Agency official under fire for development project endorsement

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BCDC Vice Chair Anne Halsted, shown in this screen shot of Open Up the Waterfront's campaign ad.

Did a high-ranking official of a regional conservation authority improperly use her influence to secure $10,000 for a nonprofit she chairs the board of? That’s the allegation raised against San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission Vice-Chair Anne Halsted in a complaint filed with the Fair Political Practices Commission, a statewide ethics agency.

Halsted appeared in a campaign ad produced by Open Up the Waterfront, which is pushing a San Francisco ballot measure seeking public approval for 8 Washington, a controversial waterfront development project that has become a political flashpoint in San Francisco.

Halsted also chairs of the board of directors of SPUR, a member-supported San Francisco nonprofit focused on planning issues.

In addition to publicly endorsing Open Up the Waterfront, SPUR received a $10,000 donation from San Francisco Waterfront Partners, the 8 Washington developers and major funders of the ballot initiative, sometime between May and the end of June. The campaign ad was posted to YouTube on July 22.

Geraldine Crowley, a volunteer working on a competing ballot measure campaign formed in opposition to 8 Washington, No Wall on the Waterfront, seized on this donation in her FPPC complaint. Crowley charged that Halsted violated conflict-of-interest rules under the California Political Reform Act, saying Halsted “used [her] official position to influence a governmental decision in which the official knows or has reason to know that he or she has a financial interest.”

“I would just like to have her portion of the commercial erased,” Crowley said in an interview. “What she says in the commercial does not reflect how all of BCDC feels about Open Up The Waterfront.” 

The video also features an appearance by Will Travis, retired director of BCDC. “This appears to be a violation of the conflict-of-interest rules designed to prevent financial gifts from influencing public officials entrusted to steward public assets  such as the Bay,” said Jon Golinger, a spokesperson for No Wall on the Waterfront. 

Halsted didn’t respond to our request for comment, but she did contact BCDC Chair Zack Wasserman to address the concerns raised by No Wall on the Waterfront in a message that was later forwarded to the Guardian.

"For several years [I] have supported a project called 8 Washington which is near the waterfront, but totally outside BCDC's jurisdiction. Because a recent video advocating the project indicated that I, a supporter of the project, am vice chair of BCDC, some have worried that it implies BCDC support - something I have never envisioned or contemplated!  Please be assured that my advocacy is personal because I believe it is an excellent project, not because any organization with which I associate has voted to endorse the project!  Sorry if this confused anyone."

Whether Halsted influenced the $10,000 donation to SPUR in connection with her support for the project remains unclear. The organization’s operating budget exceeded $3 million during the 2011-2012 year, according to SPUR’S annual report.

“When it comes to conflict-of-interest violations, it needs to be found that a public official is making governmental decisions based on money that has been given to them,” Gary Winuk, chief of the enforcement division at FPPC said. “After we receive the complaint, we wait 10 days for the person accused to respond, then launch an investigation and review all the facts if there is just cause.” 

David Beltran, spokesperson for Open Up the Waterfront, criticized the complaint as “a reckless and meritless attempt to suppress free speech.”

It’s likely to be a week or more before the FPPC determines whether Crowley’s complaint has any validity. If the FPPC determines that that Halsted did indeed violate the conflict-of-interest rules under the California Political  Reform Act, she may face penalties such as a misdemeanor and $5,000 per violation.

Larry Goldzband, the commission’s executive director, noted that BCDC has yet to endorse the project.

"The multi-use project proposed at 8 Washington Street in San Francisco is not in the jurisdiction of the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission," Goldzband said. "BCDC has neither considered nor endorsed the project, nor has any Commissioner asked that the Commission review the project in any manner."

Comments

"Halsted also chairs of the board of directors of SPUR, a member-supported San Francisco nonprofit focused on planning issues."

SPUR is a taxpayer subsidized developer lobby.

