Play at work, or more at play? - Page 3

While Newsom's campaign collects from developers, fallout from the Planning Department's internal porn investigation raises questions

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Senior planning staffer Larry Badiner left with a $82,500 payout
PHOTO TAKEN FROM A RECENT PLANNING COMMISSION VIDEO

Although speculative theories abound and there is a paucity of official comments on the firings due to privacy laws, one point is abundantly clear. In a city where powerful developers will go to great lengths to secure approval for lucrative projects, there's a great deal of wariness surrounding city planning. San Francisco is host to leagues of developers, real estate investment groups, prestigious law firms specializing in land use, technical consultants, and politically powerful associations of residential builders, building owners, and building-trade unions — all with a huge financial stake in seeing projects make it past the approval finish line and onto groundbreaking.

When it comes to a major project that will transform a city block in San Francisco, the planning department (which relies on development fees to pay the bills) inevitably encounters pressure from two sides: well-connected development teams with economic interests on the one hand, and neighborhood groups or historic preservationists who aren't shy about hurling criticism on the other.

So it's no surprise than anything affecting the planning staff in a major way would not pass quietly.

One of the planners affected by the firings told the Guardian that the porn investigation went on for months. There were one-on-one interviews, and some 70 staff members were called in and questioned, some two or three times. Contents of computer hard drives and city e-mail accounts were analyzed. Later, huge posters went up, displaying questions like, "How Are You Going to Make a Better Planning Department?"

"It was bizarre," the former planner said.

According to Leigh Kienker — a former planner who recently retired and was not implicated in the computer misuse investigation — the result of all this was to create a sort of chilling effect on the planning staff, especially since she said two of the five individuals who lost their jobs had been more likely to question management and speak up when they didn't think a project was being handled properly. When it comes to ensuring that projects conform to the planning code, "We need to be able to speak up," she said. "This is our expertise."

Jim Miller, who had been with the department for more than 32 years and is regarded by his peers as very outspoken, discussed his own termination in an e-mail to a number of supporters. "I was given a loose-leaf binder indicating the reasons for the firing," he wrote. "The information contained therein was decidedly very thin. This, plus the fact that others who had a greater role in the 'wrongdoing' received job suspension rather than termination, leads me to believe that there is some other reason for the action taken. This reason is heretofore unbeknownst to me."

Cynthia Servetnick, shop steward for IFPTE Local 21 planner's chapter and a historic preservation advocate, voiced concerns about how the department dealt with the porn problem in an e-mail to Rahaim. "Frankly, the firing of so many senior Planning Department staff members not only seems like a 'witch hunt,' but smacks of age discrimination against a class of union-represented employees for the purpose of shoring-up budget deficits and intimidating less senior employees," she charged. In response, Rahaim dismissed her comments as baseless accusations.

 

Comments

Badiner, Macris deserved to go.

IMO Jim Miller is a gem and was unfairly implicated.

No matter what he says, Newsom is indeed employing a pay-to-play game plan.

The whole purpose of hiring Rahaim was to increase "opportunities" for high-rise development (and developers), and to draw the noose tighter around the necks of neighborhood and preservation activists.

This porn email "scandal" was indeed a gift enabling the dismissal of longtime planners such as Miller who have in the past paid attention to and given due consideration to neighbors' and preservationists' concerns instead of running roughshod over them.

Posted by CRS on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 11:39 am

Pay to play?

In order for there to be pay to play, someone would have to pay.

Newsom has given away the seed corn for free, no payment required, but anyone who wants to build gets to play.

And since new market rate housing will only pay 1/3 of its infrastructure costs, since property taxes on new market rate housing will not cover the cost of existing city services, guess who gets to pay so that developers can play?

Existing San Franciscans who already enjoy such stellar city services and pristine, well maintained infrastructure, timely and efficient public transit and streets and sidewalks so clean you can eat off of them, that's who.

All of this approved courtesy of the progressive Board of Supervisors. Did you ever get the feeling that you were being cheated?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Sep. 10, 2010 @ 10:03 am

What does any of this matter when the Board of Supervisors' position on every hare brained development scheme that Yarne and Cohen have sent their way is prone?

-marc

Posted by marcos on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 11:41 am

...and butterflied...

Posted by CRS on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 8:21 pm

Nicely put. Now let's see if Cohen's orchestration of JC to replace Alumbaugh plays out to placate the criticisms of Callahan's lack of hiring diversity at the expense of long time planners of color in the Department who do not play into the whitewashing game or who do not own paternal condos. Bring it. PS Cohen on one side and Susan B Cohen on the other. Do breast cancer videos qualify as porn? Repeat. Bring it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2011 @ 3:28 am

Parkmerced's development is seeing particular "fast-tracking" efforts to get the ball rolling, and seems to have had the least "delays" on the EIR track. Gavin Newsome received conrtibutions from Stellar, and others.

It's no wonder that "alternatives" that are worthy, are being eliminated, especially ones that favor a preservation, or direct routing option on transit.

Posted by goodmaab50 on Sep. 08, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

why were recipients being targeted for dismissal?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 09, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

Get over(y) ovary
the porn issue now. Why is it that sr management continues to harass peeps of color on their whereabouts? Bring this out into the open my friends. Sunshine sr mngmt emails now 2011 aight. porngate is not as interesting as Kondogate. Sue homies in mish deserve more. You want a legacy? Bring it.

Posted by Guest on Mar. 05, 2011 @ 1:33 am

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