Should Antonini recuse himself from Lennar vote?

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As a Newsom appointee, Planning Commissioner Michael Antonini is expected to be a key vote today in favor of Lennar’s massive redevelopment plan at Candlestick Point-Hunters Point Shipyard.

And then there’s the fact that he wrote an op-ed for the San Francisco Business Times in December 18, 2009, suggesting that business, civic, labor and government leaders can keep the 49ers in town by “joining forces to assist in needed repairs and improvements to Candlestick Park and to expedite development of the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard, a project that features a “state-of-the art,” 69,000-seat football stadium.”
(The full text of Antonini’s op-ed is included at the end of this post to put his words into full context.)

But Antonini’s cheerleading has got some folks questioning his impartiality when it comes to the decisions that members of the Planning and Redevelopment Commissions will make today around certifying the project’s Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) and adopting related environmental findings.

In a June 2 letter to Planning Commission president Ron Miguel, Arthur Feinstein of the Sierra Club, Mike Lynes of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, Jennifer Clary of San Francisco Tomorrow and Jaron Browne of POWER (People Organized to Win Employment Rights) claim that “Commissioner Antonini has clearly prejudged the proposed project and become a strong advocate for locating a football stadium for the 49ers at the Hunters Point site as part of this project.”

“He has publicly urged others to support that stadium and cannot impartially review the record before him to determine whether the EIR is adequate, accurate and objective and whether adequate measures are required to protect the environment,” the foursome continue.

 Noting that he could have chosen to sign the December 2009 op-ed as a Member of the Republican County Central Committee, Feinstein, Lynes, Clary and Browne observe that Antonini “ instead identified himself in the capacity where the law requires him to act impartially - as a Planning Commissioner.”

With others arguing that Antonini’s right to express his opinion is protected by the First Amendment, and Antonini planning to read a rebuttal into the record at 1 p.m. today, it sounds like there’ll be plenty of drama at today’s hearing.

Antonini’s Op Ed in San Francisco Business Times

Friday, December 18, 2009
Business leaders can save the Niners
San Francisco Business Times - by Michael J. Antonini

"The 49ers are deeply and historically identified with San Francisco. San Franciscans Vic and Tony Morabito founded the team in 1946, many years before the Giants moved from New York and the Warriors from Philadelphia.

Hence business, civic, labor and government leaders are joining forces to assist in needed repairs and improvements to Candlestick Park and to expedite development of the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard, a project that features a “state-of-the art,” 69,000-seat football stadium. Leaders from the Committee on Jobs, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, Recreation and Park and others are asking businesses and individuals to help with funding of improvements at Candlestick in return for advertising. These improvements could translate into increased revenue for the contributor, the city and the team. Replacement of aging seats and a highly visible new luxury section are two concepts being studied.

Naming rights to Candlestick Park is an attractive opportunity for a company or an entity to gain nationwide exposure and local acclaim — and, perhaps, position itself to be a key contributor when a new stadium is built at Hunters Point. No new stadium can be built anywhere without significant private investment, in addition to $100 million assured from Lennar Corp. as a precondition of development rights and the amount which the 49ers ownership would invest.

On Thursday, Dec. 17, the San Francisco Planning Commission was to hear comment on the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the Candlestick Point Hunters Point Shipyard Plan. Because this plan features many diverse uses, particularly huge amounts of housing, funding is being rapidly obtained for greatly improved transit and traffic access.

San Francisco must avoid the errors of the past, when we failed to build an arena for indoor sporting, major conventions and entertainment events. Such a facility could have brought huge amounts of revenue to San Francisco businesses.

Leaders have twice stepped up to save the San Francisco Giants. One would expect no less from our leaders when dealing with our home grown, five- time Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers!

Michael J. Antonini is a planning commissioner for the City and County of San Francisco."