Voters were then asked for $45 million in 2001 to build the campus, with construction expected to begin in 2003.
But Day's ambitions led to clashes with Chinatown residents after the original plan slated for an area facing Columbus Avenue on the other side of the block from where City College now hopes to build called for demolishing a historic building and low-income apartments housing elderly tenants.
The school entered a legal settlement promising to preserve the Columbo Building and relocate the nearby Fong Building's tenants. In 2005, however, it hastily decided incorporating that work would be "infeasible" and turned to Lee for help in finding a new location.
Lee (who did not return our calls) told the college he'd give up a sliver of land he owned on the other side of the block and also help it secure the much larger lot nearby owned by a Taiwanese company, Fantec Development Corp., with which Lee had a long business relationship.
The school paid Lee $1.9 million for a strip of parking lot 18 feet wide, even though an appraisal that City College received placed its market value at $1.1 million, records show. (San Francisco County assessed it at $267,000 in 2004 for tax purposes. The neighboring, much larger piece of land, also a parking lot, was assessed at $1.5 million.) During early negotiations, records show, the college offered $785,000 for Lee's property and $4.5 million for Fantec's, but in the end it wound up paying much more a total of $8.7 million in bond money for both.
Yet it's not clear precisely what investigators were looking into, what they found, or whether the investigation is still open.
"The properties were not available for anything less than the price we paid for them," Goldstein told us. "That's what the sellers demanded in order to sell their properties.... Pius drove a very hard deal and demanded what I would consider to be the maximum possible price for his property that we could defend."
Ground still hasn't been broken on the school's Chinatown dream, and in the interim, as we've reported recently, the estimated costs have ballooned from $75 million to $122 million, an increase of 62 percent. As a result, the school has chosen to gut some projects authorized by voters to keep this and other favored proposals alive (see "The City College Shell Game," 7/4/07).
The Board of Trustees is slated to vote next month on whether to certify the campus's environmental documents and whether the project should be exempt from building height limits in the neighborhood.<\!s>*