If we're going to be whores, let's at least get paid

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Ugly, and too big -- and who needs it?

The San Francisco City Planning Commission will be voting March 18th on a proposal to build luxury condos next to the Transamerica building. The developers are two out-of-town outfits that support Republican candidates. And therein lies an interesting tale.

Back in 1984, when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and newspapers made a lot of money and Dianne Feinstein was mayor, San Francisco was host to the Democratic National Convention, which nominated a guy named Walter Mondale (talk about dinosaurs) to run against Ronald Reagan for president. Running the convention, and all the parties and galas, cost a fair amount of cash, and Feinstein hit up all the big civic donor types to chip in.

One of the people atop her list was Walter Shorenstein, the local real-estate tycoon who was a huge donor to Democratic Party candidates (Bill Clinton used to stay at Shorenstein's house when he was in town). Shorenstein was also trying to get permits to build some new highrises -- and some of his buildings were so grossly out of proportion that even Feinstein's Planning Commission, which loved all things big and highrise, was balking a little.

So Walter calls the mayor and says this: Don't you dare ask me to donate to your Democratic Convention if your planners are going to jerk me around on my permits. And Feinstein, of course, made sure the Planning Commission backed down and Shorenstein got exactly what he wanted.

We did a big story, and even the Chronicle, which wasn't big on criticizing Feinstein or Shorenstein, wrote about it, and there was all manner of outrage -- as there should have been. It was terribly unseemly, and made the city look bad, and made Feinstein look like she could be pushed around by developers ....

And for all that, at least the special favors were going to a local guy who was donating money to Democrats and to the city's convention efforts. Hideous as it was, as least San Francisco (and Feinstein, and Mondale) were getting something out of it.

Fast forward to today -- when Gavin Newsom's Planning Commission is considering an awful, out-of-scale project that even architecture magazines don't like. And who benefits from the special favors? Not a local guy helping out with a local project, but an offshore corporation and a developer from L.A. who is on Meg Whitman's Finance Committee.

I mean, if we're going to be whores here in Democratic San Francisco, shouldn't we at least get paid for it?