CCDC, the Central Subway, and media manipulation (?)

The Central Subway controversy keeps travelin' on
courtesy SFMTA

I talked for some time yesterday with Gen Fujioka, an attorney at the Chinatown Community Development Center (CCDC), about an editorial he wrote criticizing a San Francisco Chronicle story revealing stunningly high payments to CCDC for subcontracting work on the Central Subway. (A better read, we must say, than Randy Shaw's whining about how he's a real journalist, he really really is, and it's a grave injustice that someone denied him a press release.)

Fujioka claimed that the Chronicle had used fuzzy math, saying the per-hour breakdown of payments to the affordable housing nonprofit were lower in reality than the apalling $750 fee reported in the Chron. He said the management meetings listed in the purchase order actually took eight or nine hours per week to prepare for, which would bring the hourly payment closer to $102 an hour, which still strikes us as kind of steep.

Fujioka also took issue with the Chron's report that CCDC received $25,000 for holding a single meeting.

We asked the city to send us the documents so we could have a look for ourselves. The $25,000 piece refers to two payments listed under "community relations / public outreach management" on the purchase order for CCDC's subcontracting work with the Central Subway Partnership. CCDC, which is engaged in affordable housing work, will work with low-income tenants who will be uprooted and relocated as a result of Central Subway construction.

Essentially, the city paid CCDC $15,000 to "plan, coordinate, and implement Chinatown community briefings in cooperation with the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)," plus another $10,000 to "collect and analyze input from community briefings, provide written report of recommendations, implement and support staff and social media at 821 Howard." Next to each of those items is listed "Quantity: 1." This seems to explain why the Chron reported that the combined payments were $25,000 for one meeting -- the first payment was apparently to plan and host the meeting, while the second seemed to be for processing information gleaned from it.

Fujioka stressed that the description referred to briefings, plural, and that the item "is not one meeting -- it's one of that set of activities. The quantity is not '1.' It's the category of work."

Other items on the purchase order, which totaled $410,500, show that the affordable housing nonprofit received $8,000 per month to develop and staff a Central Subway Development liason to publicize the transit project and create informational workshops, $35,000 to develop and implement an outreach plan for Chinese-language media, $95,000 to work with the SFMTA to create a public process for coordinating the design of the Chinatown station and transit-oriented development, and $10,000 to "attend meetings for and provide support services to Chinatown Public Art Plan."

Fujioka claimed the article was an example of the media being used by one mayoral campaign to attack another, and hinted in his editorial that there was some kind of coordinated media campaign against his nonprofit.

The Chron story spurred a press conference by mayoral candidate and Sen. Leland Yee on Monday, who said he was submitting a request for all correspondence between CCDC, Chinatown power broker Rose Pak, and the mayor's office in light of this information to pin down all instances of waste and abuse relating to the Central Subway. (Of course, he might want to look beyond CCDC -- while the nonprofit may have ties with Lee and Pak, you can be sure that Aecom, the general contractor which has already secured multiple city contracts worth millions of dollars, is doing alright for itself in the Central Subway deal too.) Sources from Yee's campaign told the Guardian that the senator might hold another press conference if he doesn't get all the information he asked for, but Lee spokesperson Tony Winnicker told me on Monday that the information would be released "within hours."

Meanwhile, there's another interesting tidbit buried in this whole flap. The Chron ran a photograph with its article showing a chalkboard at CCDC offices depicting a power map of the city, with Mayor Ed Lee's name appearing at the top as interim mayor. The caption said the snapshot was taken before Lee was appointed -- which would suggest that CCDC had prior knowledge that Lee would be tapped to serve as caretaker mayor. Yet Fujioka claimed the photo was really taken after Lee had already been installed, and said the drawing was simply "a power map of the city, with the new mayor." There was no timestamp on the grainy photo, so it's impossible to verify.

So who's the mystery photographer? The Chron lists it as an anonymous source.

Someone from Herrera's camp told me that she'd heard rumors the photo was submitted by a "mole from Leland's camp." However, a source in Yee's camp blatantly rejected that idea, telling me he was certain that it didn't come from anyone working on Yee's campaign -- and had confirmation from campaign manager Jim Stearns to that effect.

Fujioka didn't name the source, but said he was pretty sure he knew who it was. "We have a pretty strong suspicion it was a visitor to our office who happened to be there on behalf of a developer who was trying to promote a project," he said. "He actually is a supporter of one of the other candidates."