Posted by anon on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 11:45 am

It's odd to see a public entity actually employing common sense, and yet SPUR often does that.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

SPUR is a private corporation.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 2:00 pm

public component to it. It's better than most public entities because they have a sense of realism and pragmatism.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 2:03 pm

SPUR is funded by individual and corporate memberships as well as corporate contributions, not government. The feds provided loan guarantees for their new gentrification palace on Mission, but do not subsidize their ongoing operations.

Since the individuals which fund SPUR also spend heavily on elections, SPUR gets a designated seat at every City table imaginable. SPUR, a nonprofit that pimps before government for for-profits is the poster child for how nonprofit corporations are more of a problem than a solution.

The Halsted affair demonstrates the conflicts of interest between SPUR in government and SPUR the lobbyist of government,

Posted by marcos on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 5:06 pm

You just carp and whine from the sidelines.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

Right, the Real Estate arm of the Wall Street FIRE economy is site-specific and funnels the same level of resources that Wall Street used to purchase the US Government into local politics to work their rent seeking will on local land use policy. They do this by astroturf groups like SPUR which operate as if they were Koch Brothers operations that masquerade as good government and pro-transit groups but in reality encourage corruption and disinvestment.

I am such a failure that I could not do what nobody else can do--successfully contest the dominance of the finance system. The first step is naming it for what it is. The second step is calling out the coopted, corrupt nonprofits that mouth progressive platitudes but sell us out for their good thing at a whim.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 09, 2013 @ 8:57 am

nothing.

SPUR gets things done.

Meanwhile:

"Glenn Beck landed in third position with $90 million, earned from his subscription website, while Winfrey came in at number four with $77 million.

Elsewhere, Forbes listed Dr Phil McGraw in fifth ($72 million), Rush Limbaugh in sixth ($66 million) . . . "

What did you make last year, Marcos?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2013 @ 9:11 am

how much money one makes, isn't it?

How many friends did you make last year? That you didn't buy with trinkets?

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2013 @ 9:44 am

determining who has influence and who does not.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 09, 2013 @ 9:50 am

Civic booster corruption has no bearing on my status. The fact that you attack me instead of defending SPUR as not being a corrupt expression of developer lobbying that runs a bait and switch operation on good government and transportation means my points are spot on. Thanks for the validation, it means a lot to me.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 09, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

You merely claimed that.

And my other point was that it is far easier to criticize others than it is to achieve change yourself. They achieve change; you do not.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 6:26 am

It is tough enough to make change on a level playing field. When confronted with Wall Street levels of cash, it is nearly impossible to make change unless there are relatively wealthy individuals willing to pony up cash.

The first step in changing that involved naming the corruption of Wall Street lobbyists for what it is. The referendum on 8 Washington is doing just that.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 6:46 am

And most of us are happy with the change.

But you use the word "change" in that very special progressive way that actually means "no change".

And then you wonder why you lose every battle.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:07 am

Change happens when money and power combine to make change. It is not either "we do what you want" or "we oppose change." What a trollish propaganda load of crap.

People vote for change all of the time, but they stop voting for change once it becomes clear that no matter how they vote, things only change in one direction, away from them and towards the wealthy and corrupt. People are not stupid.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:14 am

Change for most people means new development of homes, business and entertainment complexes. Those are, almost always, built by private developers.

But they do not take those risks for nothing - they only build it when they know or believe that the people will vote for it in the best way possible i.e. to buy those homes, build jobs in those offices and pay to be entertained in those complexes and arenas.

Your idea of change is to really change nothing but rather freeze SF in time like it is Colonial Williamsburg rather than a 21st century world-leading city. But the people don't want that - just a small minority like you. So you lose almost every battle and cannot understand why, even when someone here takes the time and trouble to explain it to you.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:35 am

Change means going from current conditions to something different. There are no axial or vector constraints on change, change can proceed along multiple dimensions and directions. You're attempting, unsuccessfully, to constrain the definition of change to only include things that you favor.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:45 am

and now you are defending some change as long as I personally do not like it.

Developers change things and you do not like that. Too bad for you that most people, voters and taxpayers disagree with you. Which is why we see lots of change and development that don't like. Too bad. That's what you get for having a quirky minority opinion.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 8:22 am

I do not like for-profit developers determining public land use policies and I don't like projects that are built under those rules.

