Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Fees Not Cars: An exchange

From: Rob Anderson
To: Bruce Wolfe/PROSF
Date: Jan. 25, 2005
Subject: Attorney for Kathy Roberts Goes for the Big Bucks


The condescending tone of your message [below, along with Francis Somsel's response to Wolfe] isn't justified by its contents.

"This attorney and the others are desperately working to protect the public's interest[and] should be paid their due...Rob, you should be thankful for lawyers like Thomas Lippe and Stephan Volker to stay with this so long without any pay."

Of course lawyers should be paid for their work. My understanding is that Katherine Roberts has already paid Lippe $50,000, and, at the November 7 HANC meeting, Chris Duderstadt said he'd paid his lawyer even more than that. Hardly "a pittance," by any measure. Why should Lippe get more from the taxpayers? What public service has he performed? You and your allies don't like the MLK plan, even though it was the unintended result of the legal action brought by Roberts and Duderstadt. Hence, logically you should agree with me on this point. Does Lippe deserve another big payday at public expense for achieving this?

You make wild, dubious assertions without providing any evidence. In what way is the garage a "very questionable project"? And specifically how have the Music Concourse Community Partnership (MCCP) and the Concourse Authority not been "honest and genuine"? Exactly how are they "trying to pull the wool over on the public[sic]"? The only reason there have been "long drawn out court trials"---in fact, there have only been hearings, not trials, since no one has been on trial---is due to the lawsuits initiated by your allies in the anti-garage movement.

You say there's "no mention" of MCCP in Proposition J, but in the text of Prop. J. the Concourse Authority is given wide latitude to contract for the construction of the garage and to overhaul the Concourse area itself. Judge Warren, in last year's decision validating the garage project, found that "Proposition J specifically allows the Authority to delegate the design, construction and operation of the Garage to MCCP" (Statement of Decision, page 15). See Section 2 in Prop. J for the language Warren relied on.

"I know I never voted for that[the widening of MLK]...There must be something very wrong in Smallville with this kind of response and opposition to the project."

If you voted for Prop. J in 1998, you voted for an underground garage "with a dedicated entrance and exit (or entrances and exits) outside the park...", or, in language elsewhere in the same paragraph, "dedicated access route (or routes) to and from the underground parking facility beginning at a location or locations outside the Park..." (Prop. J, Section 2)

As a result of the lawsuits brought by your allies, Judge Warren ruled that the Authority was wrong not to design a "dedicated" route from outside the park to the garage entrance near the Concourse (no one was contesting the northern entrance at Tenth and Fulton). Hence, the completely reasonable solution arrived at by the Authority: widen a short stretch of MLK at Ninth and Lincoln by four feet, eliminate parking on both sides of that street, and designate two of the lanes as an entrance and an exit for the garage for 500 feet of MLK.

"C'mon, your shallow missives just try to divert the focus of how the City is being shafted plus WE are gonna have to foot the bills on 35 years of bonds that were never voted for."

Wrong again, Bruce! Judge Warren's decision has a lucid discussion of the Authority's financial arrangements in the Ground Lease with MCCP. He found that MCCP used private donations to start constructing the garage, floated construction bonds to raise more money for construction, and that "The bonds thus issued will be repaid with revenues from the operation of the Garage" (page 12). Warren also found that "no public monies are being used in the construction or operation of the Garage" (page 15). That means, Bruce, that the garage won't, in your words, "cost us a dime."

The anti-garage forces lost at the ballot box in 1998, and they lost in court last year. City voters voted for an underground garage in Golden Gate Park, and that's what they are going to get, regardless of the politcal hysteria generated by you and your friends.

Rob Anderson

My Original Message
rom: Rob Anderson
Date: Jan. 24, 2005

Subject: Fees Not Trees

Tom Lippe, attorney for Katherine Roberts in the fight to stop the garage in Golden Gate Park, is going for the green tomorrow morning in Superior Court, room #301, 9:30 a.m. Lippe will try to convince the judge to give him a bundle of cash from the city's coffers for his legal "victory" in forcing the Concourse Authority to redesign/widen MLK Blvd. to the Concourse. No one likes the outcome of the garage litigation, so why should Lippe get well over six figures for his role in the outcome? For more on why/how this can happen see and "Attorney for Roberts Goes for the Green."

Rob Anderson

Bruce Wolfe's Response
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 01:33:34 -0700
Subject: Attorney for Kathy Roberts Goes for the Big Bucks

Uh, Rob, lawyers don't do these things for free, y'know. Your assertions are so shallow in trying to divert the attention of the substance of the lawsuits, their importance in protecting the public and your hard earned money and taxes. This attorney and the others are desparately working to protect the public's interest should be paid their just due. It's a pittance next to what the public/private partnership of the GG Park Concourse Authority and Music Concourse Community Partnership, both CA Public Benefit Corporations, have got in their coffers to protect their very questionable project which doesn't have to be questionable if they just stay honest and genuine. Also, the GGPCA has the City Attorney representing it because it was us, the VOTERS, who approved its creation as a nonprofit corporation to build the garage in the first place and not the MCCP consisting of Warren Hellman et al, of which, there is no mention in Prop J.

