Tag Archive for Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo

Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley: My Article in www.UnionWatch.org

As documented on the web site www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com, construction trade unions continue to be active in objecting to proposed projects based on the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). The Napa Pipe Project in Napa County is the latest high-profile example.

The Napa Valley Register newspaper has referenced the environmental objections of three unions in a few articles, and on March 24, 2013 it published my letter to the editor exposing the apparent “greenmail” plot for a Project Labor Agreement on the Napa Pipe Project.

My May 28, 2013 article Spread the Word: Brazen Union CEQA Abuse in Napa Valley in www.UnionWatch.org aims to make a larger audience aware of the ulterior motivations behind the union CEQA objections.

Information and News Media Coverage:

May 2, 2011 Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo Comments on Supplemental Draft EIR for Napa Pipe Project – Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 104, Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local 343, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 180

The Battle Over Napa Pipe – Napa Valley Register – March 18, 2012

County Delays Action on Napa Pipe, but a Deal is Close – Napa Valley Register – May 21, 2013

Napa Pipe Project Workers Deserve Napa Living Wages – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Union Pressure Leads to Labor Agreements – Napa Valley Register (letter to the editor) – May 24, 2013

Unions “Seeking Leverage for a Project Labor Agreement” on Construction of Geothermal Energy Plants in California

Construction trade unions in California are deploying their full arsenal of strategies under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block the construction and operation of geothermal energy generating facilities by Ormat Technologies, a “leading geothermal company and the only vertically-integrated company in the geothermal and recovered energy power business.”

It’s another example of union “greenmail” to exploit environmental laws in pursuit of labor agreements and other economic concessions unrelated to environmental protection.

As stated by Ormat Technologies on page 1 of its response to a 2011 complaint to the California Energy Commission from California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE), the unions are “seeking leverage for a project labor agreement.” Or as stated by its representative at a subsequent September 26, 2011 hearing of the California Energy Commission, “‘Let me guess. Ormat doesn’t have a Project Labor Agreement.’ That’s why we’re here.”

Here are some of the recent projects in which construction unions have attempted to interfere with Ormat Technologies’ proposed and operating geothermal energy generation plants.

Hudson Ranch II Geothermal Plant – Imperial County

As reported in the minutes of the Imperial County Planning Commission meeting on September 12, 2012, the law firm of Lozeau Drury submitted a “huge comment letter…five minutes before the meeting” on behalf of the Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 1184 objecting to the Final Environmental Impact Report for the Hudson Ranch II Geothermal Plant. After the Planning Commission (and county staff) approved the project, the union appealed the decision to the Imperial County Board of Supervisors, which rejected the appeal and approved the project. 

News Coverage of Union Environmental Objections:

County Planning Commission Approves Hudson Ranch II Geothermal PlantImperial Valley Press – September 12, 2012

Christina Caro, attorney for the Laborers International Union of North America came in opposition of the project. “Injection of geothermal brine has the potential to cause seismic activities,” she said. The project can also cause discomfort to local communities, animals such as horses and cattle, said Caro while alleging that mitigation was insufficient…

LIUNA’s comments were addressed as well, first by commissioner Dennis Bergh who said no evidence correlating brine extraction and seismic activity has been recorded. Willis also defended the EIR. “This document (EIR) does address each one of (the) issues and meets (California Environmental Quality Act) adequacy,” she said.

Hudson Ranch II Geothermal Plant ApprovedImperial Valley Press – October 24, 2012

Hudson Ranch II, a 49-megawatt geothermal plant set for Niland, was approved for development despite an appeal from the Laborers International Union of North America…

Both plants are expected to create dozens of jobs and bring millions of dollars in revenue to the county. And yet, the laborers’ union and two Imperial County residents appealed to the Planning Commission what they said were various environmental issues such as hydrology, loss of agricultural land and perhaps most important, compliance to the California Environmental Quality Act.

The laborers’ union is in support of renewable energy projects, union attorney Christina Caro said. However, she said her clients support those projects as long as they are done in an environmentally responsible manner.

Casa Diablo IV Development Project – Mono County

As I reported in my blog post Environmental Lawyers Make Long Trek to Mono County to Block Geothermal Energy Projects so Unions Can Get a Project Labor AgreementCalifornia Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and the Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 783 objected on environmental grounds in the fall of 2012 to construction of a geothermal power plant in Mono County. CURE was represented by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, and the Laborers Union is represented (now through a lawsuit, Concerned Bishop Residents v. County of Mono) by the law firm of Lozeau Drury.

News Coverage of Union Environmental Objections:

County Gives Thumbs Up to Geothermal Plant Expansion – Mammoth Times – November 16, 2012

The Mono County Board of Supervisors soundly rejected an appeal of a plan to expand the Casa Diablo geothermal plant Tuesday, after two out of area (mostly) union advocacy groups appealed the project during an almost five-hour public hearing. It’s the second time the groups have been in Mono County in the past few months…

The supervisors and county staff, one after the other, threw water on the groups’ claims that the environmental analysis done by the county was not adequate.

“It’s illuminating to me that the air district didn’t have a problem with this, yet you do,” said Supervisor Larry Johnston, when one group, called Californians For Reliable Energy, or CURE, said the expansion of the plant would create hazardous ozone pollution.

Union Advocacy Group Sues Over Geothermal Plant ProjectMammoth TimesJanuary 11, 2013

The lawsuit follows hard on the heels of several other actions from LIUNA and another union advocacy group called California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). The two groups have been involved in commenting on and/or challenging the environmental review planning process for the past few years, making extensive comments about the inadequacy of the EIR, and appealing the Mono County Planning Commission’s and, the Mono County Board of Supervisor’s approval of the project.

The county has been critical of the tactics of the union groups in the past, calling it “greenmail,” wherein a group uses the pretext of environmental concerns about a proposed renewable energy project to try to gain construction work for its union members.

North Brawley and East Brawley Geothermal Developments – Imperial County (Ormat Technologies)

On June 28, 2011, the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted a “Verified Complaint and Request for Investigation” on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) to the California Energy Commission. The complaint claimed that Ormat Technologies was trying to evade the licensing jurisdiction of the California Energy Commission by breaking up a single geothermal development into smaller pieces that fall below the 50 megwatt minimum threshold for CEC involvement. The North Brawley project was already built and operating when this complaint was filed, and the East Brawley project had been in the permitting process in Imperial County for three years.

