Tag Archive for San Diego Convention Center

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.

###

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

My Article in www.UnionWatch.org – Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center

The Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has never given up its effort to research and expose how the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council obtained a Project Labor Agreement for the $520 million San Diego Convention Center Phase 3 Expansion.

In November 2012 it obtained the settlement agreements between the unions and the City of San Diego that ended the union objections under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and the union lawsuit against the financing scheme for repaying the bonds. This was reported in my November 15, 2012 blog post Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center.

My April 23, 2013 article in www.UnionWatch.org entitled Persistent Pressure Compels San Diego to Spit Out Project Labor Agreement reported on how the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction finally obtained the Project Labor Agreement negotiated between Clark Construction and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council for the convention center expansion. It was released by the City of San Diego after the Coalition filed a lawsuit to get the union agreement and other elusive public records.

Now the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has obtained from the City of San Diego a September 21, 2012 email from a personal Gmail account of the Chief of Staff to former Mayor Jerry Sanders. That email outlines a deal to be discussed at a 2:00 p.m. meeting that day between the mayor and Lorena Gonzalez, former head of the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council and now a member of the California State Assembly.

My article Finally Got It! Secret Union Deal for San Diego Convention Center posted today (July 8, 2013) on www.UnionWatch.org describes the deal and identifies ten outrages about it.

Highlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA): My Latest Article in www.FlashReport.org

FlashReport 2013-02-19I continue to see news articles and commentaries about reforming the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) that do not mention labor unions as practitioners of “greenmail,” that is, objecting to proposed projects and activities on environmental grounds to achieve economic objectives unrelated to the environment (such as Project Labor Agreements).

My article today in www.FlashReport.orgHighlighting the Top Union Abuses of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reports that journalists, political columnists, and opinion writers are more frequently referring to union CEQA abuse. In addition, I provide extensive documentation (with hyperlinks to primary source documents) for the top union CEQA objections in 2012 and 2013.

My top pick for the worst CEQA abuse of 2012 was against the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase 3 – see www.SanDiegoConventionCenterScam.com for more information.

My top pick for the worst CEQA abuse of 2013 (so far) is against two proposed geothermal power plants in Mono County – see www.PhonyUnionTreeHuggers.com for more information.

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

Where is the Project Labor Agreement for the San Diego Convention Center Expansion? A Press Conference Outlining an Action Plan

Here’s the text of an email sent this afternoon (November 16, 2012) from the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction outlining that group’s action plan in response to the Project Labor Agreement on the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III.

Dear Kevin,

Yesterday the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction made it quite clear at a press conference that the Project Labor Agreement (PLA) “agreed” to by Clark Construction and the San Diego County Building Trades Council will not stand. Held in front of the San Diego Convention Center more than 100 workers, apprentices, and owners powerfully stood up for the rights of the 90% of the local construction workforce who are union-free and the 58% of San Diego voters who banned PLAs by passing Prop A in June.

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project Labor Agreement – November 15, 2012

As you can see here from these pictures and this video of the event a large and diverse group of men and women made it clear that they will not sit quietly by while back room deals are cut that discriminate against them, rip off taxpayers, and reward union extortion. This is exactly what unions and their enablers at the City, Port, and Clark Construction have sanctioned by allowing for a PLA on the $600+ million Convention Center Expansion that is due to break ground next year.

The event was covered by TV and print media including the U-T San Diego, San Diego Daily Transcript, KUSI and NBC 7 San Diego. The unions were also forced to send out this press release in response to our press conference.

At this press conference a clear list of demands and promises were presented that will be aggressively followed through on. They were:

Demand the PLA be Released:

This back room deal “agreed” to by local union bosses and Clark Construction must be made public immediately. This PLA not only violates the expressed will of the voters of San Diego, who on two separate occasions voted to ban PLAs, but it may in fact violate the law. In June 2012 voters in San Diego passed with 58% of the vote Prop. A which forbids these types of agreements. Where is the PLA?

See the People Vote on any Tax Increase:

CFEC agrees with Mayor-elect Bob Filner that the vehicle agreed to by local hoteliers to raise the funds needed to build this project requires a vote of the people. We will make sure that those pursuing this case in court have the resources needed to prevail at every level.

Legal Remedies:

CFEC will pursue any and all legal avenues possible regarding both the PLA itself as well as the coercive manner by which it was “agreed” to. Does the PLA violate Prop A? Was the PLA “agreed” to in a manner that violates the National Labor Relations Act? We will find out.

Union Environmental Extortion:

Local union bosses have used greenmail for 13 years to extort owners into signing PLAs on both public and private projects. CFEC will employ a comprehensive and professional campaign that exposes what greenmail is, who is funding it, who is enabling it, and what taxpayers and businesses can do about it.

The Enablers:

CFEC will expose and hold accountable those elected officials, contractors, and project owners who have allowed the unions to continue this reign of environmental extortion.

Our Methods

A full scale public relations and legal effort will be undertaken to see that this PLA does not stand and that the workers and taxpayers of San Diego are protected.

If you would like to learn how you can be a part of this wide-ranging effort please contact us today. It’s going to be one wild and enjoyable ride.

Yours in the fight for freedom,

Eric Christen, Executive Director

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction

P.O. Box 1627, Poway, CA 92074

Phone (858) 633-6523, Fax (760) 690-4471

Email info@opencompca.com

Web www.opencompca.com

Twitter https://twitter.com/cfec_ca

San Diego News Media Reports on Aggressive Opposition to Project Labor Agreement on Convention Center Expansion

Here’s news coverage resulting from or related to the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction press conference held yesterday (November 15, 2012) in San Diego protesting the “deal” in which union officials agreed to end their environmental complaints against the proposed San Diego Convention Center expansion project. The deal included a Project Labor Agreement between the construction manager and the unions.

