But there's still no provision for social responsibility.
The California Assembly Committee on Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security monitors the pension fund, but CalPERS has autonomous authority over its investments. Chief consultant Karon Green told us that the committee is "going to watch to see what the board does and gauge our response based on that."
CalPERS has yet to respond to our inquiries, and hasn't responded to our public records request for documents pertaining to what Page Mill and its CEO David Taran proposed for the East Palo Alto properties.
Similar requests were made by Tenants Together and the Fair Rent Coalition. CalPERS responded that those documents were confidential, although some e-mails were handed over to the advocacy groups the day before they were to meet with the CalPERS board in December 2008.
Although it calls itself a "limited partner," the e-mails illustrate a closer relationship between CalPERS and Page Mill. In an e-mail to CalPERS, Taran asked for a copy of the public records request made by a San Jose journalist so "we can review them and get back to you regarding what should not be produced and is confidential."
Preston points to the larger policy issue. "If there were a few bad real estate managers who were investing in this, then they should lose their jobs," he said. "But the idea that they just sweep under the rug their $100 million loss in East Palo Alto and their $500 million loss in New York, and whatever other schemes they're involved in, is just unacceptable."
Christopher Lund, a Page Mill tenant and communications director for the Fair Rent Coalition, agrees. "They've gotten burned on some of these high-risk investments over the past year or two. But institutional memory is short and in 10 years when the real estate market is booming, if there's no transparency and no oversight, this is going to happen somewhere else."