The California Energy Commission rejected the complaint and then rejected a petition for reconsideration. See the full CEC docket for this proceeding: Complaint against Ormat Nevada, Inc. by California Unions for Reliable Energy.

CURE sued the California Energy Commission in Alameda County Superior Court to vacate its decision. After a court hearing in August and another in November, the court ruled against California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) on November 15, 2012.

The case is California Unions for Reliable Energy v. State of California State Energy Resources (the official name of the California Energy Commission), Ormat Nevada, Inc. as Real Party in Interest, case number RG12610669. Here’s a summary of the case from Ormat Technologies’ quarterly report for the first quarter of 2012 filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

On January 4, 2012, the California Unions for Reliable Energy (“CURE”) filed a petition in the Alameda Superior Court, naming the California Energy Commission (“CEC”) and the Company as defendant and real party in interest, respectively. The petition asks the Court to order the CEC to vacate its decision which denied, with prejudice, the complaint filed by CURE against the Company with the CEC. The CURE complaint alleged that the Company’s North Brawley project and East Brawley project both exceed the CEC’s 50 MW jurisdictional threshold and therefore are subject to the CEC licensing authority rather than the Imperial County licensing authority. In addition, the CURE petition asks the Court to investigate and halt any ongoing violation of the Warren Alquist Act by the Company, and to award CURE attorney’s fees and costs. As to North Brawley, CURE alleges that the CEC decision violated the Warren Alquist Act because it failed to consider provisions of the County permit for North Brawley, which CURE contends authorizes the Company to build a generating facility with a number of Ormat Energy Converters (“OECs”) capable of generating more than 50 MW. As to East Brawley, CURE alleges that the CEC decision violated the Warren Alquist Act because it failed to consider the conditional use permit application for East Brawley, which CURE contends shows that the Company requested authorization to build a facility with a number of OECs capable of generating more than 50 MW.

The Company believes that the petition is without merit and intends to respond and take necessary legal action to dismiss the proceedings. The parties have filed briefs in the proceeding, and the matter is set for hearing. The filing of the petition in and of itself does not have any immediate adverse implications for the North Brawley or East Brawley projects and the Company continues to operate the North Brawley project in the ordinary course of business and is proceeding with its development work on the East Brawley project.

So Ormat Technologies (and the California Energy Commission and Imperial County) won this round, but the union harassment using environmental laws will continue.

Redding Needs a Charter to End Nonsense Definition of Private Hotel as a “Public Works” Project

UPDATE: My letter to the editor Kevin Dayton: Redding Needs a City Charter is in the February 4, 2013 Redding Record-Searchlight. Comments in response misrepresent “prevailing wage” as “living wage” just like at the Newport Beach City Council meeting on January 22, 2013. It’s possible that a political consultant has suggested using this strategy to take advantage of public ignorance about the calculation of “prevailing wages” and the resulting rates.


The City of Redding has been hit with a union-instigated obstacle to economic growth and job creation imposed by Senate Bill 975, enacted into law in 2001. This law (described below in greater detail) expanded the state’s definition of “public works” to include many private construction projects, thereby requiring companies working on these projects to pay state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”) instead of wages that reflect local market conditions.

On January 27, 2013, the California Department of Industrial Relations reversed an earlier decision from December 27, 2011 and determined that a proposed Sheraton hotel to be built in Redding by the Turtle Bay Exploration Park is a “public works” project after all.

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

Turtle Bay Exploration Center in Redding Loses to Unions

This new decision was sought by three unions: the Plumbers & Pipefitters Union Local No. 228, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Union Local No. 340, and the Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 162 (now absorbed into Sheet Metal Workers Union Local No. 104). As a result of a 22-page appeal of the original decision by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, the state has now decided that the privately-owned hotel would a public works project, equivalent to a courthouse, because the City of Redding waived rental payments on the land where the hotel will be built.

Now the proposed hotel project may be in jeopardy because the anticipated increased cost of construction may compromise the financial success of the hotel. A January 30, 2013 article in the Redding Record-Searchlight newspaper (Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel) outlined the current status of the planned 130-room hotel:

…a park spokesman said he could not say when construction will start or whether the project is in jeopardy. Groundbreaking for the hotel had been scheduled this month.

“At this point we still hope to build the hotel, and operate a hotel there,” Turtle Bay’s Toby Osborn said Wednesday. “There is just a lot of uncertainty due to the ruling.”

…“Everybody woke up this morning and it was a different ballgame,” Osborn said. “Now we need to sit down and identify all the knowns and try to identify all the unknowns.”

But don’t worry, magnanimous union officials say they will help:

Andrew Meredith of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Union Local 340 – one of the unions that appealed the ruling – said they were always confident the state would overturn its prevailing wage decision.

“That said, we are still committed to working with Turtle Bay to find a way to get this project off the ground,” Meredith said. “We know this is something that is important to the community.”

Turtle Bay met with the unions Wednesday to discuss how to move forward, including how the ruling will affect costs of building the hotel and restaurant.

What Is Senate Bill 975 and Why Is It an Obstacle to Private Construction Projects?

In 2001, Governor Gray Davis signed into law Senate Bill 975, a bill sponsored by the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California that expanded the definition of “public works” under California Labor Code Section 1720 to include many private projects. Existing law had defined “public works” as various types of construction “done under contract and paid for in whole or in part out of public funds.” Senate Bill 975 added a list of various kinds of non-monetary government assistance that qualified as public funds:

“paid for in whole or in part out of public funds” means the payment of money or the equivalent of money by a state or political subdivision directly to or on behalf of the public works contractor, subcontractor, or developer, performance of construction work by the state or political subdivision in execution of the project, transfer of an asset of value for less than fair market price; fees, costs, rents, insurance or bond premiums, loans, interest rates, or other obligations that would normally be required in the execution of the contract, which are paid, reduced, charged at less than fair market value, waived or forgiven; money to be repaid on a contingent basis; or credits applied against repayment obligations.

As business groups and Republican legislators predicted, the increased costs of construction labor resulting from prevailing wage requirements triggered by Senate Bill 975 scuttled numerous private commercial projects and private affordable housing projects, especially in the Central Valley, North State region (Redding and Chico), and other rural areas.

In these parts of the state, away from the coastal metropolitan cities, the disparity between state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called prevailing wages but actually based on union collective bargaining agreements) and actual median wages in the local market region is quite significant – as much as 30% or more, depending on the trade. See An Analysis of Market and Prevailing Wage Rates for the Construction Trades in California (2004) and The Effects of Prevailing Wage Requirements on the Cost of Low-Income Housing (2005).