Legal Fight Promised Over Union Pact on Convention Center ProjectSan Diego Union-Tribune – November 15, 2012 (and Legal Fight Promised Over Union Pact on Convention Center ProjectNorth County Times – November 15, 2012)

KUSI News San Diego – Convention Center Expansion: The battle over the expansion of the convention center between union and non-union construction workers is heating up. Non-union workers say an agreement the unions signed with the contractor last week violates the trust of the workers. KUSI’s Steve Bosh…

Legal Actions Loom in Convention Center Labor AgreementSan Diego Daily Transcript – November 15, 2012

Building Organization Wants Details On City, Unions’ Convention Center Agreement– KPBS/City News Service – November 14, 2012

Unions Flip – San Diego Reader – November 16, 2012

Dr. Wage and Benefit Demands, Ph.D – San Diego Reader (political cartoon) – November 14, 2012

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Project Labor Agreement

Protest Against San Diego Convention Center Expansion Project Labor Agreement – November 15, 2012

Left-Leaning Media Supportive of the Project Labor Agreement:

Anti Union Group Cries Foul Over Convention Center ExpansionSan Diego Free Press (“Grassnews Views & Progressive Views”) – November 15, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing at UT-SDSan Diego Free Press (“Grassnews Views & Progressive Views”) – November 13, 2012

San Diego Convention Center Expansion Set to Move Forward Following Inclusion of Local Hire, Veteran Subcontracting Stipulations – www.WePartyPatriots.com – November 12, 2012

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.

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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

Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction Obtains City of San Diego Settlement Agreements with Unions for Convention Center

Late yesterday afternoon, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office provided representatives of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction with three “settlement agreements” meant to end union environmental objections to the proposed Phase III expansion of the San Diego Convention Center. The Project Labor Agreement for construction has not been obtained yet.

1. 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:

Settlement Agreement – Building Trades Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

2. 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

Settlement Agreement – UNITE-HERE Union Local 30 – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

3. 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

Settlement Agreement – Various Construction Trade Unions – San Diego Convention Center – 2012

Unions and Mayor in San Diego Brag to the Public about San Diego Convention Center Construction Deal, But Refuse to Provide It to the Public

Looks like the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council and the San Diego Building and Construction Trades Council got a little too cocky about their election successes on November 6.

They inexplicably joined the Mayor of San Diego on November 8 for a press conference to announce a deal about construction of the proposed San Diego Civic Center expansion. But they selectively withheld key information about the deal and were caught in a trap by the press.

As I reported on November 8 (see Unions Get Control of San Diego Convention Center Expansion), San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, Labor Council CEO Lorena Gonzalez, officials with the joint venture construction manager Clark/Hunt, and others appeared at an unexpected press conference on November 8 to triumphantly announce a “deal” that would end union environmental objections to the planned expansion of the San Diego Convention Center.

I hear that many of San Diego’s most prominent civic leaders were surprised about the hasty scheduling of this salute to the effectiveness of extortion using the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). Obviously the press conference was organized and carried out with limited notice in order to avoid disruption by certain organizations that oppose Project Labor Agreements and oppose the exploitation of CEQA to coerce Project Labor Agreements from development interests. This union practice is called “greenmail” (blackmail using environmental laws) and is rampant in California, including the San Diego area.

None of the speakers at the press conference mentioned a Project Labor Agreement in their formal statements. But the San Diego Merit Shop construction industry and its allies had promoted the issue over the past several years, and suspicious reporters afterwards reportedly asked if a Project Labor Agreement was part of the deal. The answer, of course, was YES.

Today (November 13, 2012), the San Diego Union-Tribune published an excellent article (Convention Center Deal Revives Rift Over Pacts) outlining what is known about the union deal. It reports a similarity between the circumstances of this deal and those surrounding the proposed San Diego Padres baseball stadium (Petco Park) in 1999 and 2000, when unions withdrew environmental objections in conjunction with the announcement of a Project Labor Agreement. The article also points out the secretive nature of this agreement:

When Mayor Jerry Sanders, joined by San Diego labor leader Lorena Gonzalez, announced last week that the city’s unions would be reversing course and supporting the project, he made no mention of the labor pact. He focused instead on agreements the city had worked out with the unions to resolve environmental and worker safety issues they had raised that could have put the waterfront project in jeopardy when it goes before the California Coastal Commission next year…Tom Lemmon, business manager for the Trades Council…was unwilling to provide a copy of what he says is a private agreement…

Of course! The deal to build this public project is so wonderful that the public won’t be allowed to see it! Let’s celebrate.

I Tweeted this message after reading this story:

Kevin Dayton@DaytonPubPolicy

“Mr. Lemmon, let the People see your San Diego Convention Center deal! Mr. Lemmon, let the People read your agreement!”  

I also Tweeted this announcement:

Kevin Dayton@DaytonPubPolicy

1st California example of Left overreach after election: unions hide “deal” for San Diego Convention Ctr public project

The unions are absolutely determined to keep the Project Labor Agreement secret, because labor policy experts will have a primary source document to analyze and criticize if it gets in circulation. Eric Christen of the Coalition for Fair Employment in Construction has damaged the reputation of this deal by exposing its existence, but now the public need to obtain the Project Labor Agreement and read it, instead of believing government-sanctioned propaganda issued at a press conference.

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