Tag Archive for San Diego Convention Center Scam

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Exposes CEQA Abuse and Union Deal on San Diego Convention Center Expansion to California Coastal Commission

Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction, was the very last public speaker at the California Coastal Commission meeting today (October 10, 2013) concerning a staff recommendation to reject the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. This web site describes some of the unsavory aspects of moving this project, including extensive union interference: www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com.

Building this project is expected to cost $520 million (not including interest on bonds) and employ 3000 construction trade workers. Contractors will be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions in order to work on this project, despite a ballot measure (Proposition A) enacted in June 2012 by 58% of voters in the City of San Diego. The “Fair and Open Competition” ordinance implemented by that ballot measure prohibits the city from entering into contracts requiring construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement with unions.

After hours of public comments overwhelmingly in support of the expansion project, Eric Christen spoke. He commented on the union abuse of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) (aka “greenmail”), the backroom deal that gave unions monopoly control of construction and other privileges (including a specific political appointment), and the brazen circumvention of state and local laws. He submitted more than 700 pages of documents showing exactly what happened. (See the list of links to exhibits at the end of the press release below.)

People in the room were livid about his tainting of community consensus in support of the project. Union representatives booed and screamed insults at him after he finished his comments. One commissioner said he was new and inquired if the Coastal Commission had mandated the Project Labor Agreement.

The Coastal Commission proceeded to ignore its staff recommendation and the objections of an attorney from the Briggs Law Corporation and unanimously certified the changes to allow the Convention Center Expansion to be built.

Here’s the press release sent by the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction.


PRESS RELEASE
October 10, 2013
Contact: Eric Christen
(858) 431-6337

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction to Deliver Comments to Coastal Commission Concerning Use of Greenmail by Unions on San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction will deliver documents showing the abuse of CEQA in order to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center

SAN DIEGO – The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction’s (CFEC) executive director, Eric Christen, will be attending today’s Coastal Commission meeting in which the approval of the San Diego Convention Center Expansion will be discussed. CFEC will educate the Coastal Commissioners on the exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) which was used by labor to attain a discriminatory Project Labor Agreement (PLA) which now covers the project. View the letter that will be distributed below.

“The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The group identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions”. Less than six months later however, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlements and a PLA was placed on the project. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned. This tactic known as “greenmail” was completed behind closed doors and discriminates against 85% of San Diego’s construction industry.

“This abuse of CEQA must be exposed”, said Eric Christen, executive director of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction. “This process is utterly corrupt through and through and is nothing more than a scam designed to enrich a few while sticking it to the vast majority of citizens, taxpayers, and workers of San Diego. It is shocking. The Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, and they need to be informed about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments.”

The use of greenmail on this project exemplifies the abuse of CEQA and raises questions as to the legality of this PLA. To address this, CFEC is currently working with stakeholders to prevent this type of corruption and ensure that future San Diego projects cannot be held hostage by labor unions.

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California Coastal Commission
Suite 2000
45 Fremont Street
San Francisco, CA 94105-2219

Re: Background on Request of the United Port of San Diego to Amend Its Master Plan to Include the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion and Hilton Bayfront Addition

Dear Coastal Commissioners:

Before you vote on October 10, 2013 for or against any resolutions concerning the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, you should consider and publicly discuss the brazen exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by labor unions during the evaluation of the environmental impact of this project.

Start by examining the extensive and comprehensive comments and exhibits submitted by unions concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report and Final Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion, including concerns about sea level rise and view corridors:

  • Union Comments on Draft Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – June 29, 2012 (see Exhibit A) with exhibits (see Exhibit B)
  • Union Comments on Final Environmental Impact Report for San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion required under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – September 19, 2012 (see Exhibit C)

Now examine the weak settlement agreements that allegedly resolved the environmental concerns:

  • Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; SAN DIEGO COALITION FOR A BETTER CONVENTION CENTER; SAN DIEGO COUNTY BUILDING AND CONSTRUCTION TRADES COUNCIL; UNITE HERE LOCAL 30; AND BILLIE JOHNSON) (See Exhibit E)
  • Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY AND BETWEEN CITY OF SAN DIEGO; BRIGETTE BROWNING; SERGIO GONZALES; AND UNITE HERE LOCAL 30) (See Exhibit F)
  • Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012 (ENVIRONMENTAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT FOR THE CONVENTION CENTER PHASE III EXPANSION AND EXPANSION HOTEL PROJECT BY CITY OF SAN DIEGO; CITY OF SAN DIEGO CITY COUNCIL; SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER FACILITIES DISTRICT NO. 2012-1; COALITION FOR RESPONSIBLE CONVENTION CENTER PLANNING; TERRY LUTNICK; CINNA BROWN; AARON MICHAELSON; INTERNATIONAL BROTHERHOOD OF ELECTRIC (sic) WORKERS LOCAL 569; UNITED ASSOCIATION OF PLUMBERS & STEAMFITTERS LOCAL 230; SHEETMETAL WORKERS LOCAL 206; AND IRONWORKERS LOCAL 229) (See Exhibit G)

Even as these settlement agreements were finalized, concerns were being raised elsewhere about the effect of rising sea levels because of global warming. This was an issue unions addressed in their DEIR comments but completely ignored in their settlement agreements. What happened?

Timeline: Intense Concern of Unions about Environmental Issues Dissipates

Below is a timeline of incidents related to CEQA concerns about the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion identified by unions and the alleged resolution of these concerns in the context of labor agreements, economic concerns, and political appointments.

  1. On February 22, 2011, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction held a press conference at the San Diego Convention Center to expose and condemn credible reports from reliable sources that labor unions were planning to use administrative and legal procedures under CEQA to block the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion project. Reportedly, unions would refrain from advancing their environmental objections if the city required construction companies to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
  2. On June 29, 2012, a group called “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” submitted 436 of the 536 pages of comments concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project and associated hotel development. The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center identified itself as “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions” including the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates. It was represented by the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo. The letter was 63 pages; exhibits comprised 374 pages.
  3. On September 19, 2012, an official of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 declared at the Board of Port Commissioners meeting that the Final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. At that same meeting, an attorney from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center” with 250 pages of referenced exhibits. She was given extra time to speak because Tom Lemmon – head of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – submitted a speaker card and then transferred his speaking time to her. Later in the meeting, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed in to announce there were problems with the Environmental Impact Report for the convention center. She proposed that the Port Commissioners approve a “tolling agreement” that would extend the statute of limitations for the unions to file a lawsuit.
  4. On September 21, 2012, an email from Mayor Jerry Sanders’ Chief of Staff Julie Dubick to Lorena Gonzalez and Steven Cushman outlined a deal for discussion at a meeting to be held at 2:00 p.m. that afternoon. Unions would drop or settle their environmental objections under CEQA to the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Unions would also drop their lawsuit challenging the structure of a tax assessment to pay back the principal and interest on bonds sold to borrow money for the expansion. Unions would openly and actively support the convention center expansion at the San Diego City Council and at the California Coastal Commission. In exchange, the San Diego Mayor’s Office would facilitate negotiations between the unions and the construction manager at-risk selected for the project (Clark Construction) for a Project Labor Agreement with construction trade unions. Also as part of the deal, the Mayor’s Office would initiate discussions with Marriott hotel management in support of a union position (apparently on behalf of UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30) and appoint someone acceptable to the unions to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit D)
  5. On November 8, 2012, parties representing San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates finalized various settlement agreements related to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. The settlement agreements includes some provisions for minor environmental mitigation but ignored many of the key issues addressed in the comments about the Draft and Final Environmental Impact Reports, including the effects of rising sea levels because of global warming.
  6. Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Jerry Sanders and Lorena Gonzalez participated in a press conference to announce the settlement agreements. In response to questions from the press following the announcements, participants acknowledged that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of work.
  7. Also on November 8, 2012, Mayor Sanders appointed Laurie Coskey (the Executive Director of the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice) to the San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors. (See Exhibit H)
  8. On November 15, 2012, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issued a press release formally revealing that contractors would be required to sign a Project Labor Agreement to work on the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. (See Exhibit I)
  9. On April 23, 2013, the City of San Diego provided a copy of the Project Labor Agreement to the public, less than 24 hours after the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction filed a lawsuit against the city as a last resort after repeatedly failed under the authority of the California Public Records Act to obtain any records of substance about the suspected deal. (See Exhibit J)
  10. On July 2, 2013, the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally succeeded in obtaining a document (the September 21, 2012 email referenced above) revealing that the office of former San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders arranged a secret backroom deal with Lorena Gonzalez to end potential union-initiated legal obstacles to the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion. Previous requests for public records were foiled because the Chief of Staff for the Mayor of San Diego was using a private Gmail address to facilitate meetings between top city officials and top union officials. (See Exhibit D)
  11. On September 12, 2013, a letter from Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez read at a press conference supporting the San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion depicts her as being a consistent supporter of the project, as if her CEQA concerns never happened. In addition, the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council issues a letter of support claiming that the project provides “environmental sustainability” because of a few routine design provisions. (See Exhibit K)