Unions Derailed an Easy Local Solution to This Problem in 2011

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

Sundial Bridge in Redding, California

There has been an ongoing grassroots effort in Redding to ask voters to enact a charter in order to circumvent costly and intrusive state meddling in local affairs. A charter would free the City of Redding from the mandates of the union-controlled California State Legislature, including state-mandated construction wage rates (so-called “prevailing wages”). See Are Charter Cities Taking Advantage of State-Mandated Construction Wage Rate (“Prevailing Wage”) Exemptions?

In 2011, various local groups and individuals wanted voters to consider approving a robust charter, but union officials ultimately derailed the movement through a Charter City Exploratory Committee appointed by the city council.

The citizens of Redding need to enact a charter so their city has the same authority as the 121 California charter cities to establish its own prevailing wage policies. Why are the people of Redding acquiescing to the demands of unions and allowing the state legislature and a state agency to determine the fate of this hotel?

News Coverage of the Turtle Bay Hotel Prevailing Wage Saga:

Redding City Council Abandons Charter, Saves Prevailing Wage – State Building and Construction Trades Council web site – June 8, 2011

Cost of Turtle Bay Hotel Rests with Department of Industrial Relations; Prevailing Wage in Dispute – Redding Record-Searchlight – August 18, 2011

Turtle Bay Wins Ruling on Wages; Hotel Plan Not Subject to Prevailing Pay – Redding Record-Searchlight – December 28, 2011

Hotel construction cost estimates range from $13 million to $14.8 million. Total project costs are pegged at $21.2 million. Prevailing wage would have added roughly $1.25 million to that price tag, Osborn has said.

Hotel at Turtle Bay May Break Ground in JanuaryRedding Record-Searchlight – December 12, 2012

Unions Win Prevailing-Wage Case vs. Turtle BayRedding Record-Searchlight – January 29, 2013

Fate of Hotel at Turtle Bay in Limbo – Ruling: Park Must Pay Workers Prevailing Wage to build Sheraton Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight – January 30, 2013

One More Costly Delay on Road to Turtle Bay Hotel – Redding Record-Searchlight (editorial) – January 30, 2013

Turtle Bay Nearing Compromise with Unions Over Hotel Construction – Redding Record-Searchlight – February 7, 2013

Finally, the Redding Employees Association of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is now suing the City of Redding for approving a contract with Vertex Business Solutions (Orcom Solutions), a provider of outsourced billing and customer care services to utilities, to take over billing and a call center from the city-owned Redding Electric Utility. It appears this contract would have been umambiguously legal if Redding operated as a charter city. See Union Sues Redding Over Outsourcing REU Call CenterRedding Record-Searchlight – January 18, 2013.

Lead Democrat for “Reform” of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Never Mentions Unions as the Major Instigator of CEQA Abuse

UPDATE: The January 28, 2013 Sacramento Bee has a profile of Senator Michael Rubio in the context of his campaign to reform the California Environmental Quality Act (Moderate Michael Rubio Takes on California’s Environmental Law):

State Sen. Michael Rubio says he first wondered if something were wrong with California’s environmental review law during his days as a Kern County supervisor, when he saw it used to slow wind and solar projects he considered green by their very nature…he said he was “shocked” to see projects that could improve the environment and public health “delayed significantly by misuses and abuses of a wonderful statute.”

As you might expect, Rubio says nothing about how construction unions used CEQA to try to force a Project Labor Agreement on the Big West/Flying J refinery modernization in Bakersfield (see below) or on Recurrent Energy solar projects in Kern County.

Also, a January 20, 2013 letter to the editor of the Sacramento Bee responds to Rubio’s January 13, 2013 op-ed by noting that Rubio Would Gut CEQA for Public, but Not Touch Unions.


For more background on CEQA reform, see my three articles A First Crack at Analyzing the Proposed CEQA Reform: “The Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013, and Looks Like CEQA Reform Talks Are Underway…Good Luck People.


State Senator Michael Rubio (D-Bakersfield) is the leading voice in the California State Legislature for amending the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to prevent people from using CEQA to block projects for reasons unrelated to environmental protection. (With less than one-third control of the Assembly and Senate, Republicans currently are not recognized as relevant by the state’s Establishment.)

I analyzed Senator Rubio’s proposed Sustainable Environmental Protection Act, introduced near the end of the 2012 legislative session, and concluded it would do little to prevent “greenmail” by unions that exploit CEQA with an objective of coercing developers into signing Project Labor Agreements, neutrality agreements, or other labor agreements. The bill mainly appeared to suppress the flailing and railing of small-time community activists.

On January 13, 2013, the Sacramento Bee presented a point-counterpoint entitled Should California Make Changes to Landmark 1970 Law? Writing for the position YES: Opponents Abuse CEQA to Derail Worthy Projects was Senator Rubio, and writing NO: We Should Resist Efforts to Weaken a Law that Works Well was Tom Adams of the law firm Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, who was identified as “the former board president of the California League of Conservation Voters, and a CEQA attorney.”

In his opinion piece, Rubio cites a few examples of groups of community activists or individuals using CEQA to prevent projects from getting built. But he never mentions unions.

Considering that Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo is the dominant law firm in representing construction unions in CEQA actions, this omission is particularly stunning! But I’ve seen from experience that Senator Rubio has sympathy for unions that abuse CEQA. I posted the following comment under the article:

Kevin Dayton

There’s a notable omission in Senator Rubio’s critique about parties that abuse CEQA.

On October 21, 2008, the Kern County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approve a $700 million expansion and modernization of the Big West/Flying J refinery in Bakersfield. This was the second Environmental Impact Report produced by the county for the project. The only remaining opposition of any substance to the project was from a South San Francisco law firm, which claimed to represent a mysterious organization called “Bakersfield Refinery Coalition.” At the October 21, 2008 meeting, an attorney for this law firm spoke during public comment and submitted a massive “document dump” objecting to the final Environmental Impact Report. It was a classic case of CEQA abuse.

Someone spoke from the public and revealed that the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition was six construction unions that wanted the refinery developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement so that only union workers would build the refinery project. The unions were the Plumbers and Steamfitters Union Local No. 460, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local No. 428, the Asbestos Workers Local No. 5, the Boilermakers Union Local No. 92, the Ironworkers Local No. 155, and the Road Sprinkler Fitters Union Local No. 669.