Posted by marcos on Aug. 11, 2013 @ 8:31 am

such things as architectural merit or people valuing a development. No, for marcos, it's really simple - if it is a government project then it is by definition good, while if it is a for-profit venture then it is inherently bad, regardless of the outcome.

IOW, it's a matter of who not what. Or basic ideology.

Luckily almost nobody else thinks that way which is why for-profit development is happening all over the city, and there is not a damn thing marcos can do about it.

That's what happens when your ideas are hopelessly out of touch

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2013 @ 8:59 am

The Taj Mahal, the Pyramids, Stonehenge, the Great Wall of China and so on were not built by a non-profit government agency staffed with a committee of sad fucks in cheap suits. They were built by wealthy people taking a risk and following a great idea.

Few people would want to live in a drab world run by committees of Marcos's.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 11, 2013 @ 9:12 am
?

Cool story, bro.

Posted by Joe Hon on Aug. 12, 2013 @ 9:42 am

When Friends of Ethics opposed the ballot measure to transfer authority from the voters to the Ethics Commission to "adjust" our law regarding campaign consultants, SPUR declined to allow us to talk to their endorsement committee but supported the transfer of authority away from voters.

This despite the fact that our group included five former Ethics Commissioners, a former member of the Civil Grand Jury, and the former coordinator for Common Cause. We also were well aware of the circumstances for enacting that ban and ensuring that only voters -- and not the elected clients of consultants -- could change it.

For me, that was enough to bring into serious question their "civic" virtue as an arbiter offering independent views.

Posted by CitiReport on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 3:43 pm

I've seen these "Open Up the Waterfront' signs several times now. There was one at the local farmer's market yesterday. As is common these days, I would assume they are using lies and deception to promote it.

What's missing from these signs is:

Open Up the Waterfront TO PRIVATE DEVELOPERS.

They want to turn this city into a "luxury condo" island for wealthy, straight, young, white people.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 08, 2013 @ 6:38 pm

private developer built something interesting such as the ballpark or pier 39.

There are some undeveloped piers and sections of the waterfront, but they are run down, depressing and hardly anyone goes there.

Why would anyone want to preserve a few rotting piers and car parks, when so much more could be made of it?

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 6:28 am

The public jewel of the waterfront.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 6:32 am

Certainly everything that goes on in there is private, with the ferries way back operating from an outbuilding.

It's nice but I don't know how much the city had to do with it. Anyway it belongs to the port not the city.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:02 am

>"They want to turn this city into a "luxury condo" island for wealthy, straight, young, white people."

People who say things like this have ZERO credibility.

Wealthy, yes. But do you have any factual basis behind the claim that developers in San Francisco don't want to make money from LGBT, older, or non-white people?

If a middle aged Asian same sex couple wanted to buy a condo for $5 million then the developer would turn them away?

Or is that something that you say because it makes you feel good to say it?

Posted by Troll on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 6:41 am

If something attracts a lot of white people, it must be inherently bad.

If it attracts a lot of non-whites (excluding Asians, the model minority, who get dumped in with whites) then it must be good.

Odd really because the SFBG has been a white-only work environment for as long as anyone can recall. Must be a self-hate thing.

I recall even a SFBG article reviewing a concert recently where the writer said something like "it was a very lively and interesting crowd considering how white they were".

White is the new black, apparently.

Posted by anon on Aug. 10, 2013 @ 7:06 am

The flat-out lies being told by the "No Wall" people have cemented my vote for 8 Washington. I love how their ads leave out the taller luxury condos next to the proposed site, and how their volunteers will deny the city millions in funding for the ports, affordable housing, and infrastructure improvements just because they have a problem with change. Their aggressive, rude volunteers lied to my face to gain support and their position was easily eroded by doing just the tiniest bit of research into the proposal. It's insulting how gullible and easily bullied SF voters are.

