San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge
"Bridge Over Troubled Waters"
The replacement span of the San Francisco - Oakland has been the subject of several rants by «Louis» because of the delays in building it, the cost over-runs (more than half a Billion and counting) and the political and financial payoffs to those who have benefited (and will benefit) from the re-routing of the bridge from the tunnel through Yerba Buena Island onto the adjoining man-made Treasure Island.
Treasure Island was built for the 1939 World's Fair. Then it became the base for the famous Pan American Airways China Clippers. With the outbreak of World War II, the Navy took over the man-made island.
To recap the history of the replacement span, it is being built as a result of the collapse of a section of the cantilever section of the bridge during the October, 1989 earthquake. We are now almost halfway through 2013 and the replacement span is still not open. The construction is overseen by CalTrans, the California Department of Transportation, who also operate and manage the bridge.
In previous rants, «Louis» has pointed out that most of the steel being used in the new bridge has been sourced in China. Worse, CalTrans engineers assigned to monitor the quality of the steel coming from China have been warning that much of the steel does not meet the specified tensile strength and is flawed (and weakened) because of the presence of hydrogen in the steel. Several of these whistle-blowing engineers have been fired or "re-assigned." CalTrans management has chosen to try to sweep this under the rug rather than delay the planned Labor Day opening of the replacement span. The irony of defective steel being used in the new span which is to replace the earthquake-damaged cantilever section of the bridge is huge.
The new bridge isn't even open yet and the defective steel is already causing problems. The new bridge uses a series of seismic safety rods, the intent of which is to prevent the bridge from collapsing in an earthquake. The hydrogen content in the flawed Chinese steel in the seismic safety rods is causing the rods to snap - and the bridge isn't even open and carrying traffic yet! Since the discovery of the snapped rods, initially 32 of them, more have snapped. Since the initial discovery, more of the rods have broken. The fix is going to be expensive and will delay the opening of the bridge.
Part of the gross delay in beginning the construction of the replacement span was due to the wrangling between the "two Browns" over whether the bridge would be routed through the existing tunnel on Yerba Buena Island or whether it would bring traffic to Treasure Island. Jerry Brown, at the time mayor of Oakland (now governor for the third time of California) wanted the bridge to go through the existing tunnel. Willie Brown, who was mayor of San Francisco at the time, wanted the replacement span to terminate on Treasure Island. Willie Brown was deeply connected to the developers who want to build housing and shopping on the former Navy base at Treasure Island. Willie Brown and company won this part of the fight.
What has been kept very quiet is the connection of Democrat Nancy Pelosi (House Minority Leader) to the deal making that led to the replacement span of the bridge terminating on Treasure Island.
In an August, 2010 article, columnist Michelle Malkin wrote that
What a stinking mess...
"(Nancy) 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…"
What a stinking mess...
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