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Chairman Willie: Willie Brown’s Not-So-Secret Connection to the Hunters Point Project

July 19, 2013

By Matt Smith and The Center for Investigative Reporting : sfweekly – excerpt

The occasion was a groundbreaking ceremony for 88 of 1,400 planned housing units, the first tangible evidence of what has long been envisioned as a $10 billion mixed-use development.

Brown told assembled dignitaries about the $800 million light-rail extension he had championed while he was mayor to connect the future development to downtown, and the $1 billion in government money spent cleaning up radioactive and toxic waste to prepare the military base for development.

“This community will come alive,” Brown said. “It will not be different than any other community in San Francisco except it will be newer, and probably better.”…  (more)

After he became San Francisco mayor in 1996, Brown pushed to redevelop the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard, which closed in 1988. With Pelosi’s help, the federal government contributed to the $815 million cleanup of toxic and radioactive waste at the former base, she wrote in her letter to the Department of Homeland Security…

ut developer Lennar, which in 1999 was chosen by the city to develop the 770-acre parcel, has struggled in obtaining financing for construction of what was to be a $10 billion project.

The last such failure came in April. Following a trip Lee made to China, the mayor’s office confirmed that a proposed $1.7 billion loan to Lennar from the China Development Bank had fallen through. It would have funded redevelopment projects at Hunters Point and the former Treasure Island Naval Station…

The EB-5 visa program has long been controversial. Since it began in 1990, it has been a perennial source of stories about immigrants who saw their investments evaporate and their visa applications denied.

One repeated criticism has been that sales pitches don’t focus on ordinary investing principles such as risk and rate of return. Emphasis instead is put on political support and the tangible benefits of a U.S. visa…

San Francisco attorney Edward Lau, who specializes in the EB-5 program, obtained a fraud judgment earlier this year for three Chinese clients after an EB-5 developer — unrelated to the San Francisco Bay Area Regional Center — disappeared along with $3 million that was to be invested in a San Bruno restaurant…

But in 2011 Lee campaigned for office amid opponents’ criticisms that he was installed by, and was doing the bidding of, Brown.

“Being able to expedite something is often the excuse for allowing these conflicts of interest to occur. ‘Well, we know this person, and they’ve done well for us, so it will save us money in the long run,'” says Nadler, the ethics professor. “But of course what happens is that it doesn’t do any good for the public’s interest, and it makes the public believe there is something else going on which is not necessarily fair, not necessarily transparent.

“You can say it’s a great opportunity. But you could also consider it has the potential to be a huge liability.”… (more)


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