win — and has proven before that he knows how to do it.
When it comes to commercial and residential development, Peebles is a prodigy of sorts.
At just 23 years old, after one year at New Jersey's Rutgers University, the ambitious young man forged a relationship with Washington, DC's infamous former mayor Marion Barry.
The returns were handsome. Barry appointed Peebles to a city property assessment appeals board membership, a sleep-inducing government function that is nonetheless among the most powerful at the municipal level. Peebles also counts the legendary former congressman and now Oakland mayor–elect Ron Dellums as a mentor; a teenage Peebles worked for him as a legislative page.
"Ron was an interesting person," Peebles said in a recent phone interview. "One of the things I learned was that you can have your own ideas. He was a very liberal member of Congress. He got to chair two committees even though he was an antiwar person [during Vietnam], because he respected the process."
After a short tenure on the assessment board, Peebles was developing thousands of square feet of commercial space across the nation's capital under the Peebles Atlantic Development Corporation, today known simply as the Peebles Corporation. Eventually, an attempt to lease a multimillion-dollar office building to the city inspired accusations of cronyism, according to a 2001 Miami New Times profile. Peebles left Washington and moved to Florida.
There he indulged in the truest spirit of American affluence, putting together enormous hotels and condominium complexes, working in partnership with public agencies. He earned a reputation for resorting to multimillion-dollar litigation when those relationships went bad.
Peebles is well aware that major developments naturally attract conflict. He says it took him a while to become thick-skinned as a controversial developer. In south Florida, however, he proved skilled at getting cranes into the air, completing a $230 million residential tower and a $140 million art deco hotel in Miami Beach during the first half of this decade.
And now he's set his sights on the low-density, small-scale town of Pacifica.
"Pacifica is unique in many ways, but politically it's not," he told the Guardian. "If you look at any city, small or large, it always has people on both sides of the issue. There are people who like to say 'no' a lot. [In] most environments — if you look by and large across the country, DC for example — developers are generally not the most popular all the time. Pacifica is not different politically in that regard from other places."
Press accounts depict Peebles as highly self-assured, even cocky. He once cited his favorite saying to the San Francisco Business Journal as "Sometimes you have to be prepared to stand on the mountain alone." But he's also charming and enthusiastic, something that Loeb admits has won Peebles the hearts of many Pacificans.
"The comments we get from people who have seen him speak is, 'I was soooo charmed by him. I trust him,’” Loeb said. "On the basis of what?"
Restivo chimed in, "He's a very charismatic speaker. He makes promises and gives voice to people's fantasies and wishes."
Pacifica isn't technically the first place in California where Peebles has attempted to introduce his version of the East Coast's taste for high-rise condos and hotels. In 1996 a bid to redevelop the old Williams Buildings at Third and Mission in San Francisco crumbled when the partnership he'd created with Oakland businessman Otho Green turned into a civil battle in San Francisco Superior Court. The two couldn't agree on who would control the majority stake, and another bidder was eventually chosen by the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency. Peebles and Green later settled a $400,000 dispute over the project's deposit, according to court records.
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