One of the Kern County Supervisors was irate about the criticism of the Bakersfield Refinery Coalition and criticized the commenter by name. He then praised the unions.

Which Supervisor? Michael Rubio, who would get union support in his campaign for California State Senate. See the video of the October 21, 2008 Kern County Board of Supervisors meeting, and go to 2:57:40 for Supervisor Rubio’s specific comments about the document dumpers:

http://www.co.kern.ca.us/bos/AgendaMinutesVideo.aspx

Eight-minute video showing the part of the September 15, 2008 Kern County Planning Commission meeting with the CEQA abuse:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oR_jrXdbAgw

And what was the law firm that dumped the documents in front of Supervisor Rubio and the other Kern County Supervisors? Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo.

What’s my point? Whatever CEQA reform you see in 2013 is going to be aimed at people who are trying to stop projects such as “affordable housing” from coming into their neighborhood. Unions won’t be hindered in their comprehensive, professionalized CEQA strategies.

Unions File Yet Another CEQA Lawsuit Against Proposed Hotel in San Diego: Fat City Hotel Is Latest Target

Excerpts from this article were included in my December 18, 2012 www.UnionWatch.org article UNITE HERE Becomes San Diego’s Leading Environmental Organization.


On behalf of San Diego-based UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30, the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo filed a lawsuit in San Diego County Superior Court on December 5, 2012 alleging that the City of San Diego, the San Diego Planning Commission, and the Centre City Development Corporation improperly approved the proposed Fat City Hotel Project.

First proposed publicly in March 2012, this project would be a two-tower, 364-room hotel in San Diego’s “Little Italy” district. Parties initially involved in this development were Frank Fat Properties LP and Jonathan Segal (an architect), but the parties now developing the project are FC Acquisition Company LLC, which includes T2 Development and GLJ Partners. (See Fat City Hotels Property Sold, New Developer Takes Over: T2 Development Reportedly Planning a Hilton HotelSan Diego Union-Tribune – August 28, 2012.)

As reported in the May 30, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotel Approved Over Labor Objections and in the July 26, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune article Fat City Hotels Project Wins Final OK: Planning Commission Denies Appeal from Hotel Workers, the hotel workers’ union has been pestering the hotel developers for a while:

The final opposition came from Unite Here Local 30, the local hotel workers union. There is no appeal from the commission vote.

Pamela N. Epstein, representing the union, said the project conflicted with city land-use plans, citing a maximum of hotel rooms that would be allowed in Little Italy where the site is located.

“Evidence does not support its designation as a resort hotel,” Epstein added.

But staff said the project complied with city rules and Commissioner Mary Lydon wondered why the union was involved, especially since new hotels mean new jobs.

“Why you brought this forward, to me, it’s a total miss,” Lydon said.

UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 claims that the project needs a project-specific Environmental Impact Report (EIR) under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Local agencies approved the project under the conclusion that the potential environmental impacts of this project were addressed in a 2006 “Program Environmental Impact Report” for future downtown redevelopment. See the San Diego Planning Commission staff report for the July 26, 2012 meeting concerning UNITE-HERE’s appeal of the Centre City Development Corporation’s approval of the project.

The appropriate question reporters and public officials need to ask UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30: will the union drop its lawsuit if the developers agree to a collective bargaining agreement with UNITE-HERE for hotel employees, along with some minor “environmental mitigation” to provide camouflage for the true purpose of the CEQA lawsuit?

In addition, is UNITE-HERE also asking the developers to require their contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council?

Riverside Press-Enterprise Publishes My Commentary: Don’t Blame Wal-Mart for Fighting CEQA Abuse

The Sunday, December 2, 2012 Riverside Press-Enterprise published my opinion piece Don’t Blame Wal-Mart for Fighting CEQA Abuse. It is a response to a Riverside Press Enterprise editorial from November 25, 2012, Big-Box Browbeating, which I felt lacked an important perspective: labor unions and other groups routinely exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to suppress potential competition or to coerce labor agreements or other payoffs from developers (a practice known as “greenmail”).

On October 30, 2012, a California appeals court ruled in Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance v. Superior Court of Tuolumne County (Wal-Mart and the City of Sonora, Real Parties in Interest) that a city cannot bypass CEQA and approve a project if voters qualify a ballot measure to approve the project.

The Sonora Planning Commission and the Sonora City Council didn’t seem to have objections to Wal-Mart in their town. “The legal battle slowing down Wal-Mart’s expansion frustrates Sonora Mayor Hank Russell,” according to an article in the November 19, 2012 Bay Citizen (Ruling Is Win for Environmental Law, Loss for Wal-Mart):

These people just want to delay a process that should be part of a free market economy. I don’t think it’s the city’s role to decide who can compete.

The League of California Cities and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association’s foundation submitted amicus briefs on behalf of the City of Sonora, which had won approval to bypass CEQA in Tuoloumne County Superior Court.

Meanwhile, the true identity of Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance does not appear to be public. Another mysterious group called CREED-21 (Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development) submitted an amicus brief on behalf of the Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance.

A variety of anonymous organizations purporting to represent local citizens challenge proposed Wal-Mart superstores (Wal-Marts that sell groceries) using CEQA. Some of these groups are reportedly fronts for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union, which represents grocery store workers in the older, “legacy” grocery stores in California such as Safeway, Raley’s, Vons, Albertsons, Ralphs, Save Mart, and Stater Bros.

A November 21, 2011 California Watch article (Wal-Mart Ramps Up Ballot Threats to Speed New Stores) reported on the Wal-Mart ballot measure strategy and claimed it “raises questions about whether California’s communities – dogged by economic woes – can afford an aggressive use of the state’s system of direct democracy.”

I guess it would not be “progressive” to ask whether California’s communities – dogged by economic woes – can afford an aggressive misuse of the state’s environmental laws by unions and other leftist organizations that philosophically object to so-called “big box stores.” Has Wal-Mart ever considered releasing a list of the phony front groups and the names of the law firms that object to the Environmental Impact Reports (EIRs) and file CEQA lawsuits?

The law firm representing Tuolumne Jobs & Small Business Alliance is Herum Crabtree, based in Stockton. A web search indicates this firm has also used CEQA to challenge proposed Wal-Marts in the Northern California and Central California cities of Elk Grove, Lodi, Ceres, Tracy, American Canyon, Bakersfield, and Anderson.

Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development (CREED-21) is represented by the Briggs Law Corporation. A web search indicates this firm has used CEQA to challenge proposed Wal-Marts in the Southern California cities of Tehachapi, Apple Valley, Lake Forest, Victorville, Ontario, San Bernardino, Hesperia, Menifee, Gelndora, Barstow, Rialto, Murrieta, and Vista.

These are not the only law firms prominent in using CEQA to stop Wal-Mart.

A lawyer based in Davis named William D. Kopper has used CEQA to hinder the construction of Wal-Mart superstores. A web search indicates this firm has used CEQA to challenge proposed Wal-Marts in the Northern California cities of Redding, Red Bluff, Oroville, Linda, Yuba City, Galt, Stockton, Ukiah, Santa Rosa, and Gilroy. Kopper also exploits CEQA on behalf of construction trade unions seeking Project Labor Agreements from developers proposing private residential and commercial projects in Northern California.

The law firm of M.R. Wolfe & Associates, based in San Francisco, has used CEQA to challenge Wal-Mart projects. A web search indicates this firm has used CEQA to challenge proposed Wal-Marts in the Northern California and Central California cities of Antioch, Fremont, Hayward, Suisun City, Madera, Porterville, Visalia, Delano, Atascadero, and Rohnert Park.

Mark Wolfe used to work at the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo, the CEQA lawyers of choice for California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) and individual construction trade unions. I did not find any evidence through a web search that Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has ever worked for a client who objected to a Wal-Mart on CEQA grounds.

Environmental Lawyers Make Long Trek to Mono County to Block Geothermal Energy Projects so Unions Can Get a Project Labor Agreement

UPDATE: On December 14, 2012, Laborers Union (LIUNA) Local No. 783 (with the jurisdiction of San Bernardino, Mono, and Inyo Counties) filed a lawsuit (Concerned Bishop Residents v. County of Mono) in Mono County Superior Court claiming that the Mono County Board of Supervisors violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when it approved Ormat Technologies‘ replacement project for the Mammoth Pacific Unit 1 geothermal power plant.

The union filed the lawsuit with four individuals under the name “Concerned Bishop Residents.” The lawsuit notes that Laborers Union members “regularly travel to the Mammoth Lakes area of Mono County to enjoy its peaceful repose.” I’m sure they would also enjoy travel to the Mammoth Lakes area of Mono County to enjoy a union work monopoly under a Project Labor Agreement.

Latest News Coverage:

Union Advocacy Group Sues Over Geothermal Plant Project – Mammoth Times – January 11, 2013

More Time to Comment on New Geothermal Plant ProposalMammoth Times – January 11, 2013 (related to Casa Diablo IV proposed plant, includes references to union CEQA challenges to Ormat Technology’s Mammoth Pacific 1 replacement project)


The Mono County Board of Supervisors is not yet on my California Local Government Logbook, but the lawyers of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo have it on theirs. They went to a November 13, 2012 Board of Supervisors meeting (as well as an October 22, 2012 Mono County Planning Commission meeting) on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) to object under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to construction permits given to Ormat Technologies (based in Reno, Nevada) for proposed power plant construction and upgrades within the Casa Diablo Geothermal Complex.

And the county supervisors know their racket.

Here are some excerpts from an article in the November 16, 2012 Mammoth Times entitled County Give Thumbs Up to Geothermal Plant Expansion. The local reporter covering the story totally understands what’s going on, unlike some of the reporters in the big city papers who cover state and local government approval of proposed power plants.

The Mono County Board of Supervisors soundly rejected an appeal of a plan to expand the Casa Diablo geothermal plant Tuesday, after two out of area (mostly) union advocacy groups appealed the project during an almost five-hour public hearing. It’s the second time the groups have been in Mono County in the past few months. On Oct. 22, the county planning commission approved the project and recommended it to the county supervisors for approval. The groups filed an appeal shortly after and on Tuesday, they came armed for a fight. They got one…

It was supposed to have been a routine expansion, and it moved through the past several years with very little controversy – until several non-local groups, claiming to be unionized renewable energy plant workers, objected. These out-of-area groups claimed they were concerned for the environment and dumping hundreds of pages of said objections into the mandated state environmental review document process.

But research by the county and the MT shows the groups have used the same techniques before at other planned renewable energy power facilities, with the seeming intent to pressure applicants into using unionized workers, and they didn’t, they’d face more costly delays…

Other newspaper articles have stated that the same groups also tried the same tactic with a proposed geothermal plant in Imperial County this week – and were blocked by the county supervisors…

Calls to CURE were not returned before press time.

They will never call back; their response will come in the courts. Here are the agenda items from the November 13, 2012 meeting of the Mono County Board of Supervisors:

10a) PUBLIC HEARING 2:30 p.m. 60 minutes

California Unions for Responsible Energy appeal of the Planning Commission approval of the Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project

Planning Commission approval of Conditional Use Permit No. 12-004 and Final Environmental Impact Report for the Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project filed by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

(Courtney Weiche) – Public hearing regarding appeal of Planning Commission approval of Conditional Use Permit No. 12-004 and Final Environmental Impact Report for the Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project filed by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE).

Staff Report to Mono County Board of Supervisors on CURE Appeal

Recommended Action: Conduct a public hearing to receive all relevant information in considering the appeal filed by CURE and either affirm, affirm in part (i.e., modify), or reverse the Planning Commission’s actions. If the Board affirms, or affirms in part, the Planning Commission’s actions, then it should: Adopt “Resolution Denying Appeal of CUP 12-004 and FEIR Adoption for the Mammoth Pacific Replacement Project Filed by California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE); Certifying and Adopting the FEIR for the Project; and Affirming the Planning Commission’s Approval of CUP 12-004.

Fiscal Impact: The cost of the appeal is being borne by the applicant.

Additional Departments: Economic Development

10b) PUBLIC HEARING 60 minutes

Laborers Int’l Union of North America appeal of Planning Commission’s approval of Mammoth Pacific I Replacement Project

(Courtney Weiche) – Public hearing regarding appeal of the Planning Commission approval of the Final Environmental Impact Report, Clarifying General Plan Amendment 12-003(b) [sic], Conditional Use Permit 12-004, Variance 12-002, Reclamation Plan 12-001, and Notice of Decision for the Mammoth Pacific Replacement Project filed by Laborers International Union of North America, Local 783 (LIUNA).