They don't even follow the money of their own campaign straight to Boston Properties, the out of town mega-developer that owns those existing high-rise condos, and is building that new eyesore skyscraper in SOMA. I don't see their folks protesting that monstrosity. Disingenuous, astroturf, selective outrage.

Posted by Guest on Aug. 13, 2013 @ 9:48 am

as your parroting of their talking points makes clear, your vote was pretty "cemented" a long time ago. as was your 'tude.

Posted by NO on Aug. 19, 2013 @ 5:21 pm

you need to take a long walk off a short pier and dis-a-pier!!!!

Posted by goodmaab50 on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 8:04 pm

a stool pidgeon from the planning commission, and a SFHAC
also know as the guy who will destroy your neighborhood for a profitable market rate condo timmy colen

Posted by goodmaab50 on Aug. 15, 2013 @ 8:07 pm

funny how no one has mentioned that the FPPC ruled the complaint against Halsted a non-starter.

a certain little Napoleon taking money from those opposing 8 Washington tried to make it personal but fell... short.

Halsted is in the clear, and can return to focusing on her continued good work on behalf of all of us.

Posted by reality check on Sep. 14, 2013 @ 7:38 pm

I started out ambivalent regarding B & C that will be on this November's San Francisco ballot. However, after watching the video that the 8 Washington Project produced and the robocall I received inviting me to join a conference call about Ordinance B and adding more parks to SF, I've changed my mind. Their lies have made me care.

The 8 Washington Project (aka Ordinance B) goes under the guise of "Open up the waterfront." However, the only public space will be the northern-most corner of the property. That space will house a cafe and a few other retail stores. There won't be much space left for a public park. One of their renderings shows a lot of green space in the center of the property. That will actually be a swim and fitness club with no grassy area.

The project's proponents don't point out all of the open public space that already exists. There are three green park spaces that surround the property; the large park just off of Justin Herman Plaza (that includes a new children's park) and two parks just one block west of the property. Plus, there is the large public walkway on the east side of the Embarcadero with no stop lights or cross walks. In addition, there is the lovely waterfront promenade that was created when the piers were renovated. There are park benches and hanging potted plants along this promenade.

Their video also states that it will add "needed" restaurants. I guess they don't consider La Mar, Coquette, Plant, The Waterfront, Slanted Door, One Market, Boulevard, the Americano and all of the other restaurants and bars in the Ferry Building and that surround the Embarcadero 4 area enough restaurants for people to choose from.

Certainly a parking lot can be an eye sore. But it a necessity in this part of the city. Street parking is limited to an hour and you have to move your car to a new area once the hour is up or get a large sum on a parking ticket. Why not focus on getting the owners of the lot and the tennis and swim club to add a great deal of greenery/trees/shrubs around the land they occupy? This seems like a better option to me. Instead they are going to build two large and tall (they will higher than the freeway that ran above the same area) condominium buildings to "beautify" the area.

If the proponents of Ordinance B did not take the sneaky, lie-filled approach to getting public approval for the fairly large height limit increase they received from SF Planning, then I may not have noticed. But I noticed.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 12:57 pm
Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

Why would anyone want to eat at Applebees?

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

Not everyone can afford pricey joints.

Posted by Guest on Sep. 20, 2013 @ 2:27 pm

BCDC was originally founded to stop infill in the Bay. Municipalities had their dumps there and they were going to fill it in even more for a highway parallel to 101. The best way to prevent dumps and infill was to encourage private development. However, now with even more environmental awareness, the desire for open space and sea level rise due to climate change, private development on the waterfront is exactly the worst policy, it's a 180 degree change. Yet all the same people appear before the BCDC all the time, churning out development that excludes the public. Although they claim to have the 100 foot band of setback, they also allow residences in that space and don't provide for parking or access to the water. Yeah right, public come on in, but walk or bike there. They allowed the illegal ripping out of a marina to suit an out of state developer. We can't have the public actually using the Bay for the public trust use of recreation! The horror! They want the "Bay Trail", but in most places it's a concrete sidewalk (for walking and biking by). The mission of this agency is outdated and should be revised and scaled back. And a really diverse representative group should make up the commission.

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