The lobbyist, Bill Duplissea, is a former Republican member of the State Assembly whose firm, Cline and Duplissea, has earned $266,000 from Daly City since 2001, according to state records, to "monitor budget issues" and hit up lawmakers like Yee.
Weeks after Daly City sent Duplissea after Yee, the senator introduced Senate Bill 1527, originally designating as "surplus" all 67 acres of state-owned property the Cow Palace sits on so that Daly City could purchase it, flip the valuable real estate to a developer, and await the local boost in tax revenue coming from new condos, storefronts, and a retail grocer.
Daly City was so determined to circumvent the Cow Palace on the issue that when the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which oversees the property, tried to convene peace talks between the Cow Palace and Daly City, Duplissea sent a letter to the state declaring that his client would prefer to deal only with Sacramento.
After the bill was introduced, Yee and Daly City officials embarked on a media blitz condemning the Cow Palace as a decrepit relic with event income that couldn't sustain it. Many of the events Cow Palace hosts, Daly City complains, are offensive to the sensibilities of locals or don't match the neighborhood fabric, like an annual gun show and the San Franciscocentric Exotic Erotic Ball, "a celebration of flesh, fetish, and fantasy," according to the ball's Web site.
"Every single neighborhood association surrounding the Cow Palace asked the senator to carry this legislation," Yee spokesperson Adam Keigwin told us. "This was always about revitalizing the neighborhood."
After Cow Palace supporters mounted a resistance campaign, Yee came up with a mid-April "compromise" bill that would result in the sell-off of the 13-acre parking lot adjacent to the Cow Palace while appearing to protect the historic venue for now.
Patterson of the Great Dickens fair said a lease provision in the bill would be preferable so revenue could go toward giving the Cow Palace an earthquake retrofit and other needed improvements. But Keigwin said that's not something the senator's interested in.
The California Senate Government Organizational Committee was debating the bill as we went to press. That committee includes Yee and Sens. Jeff Denham and Mark Wyland, two Republican cosponsors of the bill who represent districts that aren't affected by the Cow Palace at all.
Denham, whose District 12 contains the cities of Modesto and Salinas, tellingly promoted legislation two years ago asking the state to study transferring control over agricultural fairs to local governments, but it died in the assembly's Appropriations Committee.
Opponents of Yee's bill are concerned it could set a precedent for the state to declare other agricultural districts "surplus" and sell them to developers without local supporters and promoters of fairs and expos having a say in the matter, not unlike what the Cow Palace faces now.
A capitol insider also told us that because Yee declared SB 1527 "urgent" in hopes of rushing it through the legislature, it requires a two-thirds vote, hence the cosponsorships from two minority GOP lawmakers.
As for the future of the Cow Palace's clients, we contacted the Grand National Rodeo, the San Francisco Sport and Boat Show, and the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, but didn't hear back from representatives of any of these events.
Baba, a tattoo artist in Los Angeles, said San Francisco's Body Art Expo, held at the Cow Palace, secured an agreement with the venue for another year, but he wouldn't offer further details. Mega Productions, which hosts the event, didn't return our call.
Howard Mauskopf, executive producer of the Exotic Erotic Ball, said he recently looked at other possible venues, but he's keeping them confidential for now.