The MCCP started with a legal defense fund in the millions knowing or, better, premeditating that there would be huge opposition to this project. Why would they raise multi-millions in anticipation anyway unless they knew that their plans were questionable, if not illegal, and may demand long drawn out court trials? It just reveals how much they knew they were trying to pull the wool over on the public in the first place. Look at where it is at now. You have a solid and active group of residents and merchants in Inner Sunset and the Richmond garnering citywide support to prevent the virtual eminent domain of MLK Drive in order to change its status and claim it as a dedicated access way specifically for inside-the-park entrances and exits that were prohibited by the voters. The VOTERS. I know that I never voted for that. These voters/residents/taxpayers are driven and have the thrust of understanding and experience of countless years of successful grassroots community organizing and political activism. There are people, like merchants and loyal machine Democrats, who would never have thought they would be struggling on the same side of an issue like the SF Bike Coalition, the Sierra Club and the Green Party.There must be something very wrong in Smallville with this kind of response and opposition to the project.

The widening of MLK Drive will have significant effects on the City and our Golden Gate Park. It will. There is no denying it and the press needs to address this in a factual way. There is plenty of valid evidence available if they only do some investigative work to get it and report on it. The MCCP have not revealed nor publicized any of the effects but instead just go for the basic validation process in order to circumvent addressing the issues directly. They purposefully hired a very well known PR firm to make sure they stay under the radar. Why prepare for fallout in public opinion unless there is something to either protect or keep secret from the public?

MCCP has a 35 year ground lease that allows for a slew of squirrely processes that circumvent City policy and were not voted on by the taxpayers and owners of the park, the people of the City & County of San Francisco. The voters never approved that park land should be leased. The City charter provides that only the voters can allow the sale or lease of park land. Prop J did not do that. Instead, it allows for the GGPCA to "locate, acquire, design, construct, reconstruct, operate, use, lease, maintain and repair an underground public parking facility". There is no mention of leasing the land. Only the facility. And it is my opinion that where it says "lease", it means to "lease from", not "lease to".

Prop J, the park garage project, should never have been put on the ballot. It is too complicated and complex for the ordinary voter to understand plus the PR campaign to sell it to the public was widely skewed that the results so far looks like nothing we thought we were voting on anyway.

Rob, you should be thankful for lawyers like Thomas Lippe and Stephan Volker to stay with this so long without any pay. (Yes, there are lawyers that really are worth it!)

I would think they gotta eat, too, Rob, huh?
C'mon, your shallow missives just try to divert the focus of how the City is being shafted plus WE are gonna have to foot the bills on 35 years of bonds that were never voted for. All this construction and development was specifically to be paid for by philanthropic fundraising NOT BONDS. "The underground parking facility shall be constructed entirely with funds received through one or more philanthropic donations."

There is NO MENTION OF BONDS. That was the beauty of the whole thing and why so many of us voted for it as it wouldn't cost us a dime.
Read Prop J .

Keep it real, Rob, and maybe more than 346 folks will really take some stock in your opinions.

Bruce Wolfe

Francis Somsel's Response to Wolfe
From: Francis Somsel
Date: Tue, 25 Jan 2005 12:12:27 -0700
Subject: Re: Attorney for Kathy Roberts Goes for the Big Bucks

Mr. Wolfe,
Are you suggesting that if I file a lawsuit against someone that I view is in the interest of the public, I can have my lawyer bill the city? What is to stop the lawyers from any company dealing with city from doing the same thing? Without passing judgement on the merits of Kathy Roberts lawsuit, I find the idea that people can be rewarded with tax payer dollars for obstructing voter approved projects a very dangerous precedent to set. Nowhere do you provide any compelling evidence as to why the tax payers in San Francisco should pay Kathy Robert's lawyers to stop a project that was approved by the voters and subsequently ordered fast tracked by a judge. We do, after all, employ an army of lawyers already that all work for Mr. Herrera.

Why do we need to also pay Mr. Volker and Mr. Lippe who were retained by a private citizen without consultation with the city? You mention the SF Bike Coalition, the Sierra Club and the Green Party---why don't they pay for the lawyers? Is the city responsible for the legal fees of all the special interest groups and pressure groups? Should the city pick up the tab for the lawyers of special interest groups trying to stop sex-ed in SF? After all, they can argue that it is in the "public interest." What about lawyers working on behalf of "neighborhood schools?" If we pay for Kathy Roberts lawyers, surely we should be expected to pay for their lawyers. Don't stick the rest of us with the bill for your crusade.