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Pelosi and the Treasure Island land grab

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 18, 2010 10:03 AM

Speaker Mop & Glo made headlines for her call to investigate opponents of the Ground Zero mosque, but there was something else about her remarks that should have raised your hackles:

“There is no question there is a concerted effort to make this a political issue by some. And I join those who have called for looking into how is this opposition to the mosque being funded,” she said. “How is this being ginned up that here we are talking about Treasure Island, something we’ve been working on for decades, something of great interest to our community as we go forward to an election about the future of our country and two of the first three questions are about a zoning issue in New York City.”

Pelosi was speaking at a ceremony celebrating the Treasure Island land deal:

The deal has been signed to transfer man-made Treasure Island in the middle of San Francisco Bay from the Navy to San Francisco.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Mayor Gavin Newsom and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus signed the transfer agreement on Tuesday. In includes a section of neighboring Yerba Buena Island.

Payments to the Navy could rise to $105 million, funded by private companies and revenue from developing the former Navy base into a model 21st century neighborhood.

Pelosi has used her power to push the crony-infested project for years. She pushed aggressively for legislative language that would have forced the military to fork over high-value property at no cost to local communities. And as the Washington Times recounted last fall, she presided over a “den of corruption” to secure the coveted property:

…Treasure Island is not a case of a small town that has relied on a local military base for its livelihood for decades. It is a land grab by politicians for well-connected developers. Tony Hall, the former executive director of the Treasure Island Development Authority, told us the city’s effort to develop the island is a “den of corruption.” Treasure Island Community Development, the prospective developer for Treasure Island, was granted a no-bid contract by the city.

At the core of Treasure Island Community Development are high-powered California Democratic lobbyist Darius Anderson and supermarket magnate Ronald W. Burkle. Both are well-known financial backers of San Francisco’s Democratic Mayor Gavin Newsom…

…A proposed Treasure Island development plan slates 90 percent of the developed acreage for residential use, 7 percent for commercial property and 3 percent for parking. An illustration shows about a dozen high-rise blocks of shoreline condominiums with stunning views of the city, plus 300 acres of park and recreation land. This would hardly be “affordable housing,” the $5 billion investment that Mrs. Pelosi claims would have to be recouped by the developer. The only long-term jobs created from this plan would be for maids and doormen for the high rollers privileged enough to live there.

The Navy merits praise for holding the line in defense of a market-based transfer of Treasure Island. Cloaking this land grab under a measure to help local communities suffering the disruption of military base closure is disgraceful.

Fog City Journal shines more light on the Pelosi cronyism behind the deal:

After some very serious wrangling over control (see “more info” below), the fate of Treasure Island rests mainly with TIDA: the Treasure Island Development Authority. Just as with the Presidio Trust, the people who comprise TIDA are awfully critical. It is they who decide what gets developed and who gets to develop it – and profit thereby.

Likewise, the person who appoints the people on TIDA and similar boards is also a key player, for he or she must be guided to select members who can be trusted to vote favorably to one’s interests. That’s the entitlement portion of the Big Three: garnering approvals that entitle one to development and maximize profits by upzoning the land. (Upzoning means changing the rules to allow more profitable development than would otherwise be allowed.).

That’s why forming relationships between would-be developers and appointing officials is crucial. Lobbyists like Platinum’s Darius Anderson and Jay Wallace specialize in building those relationships, sometimes by finding sources of cash reserves for campaign contributions, or occasionally hosting key fundraisers. Wallace was at one time Pelosi’s campaign manager.

When Anderson held a fundraiser a couple of years ago to retire Mayor Newsom’s campaign debt, it raised eyebrows, but it is what lobbyists do. They specialize in creating access for themselves and for clients with the people who make appointments, sign or promote legislation, and grant entitlements to develop – all of which have big profit implications.

+ + +

It’s easy to conclude that clients are getting their money’s worth from Platinum and friends – especially when the client is Platinum itself. TIDA has granted to Platinum the uncontested contract to be the sole developer of Treasure Island. Or, to be exact, that exclusive contract has been granted to Platinum’s new entity, Treasure Island Community Developers, with the master plan component going to Anderson’s other company, Kenwood Investments…

…Considering the grand, incestuous family that is politics, maybe it’s no surprise that Platinum’s development entity has been handed the Treasure Island bounty. Given the Pelosi and Newsom history of enthusiasm for developing the Presidio, we should hope it’s not too late to keep a close watch and short leash on Treasure Island developments. Unfortunately, this means paying attention to the entire family. That would include even the new president on the Commission on the Environment, Paul Pelosi, Jr., who is Nancy Pelosi’s son and Gavin Newsom’s cousin. As for TIDA itself, all the members are appointed by the mayor; all but one is a City Hall official.

Who else will benefit from the arrangement? Certainly Lennar Corporation will. They are a partner with Platinum’s Treasure Island Community Developers. Lennar has experience developing former military bases, and is one of the country’s largest residential housing builders.

By what could solicitously be called a coincidence, Laurence Pelosi was president of acquisitions for Lennar. He is Nancy Pelosi’s nephew, and currently works as executive director of Morgan Stanley’s real estate division…

But hey, it’s the opponents of the Ground Zero mosque who deserve to be investigated…

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