The LIUNA appeal, too large to attach with the packet can be viewed by going to Laborers Union Appeal.

Recommended Action: Conduct a public hearing to receive all relevant information in considering the appeal filed by LIUNA and either affirm, affirm in part (i.e., modify), or reverse the Planning Commission’s actions.

If the Board affirms, or affirms in part, the Planning Commission’s actions, then it should: Adopt the “Resolution Denying Appeal of Planning Commission Approval of CUP 12-004, Variance 12-002, Reclamation Plan 12-001, FEIR Findings and Adoption, Notice of Determination and General Plan Amendment [sic] for the Mammoth Pacific Replacement Project Filed by Laborers International Union of North America, Local 783 (LIUNA); Certifying and Adopting the FEIR for the Project; and Affirming the Planning Commission’s Project Approvals.”

Fiscal Impact: All costs associated with appeal are borne by the applicant.

See a copy of the California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) appeal to the Mono County Community Development Department Planning Division – Mammoth Pacific 1 Replacement.

San Diego Union Officials Ignored Global Warming-Related Sea Level Rise in Environmental Settlements for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Despite Identifying It as Major Deficiency Under CEQA

UPDATE: More news coverage from KPBS:

Coastal Commission Concerned About Sea Level Rise and Convention Center Expansion – KPBS (San Diego) – January 28, 2013


Note: for background on the deal referenced below, see Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded and Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center. Also, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council just issued a press release (dated November 15, 2012) celebrating the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center expansion, although the unions have STILL not released the document for public scrutiny.


After getting a Project Labor Agreement and other labor concessions as part of a deal to withdraw their environmental complaints about the proposed San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III project, did top San Diego union officials allow the Port of San Diego to move forward with the project, despite knowing that the Port’s final Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) omitted critical analysis of rising sea levels caused by global warming?

The answer seems to be YES. Although quite aware of risk to the project from a rising sea level (as proven by comments submitted on behalf of unions about the draft EIR), union officials and their environmental lawyers with the South San Francisco law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo did not address in their environmental settlement agreements this glaring failure of the Port to abide by CEQA. (See the environmental settlement agreements: Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 and Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012).

Even when the unions stumbled on a major problem with the EIR, they were willing to back off on forcing the Port to correct it, as long as unions obtained a monopoly on the work.

Lorena Gonzalez – the Secretary-Treasurer/CEO of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and apparent ringleader of the union environmental complaints – is a believer in global climate change, as shown by this “Resolution in Support of Preserving Environmental Laws and Building Environmental Partnerships” she signed on April 20, 2010. As someone with an undergraduate degree, a law degree, and a master’s degree from highly prestigious institutions of higher learning, surely she recognizes with her educated, enlightened peers that “the science is settled” and agrees with the California State Legislature that a future rising sea level will be a catastrophe for the State of California unless proactive measures start now.

Nevertheless, it isn’t the unions, but KPBS news (in San Diego) that is focusing on the deficiency in the Port’s EIR with an article today (November 15, 2012) reporting on dire new revelations about the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The article Flood Maps Raise Questions About Convention Center Expansion warns that “the expanded version of the Convention Center could be inundated with seawater by mid century if climate change predictions are accurate.”

According to the article, “Allowing the development anyway could require massive protection measures with a huge price tag…the extent of potential flood risk along the tideline is alarming far beyond the convention center project if public agencies do nothing…Despite knowing the convention center expansion could be underwater in 2050, the port commission voted unanimously in September to move forward using the old data. Meanwhile, commissioners decided this week to hold a retreat on how to handle climate change.”

I have posted two comments under the article pointing out that both the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow and the unions were aware of this deficiency in the Port’s Environmental Impact Report and noted it in their June 29, 2012 comments to the Port. But the unions chose to ignore it once their “greenmail” achieved their objective – unrelated to environmental protection – to require construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement.

Here are my comments:

Kevin_Dayton | today at 6:02 p.m.

Interesting…I see that the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow noted the risk to the convention center expansion in its June 29, 2012 comments to the Port of San Diego concerning the draft Environmental Impact Report:

11. The Report Needs to Warn the Public about the Massive Wall that Might Be Needed to Hold Back the Flood Waters from Inundating the Project as Global Warming Raises Sea Levels

California government agencies such as the California Energy Commission, the California Ocean Protection Council, and the California Environmental Protection Agency commissioned a report released in 2009 by the Pacific Institute that shows California coastal areas at risk of inundation or frequent flooding because of the rising sea level caused by global climate change.

It’s surprising that the Draft EIR doesn’t address this looming problem, as the San Diego Unified Port District collaborated in the development of the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay, published by the San Diego Foundation in February 2012.

This Draft EIR needs to include a Sea Level Action Plan developed using information from the following sources: (1) the 2009 California Climate Adaptation Strategy prepared by the Natural Resources Agency, (2) the Report on Sea Level Rise Preparedness prepared by the State Lands Commission, (3) the Sea Level Rise Assessment Report prepared by the National Academy of Sciences, (4) the resolution of the California Ocean Protection Council on Sea-Level Rise, (5) the State of California Sea-Level Rise Interim Guidance Document, and of course (6) the Sea Level Rise Adaptation Strategy for San Diego Bay.

The Port should have listened to the Global Catastrophe experts at the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, who get their outstanding scientific insight on the future from statements of the California State Legislature and stuff they hear on TV. Now the Port will need to build a massive sea wall or build the convention center in Santee in anticipation of the future shoreline.

comment permalink )

Kevin_Dayton | today at 7 p.m.

Whoa! I just looked at the comments about the Port’s draft EIR submitted on June 29, 2012 by the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of “San Diego Coalition for a Better Convention Center,” a front group for the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local 30. They have several pages of comments pointing out how the EIR did not consider rising sea levels.

See those comments starting on page 35 of this document:

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/2011-Adams-Broadwell-DEIR-Convention-Ctr-Letter.pdf

But here is the strange thing: look at the environmental settlement agreements that the City of San Diego just signed with the unions as part of a deal for the unions to withdraw their CEQA environmental complaints. Nothing whatsoever is mentioned in the settlement agreements about mitigation for rising sea levels. NOTHING!

Why didn’t the unions and their world-renowned environmental lawyers with Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo pursue this issue with the diligence that KPBS is putting into this issue? For some reason, the unions no longer considered it important after a Project Labor Agreement was signed for construction of the convention center expansion. But now we find that rising sea levels could SINK the project altogether!