As the Coastal Commission works on behalf of the People of California, you should be concerned about how environmental concerns are used as leverage to obtain labor agreements, economic concessions, and political appointments. Once the ulterior objectives were attained, the environmental concerns were generally abandoned.

Sincerely,

Eric Christen
Executive Director
Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

Attachments

Exhibit A: Union Comments on DEIR – Letter – June 29, 2012

Exhibit B: Union Comments on DEIR – Exhibits – June 29, 2012

Exhibit C: Union Comments on FEIR – Letter – September 19, 2012

Exhibit D: Union Deal with Mayor’s Office – September 21, 2012

Exhibit E: Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – November 8, 2012

Exhibit F: Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – November 8, 2012

Exhibit G: Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – November 8, 2012

Exhibit H: Mayor’s Appointment to San Diego Convention Center Corporation Board of Directors – November 8, 2012

Exhibit I: Press Release of San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – November 15, 2012

Exhibit J: Project Labor Agreement

Exhibit K: Letter of Support from San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council – September 12, 2013


Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction – P.O. Box 1627 – Poway, California 92074
Tel: (858) 633-6523 – Fax: (760) 690-4471 – www.opencompca.com

Unveiled: New Website SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com Exposes Truth Behind San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction emailed the following press release this morning (January 16, 2013) about an ambitious effort to untangle, organize, and expose questionable actions to the public regarding the planned San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III. It’s a web site:

www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com.

I’ve written extensively on how construction unions and hotel/hospitality unions abused the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to win a Project Labor Agreement and other labor concessions for this project. I even spoke at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Board of Port Commissioners for the United Port of San Diego and revealed during public comment why unions had so many environmental objections to the proposed project (which they now eagerly support as a result of a subsequent deal.)

January 16, 2012

Contact: Eric Christen
(858) 431-6337 

WEBSITE DEDICATED TO EXPOSING WASTEFUL AND FRAUDULENT NATURE OF SAN DIEGO CONVENTION CENTER EXPANSION

From Rigged Bidding Process Intended to Give Unions Monopoly Building “Agreement” to Unanswered Environmental and Funding Questions Website Covers What Others Have Failed To

 

San Diego, CA – Today the website www.sandiegoconventioncenterscam.com was unveiled. This website is dedicated to exposing the waste, fraud, and abuse that underlies almost every aspect of this $600 million boondoggle. The website features groundbreaking exposés on every aspect of this project, most of which have received little if any attention from the media or anyone else in San Diego.

Among the issues covered by the website:

  • Is the convention center expansion really even needed?
  • Who is running this thing?
  • Who will pay for it and how?
  • How did the unions get a monopoly Project Labor Agreement (PLA) on this project?
  • Are environmental concerns being ignored?
  • Was the bid process that chose the general contractor rigged?
  • And much more

“When we began looking into this process we had a certain set of presuppositions regarding what this was really about,” said Eric Christen, one of the individuals behind the website. “But what we came away with was an understanding that this process is utterly corrupt through and through and is nothing more than a scam designed to enrich a few while sticking it to the vast majority of citizens, taxpayers, and workers of San Diego. It is shocking.”

The website will be regularly unveiling information intended to keep San Diego citizens and taxpayers up to date on this $600 million scam.

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Website Dedicated to Exposing Wasteful and Fraudulent Nature of San Diego Convention Center Expansion – San Diego Rostra – January 16, 2013