See the two union environmental settlement agreements here:

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Settlement-Agmt-Building-Trades-Unions-San-Diego-Convention-Center.pdf

http://laborissuessolutions.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Settlement-Agmt-Various-Construction-Trade-Unions-San-Diego-Convention-Center.pdf

Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion: CEQA Abuse Is Effective, Fair and Open Competition Ordinance Evaded

The Moment of LIE - San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

The Moment of LIE – San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

As announced at a press conference this afternoon (November 8, 2012) featuring San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders and top San Diego union officials (including Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Central Labor Council), the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, AFL-CIO and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have made “deals” with the City of San Diego and the prime contractor (a joint venture of Clark Construction Group and Hunt Construction Group) for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion, Phase 3.

Although Mayor Sanders twice said “no” in response to a question about a Project Labor Agreement, contractors will indeed be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement (with the joint venture firm of Clark/Hunt) in order to work on the project. Union officials are dropping their environmental objections and supporting the project now. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported clearly that “greenmail” motivated supporters of the project to make a deal giving unions control of the work:

Continued opposition from organized labor, both in the courtroom and at the Coastal Commission, clearly threatened to derail the expansion.

“Labor and labor’s lawyers are competent and well-financed and neutralizing that as a threat to this project is a very important milestone,” said Charles Black, the city’s project manager for the expansion.

This deal is also a consequence of pro-union Congressman Bob Filner winning the race for San Diego Mayor. Obviously outgoing Republican Mayor Jerry Sanders – who will become the next head of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce – decided to surrender to the unions rather than let his successor get the credit for moving the project forward.

Clark/Hunt has signed a Project Labor Agreement directly with the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, in order to evade the Fair and Open Competition ordinance (Measure A) approved by 58% of city voters in June 2012. That ordinance prohibits the city from entering into a contract requiring companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions. (The National Labor Relations Act prohibits a city government from banning a Project Labor Agreement between an employer and unions.)

Clark Construction has a history in California of signing Project Labor Agreements to satisfy the unions and avoid trouble. For example, Clark signed a Project Labor Agreement in 2000 for San Diego’s Petco Park, in 2001 for the Fresno Community Health Systems Downtown Campus and in 2011 for the Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse in Long Beach.

Union CEQA Documents Submitted to Port of San Diego - Convention Center Expansion

Document Dump: a lawyer for labor unions submitted hundreds of pages of CEQA objections at the very last minute against the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion.

As a party to the CEQA complaints, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 obviously must have received economic concessions as well.

The triumphant news is coming out fast and furious from San Diego news media, surely to the surprise of most residents who didn’t know that unions (through the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo) had submitted hundreds of pages of documents claiming that the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

One comment on the KPBS news article (linked below) suggests that perhaps San Diego will end up hosting the 2016 Democratic National Convention. I wouldn’t be surprised.

News Coverage

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Union-Tribune – November 8, 2012

Organized labor has dropped its opposition to the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center after winning a number of concessions aimed at protecting workers, ensuring local hiring and guaranteeing defined benefits. The agreement to support the expansion, announced by Mayor Jerry Sanders, removes a major hurdle that threatened to derail the $520 million project…

With Labor Deal, Convention Center Expansion Clears Major Hurdle – Voice of San Diego – ‎November 8, 2012

San Diego’s $520 million proposed Convention Center expansion received a major boost Thursday, when Mayor Jerry Sanders announced a formal agreement with labor groups to support the project. Labor will drop its lawsuits against the project’s …

Labor Drops Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – North County Times – November 8, 2012

The planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center cleared a major hurdle Thursday, with the announcement that organized labor has dropped all opposition to the $520 million project. Mayor Jerry Sanders, joined by San Diego labor leader Lorena Gonzalez…

Labor Unions Drop Opposition to Convention Center Expansion – San Diego 6 – November 8, 2012

Organized labor will drop its opposition to a planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center due to a series of agreements reached with the city and the project contractor, the two sides announced Thursday. At a news conference…

San Diego, Unions Reach Agreement On Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – November 8, 2012

Labor groups have agreed to drop out of lawsuits against the Convention Center expansion after coming to agreements regarding worker safety, local hiring and other issues. This does not mean all litigation against the project is done. In February a judge will…

I wrote about the union “greenmail” extensively, but the San Diego civic leadership obviously wanted to avoid jeopardizing the project and kept the issue quiet. See these articles:

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders – October 10, 2012

www.UnionWatch.org Publishes My Comprehensive Analysis of the Union CEQA Greenmail Against the San Diego Convention Center Expansion – September 21, 2012

The Greenmail is Now Public: Union CEQA Extortion of San Diego Convention Center Featured on www.FlashReport.org – September 20, 2012

Brazen! Union Officials and Their Environmental Lawyers at Port Commissioners’ Meeting Threaten to Stop San Diego Convention Center Expansion Using California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 20, 2012

Unions Submit 436 Pages of Objections to Draft Environmental Impact Report for Proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project: CEQA Abuse Run Rampant – August 8, 2012

 
 

CEQA Greenmail Still Effective for Unions in San Diego: Just a Cost of Doing Business for Pragmatic Civic Leaders

The San Diego Daily Transcript business newspaper today (October 10, 2012) published an opinion piece from Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction entitled Unions Manipulate City Leaders with CEQA Threats.

In the commentary about union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to the proposed expansion of the San Diego Convention Center, Christen contends that business, political, and community leaders in San Diego have essentially surrendered to the organizing agenda of union leaders. Unions and their lawyers have effectively exploited the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to block proposed projects until the developer signs a Project Labor Agreement for construction and a neutrality agreement leading to a collective bargaining agreement for the permanent workforce. Eric writes the following:

In San Diego, the city’s civic leaders regard union CEQA abuse as a customary part of doing business. Instead of exposing it and shaming the perpetrators, they say nothing publicly and surrender to it privately. Then they pass the costs to the taxpayers and consumers.

Why aren’t San Diego business, community and political leaders — other than Councilman Carl DeMaio — holding these union officials accountable for their CEQA extortion on the proposed Convention Center expansion? Why aren’t they highlighting this incident as an outrageous example of CEQA abuse?

Apparently America’s Finest City is fine with this “cost of doing business in San Diego.” What an outrage.

I’m guessing that civic leaders and big developers closely observed how Nashville-based Gaylord Entertainment exposed and resisted the union environmental extortion in 2007 and 2008 against the proposed $1.2 billion Chula Vista Bayfront Hotel and Convention Center. The San Diego news media covered the story extensively, and ultimately it led to voters in the City of Chula Vista approving a ballot measure (Measure G) that prohibits the city from entering into contracts that require contractors to sign Project Labor Agreements.

Apparently, San Diego union leaders strategically determined that either Gaylord Entertainment would succumb to their demands to build and operate its facility exclusively with union workers, or Gaylord would never build it. After Gaylord Entertainment finally abandoned its plan to build the Chula Vista project and instead began construction of a facility in Mesa, Arizona, the Political Director/Organizer of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union No. 569 was proud, as she acknowledged to the now-defunct San Diego News Network in the July 6, 2009 profile Union Leader Badgley Shares Her Journey with IBEW 569:

Q: What accomplishment are you proud of?

A: Gaylord. We put a lot of resources into organizing the bay front in Chula Vista. It’s one of the last pieces of undeveloped land on the water, and we wanted something that was good for the environment and good for the workers. We worked with the environmental community, the trade show unions, the hotel and restaurant workers, and we tried to make sure that the project would be good for the environment and the workers. In some ways, I’ll take the blame. You have to respect the workers and the environment. We were asked, “Isn’t something better than nothing?” Our feeling is that if we build it right, we can build more.

(Nashville, Tenn.-based Gaylord Entertainment wanted to build a 1,500 room hotel and convention center on the Chula Vista bay front. In 2007, the company pulled out allegedly because it could not reach an agreement with labor unions. It then continued negotiating, and pulled out again a year later because it could not get financing.)

I believe we sent a strong message about the power and commitment of San Diego’s electrical workforce with the Gaylord campaign. We are committed to continue to make sure that whatever is built on the bayfront must create good, green, local careers.

Now we see San Diego developers and their community allies waving white flags, even as San Diego is close to having a free market-oriented mayor and a Republican city council majority, and even as voters in the County of San Diego and in the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista, Oceanside, and El Cajon have expressed their views on union monopolies by prohibiting government-mandated Project Labor Agreements through ballot measures.

For example, an article today in the October 10, 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune (Lane Field Hotels Approved by Port) reported that the Lane Field developers (Rob Lankford, architect John Portman & Associates and contractor Hensel Phelps) surrendered to union demands in order to get two proposed hotels approved and finally under construction:

Developers also avoided opposition from labor groups by agreeing to require union construction labor and welcome unionized workers at the finished hotels…But Trammer said underground parking could add nearly $18 million to the $115 million construction cost, roughly the same it will cost to use union labor.

So this is another Project Labor Agreement won by the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council (costing the developers an extra $18 million), and another neutrality agreement won by UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 to be imposed on a hotel operator who hasn’t even been identified yet. Again outraged by another surrender to extortion, Eric Christen posted a comment in response to the article:

Once again we see that threats of environmental lawsuits filed by labor unions would have been used had not the owner of this project not agreed to use union labor. And this is not laid out by the writer more explicitly why? This same writer just covered the Port Commission meeting two weeks ago where the unions dropped 150 pages of comments via their lawyers on the Convention Center Expansion yet these two striking similar projects but totally different union responses are not connected here.

This of course follows a decade of unions pulling this greenmail starting with Petco Park to this current project, and of course chasing Gaylord out of the state was their crowning achievement.

This extortion that unions use on projects that do not agree to use union labor is astounding. The silence form (sic) developers and the press on this is equally astounding.

As outlined in the www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com article Lane Field in San Diego: UNITE-HERE Local 30 Doesn’t Like a Proposed Hotel, UNITE-HERE Local Union No. 30 had hired the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo to identify and submit substantial environmental objections to the project under CEQA.

And here is a THIRD example of union greenmail working its magic. A September 28, 2012 article in Voice of San Diego (U-T CEO Denies Threatening Port; New Email Emerges) revealed that developers who want to convert the Tenth Avenue Marine Terminal into a new sports/entertainment complex are seeking input and advice from Tom Lemmon, the head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council. The email was released by Lorena Gonzalez, the head of the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council.

These three examples from just the last three weeks show that labor unions have been able to use CEQA to control anything having to do with downtown project development in the City of San Diego, particularly within the Port of San Diego‘s jurisdiction. Giving into union CEQA extortion is indeed a “cost of doing business” in San Diego (and throughout California).

Is this surprising, knowing the nature of humanity? After all, paying people off to avoid unwanted artificially-placed obstacles has probably been a standard way of doing business in most places in most times throughout human history. This country is not particularly clean: the United States is only ranked 24th in 2011 on the Transparency International annual Corruption Perceptions Index, with corruption defined as “the abuse of entrusted power for private gain.”

California’s urban local governments near the coast are generally fiscally irresponsible, mismanaged, unaccountable, and governed by pragmatists (at best) or compulsive criminals (at worst). These are ripe conditions for unions, corporate entities, and other self-interested organizations to infect and pervert government and commerce. The republican (lower case “r”) structure of checks and balances in American government works haphazardly in these cities; in particular, citizens fail to fulfill their necessary duty of educated and informed democratic participation in the process of choosing representatives and setting policies.

Nevertheless, Eric Christen is committed to fighting this urban corruption as reflected in union CEQA greenmail, according to an email he sent on October 10, 2012:

What is frustrating for myself as someone who deals with this locally and statewide every day is that I get what unions are doing and why they are doing it. What I do not get is how on earth they can keep getting away with doing it without being held accountable by an inquisitive press that asks simple questions after seeing the obvious staring them in the face.

I can fight unions and their shameless abuse of the California environmental law. I can continue to educate and inform the public about this and get them to ban PLAs when we put it on the ballot. I can continue to educate the media about this abuse. But what I cannot do is write the stories or pose the questions that help educate taxpayers, voters and citizens about exactly what is going on.

Sorry Eric, looks like few people want to join you in exposing this racket. You’re putting abstract principles ahead of tangible financial self-gain. That’s not a popular proposition.

But here is some consolation: this appeasement to union extortion recalls a well-known quotation attributed to Vladimir Lenin (but probably spurious): “the capitalists will sell us the rope from which we’ll hang them.”

Some of the capitalists to be hung will die rich. A few courageous ones to be hung will die right.