Tag Archive for UNITE-HERE Local No. 30

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?

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 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.

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)

The September 19, 2012 meeting of the United Port of San Diego’s Board of Port Commissioners was packed with the San Diego region’s civic leadership, including the Mayor of San Diego, Jerry Sanders. They were at the meeting to see and celebrate the Port taking the next steps in approving the proposed $520 million San Diego Convention Center expansion, as well as an expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel. Representatives were there from numerous major business groups in the region, including the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building on Pacific Highway

United Port of San Diego Headquarters Building, where union officials and their lawyer brazenly abused CEQA on September 19, 2012 in front of San Diego’s civic leadership.

Also there was Kevin Dayton, President & CEO of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. No one there knew or cared, and I finally found a seat in the back corner. I suspected that the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo was going to pull a stunt at the meeting on behalf of the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council and UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30. Knowing their modus operendi, I figured a lawyer was going to make a huge last-minute document dump at the meeting under the authority of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). I was right!

The party-poopers promptly rained on the parade when the commissioners opened the agenda item to public comment. An official of the UNITE HERE Local Union No. 30 led off the attack by declaring that the 1400-page final Environmental Impact Report required under CEQA was deficient and needed to be withdrawn for revisions. Then someone from the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo submitted to the commissioners a 42 page letter (with 197 footnotes) on behalf of the phony union front group called “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.

CEQA Objections to San Diego Convention Center Expansion

The cover page of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) “document dump” of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of unions against the Environmental Impact Report for the San Diego Convention Center expansion project.

Never to be left out of a militant union action in San Diego, Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, rushed into the meeting late 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. This would give unions more time to squeeze their demands out of the developers and the convention center’s public and private partners.

A representative of the leftist San Diego-based Center for Policy Initiatives attended the meeting but did not speak. This group has not been involved in CEQA issues, but it is very involved in labor issues.

I also spoke, as a representative of Labor Issues Solutions, LLC. I noted there was an underlying story and then revealed the whole scheme. Of course, most people in the room knew about it already but do not want to acknowledge it in public.

After these antics, the Port Commissioners recessed the meeting for about 20 minutes so Port staff could scan the document dump by Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo and make a preliminary determination of whether or not the unions introduced new and valid CEQA objections to the proposed convention center and hotel expansion. If the comments were serious threats, the Port Commissioners would need to table the approval of the Environmental Impact Report.

Staff ultimately identified four potential areas vulnerable to lawsuits or appeals, but also indicated how the issues would be addressed. In the end, the Port Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the Environmental Impact Report, while noting that they expected litigation and appeals unless relevant parties were able to make a deal with the unions.

What is the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council seeking with its CEQA objections? As I documented in my March 11, 2011 www.thetruthaboutPLAs.com article entitled It’s Out in the Open: Project Labor Agreement a Costly Possibility for San Diego Convention Center Expansion, construction union officials want a requirement for construction contractors to sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the projects. Presumably UNITE HERE wants some sort of neutrality agreement for union organizing.

It’s nothing new in California and nothing new in San Diego. It’s “greenmail.”

NEWS MEDIA COVERAGE

Convention Center Project Takes a Major Step Forward – San Diego Union-Tribune – September 20, 2012

Port Approves Environmental Report For Convention Center Expansion – KPBS – September 19, 2012

CEQA Reform is Over for This California Legislative Session: Sustainable Environmental Protection Act May Return in 2013

CEQA reform is over for this legislative session.

Some union officials, environmental lobbyists, and lawyers specializing in exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) are celebrating with emailed bulletins and tweets. (See the August 23, 2012 “Sierra Club California Statement on Abandonment of Environmentally Dangerous Bill.”) One particularly happy Tweeting union leader is Lorena Gonzalez, head of the San Diego County Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

That’s no surprise if you read my August 8 post,”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.”

UNITE HERE Local 30 (based in San Diego) and the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council have filed a massive CEQA objection with the United Port of San Diego concerning the Draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project and the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel expansion.

Here are some recent Tweets from Lorena Gonzalez ‏@LorenaSGonzalez:

And the Rubio #CEQA reform bill is officially dead! Yay!

URGENT: Don’t let them gut California Environmental Quality Act. Sign NOW: http://SaveCEQA.com  #CEQA #SaveCEQA

I support #CEQA. Gutting 40 years of progress will hurt the environment, workers and the public! These aren’t reforms, they go too far.

So happy to see most of our SD Democratic Legislators asking their colleagues to keep their hands off CEQA #SaveCEQA

Meanwhile, I posted this in the comment section of the Sacramento Bee article, “Bid to Overhaul California Environmental Law Falls Short“:

The Sierra Club representative called the bill “one of the worst attacks on environmental protections that we’ve seen in the 40-year life of this law.” They actually mean, “one of the worst attacks on our political agenda from Democrats, whom we thought would never betray us by supporting economic growth and job creation.”

Actually, it’s questionable whether or not this “Sustainable Environmental Protection Act” of 2012 would have been all that effective in hindering the professional CEQA operators – the people who use CEQA for economic or financial objectives. It was certainly tame and weak compared to Assembly Bill 598, for which the Sierra Club lobbyist took great offense during a January 9, 2012 hearing of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee. If that bill had become law, it would have shut down the CEQA extortion industry by limiting the authority to file lawsuits under CEQA to the California Attorney General.

The Sierra Club and the Natural Resources Defense Council can continue to enjoy their “Blue-Green Alliance” of convenience with labor unions and turn a blind eye to how CEQA is exploited for purposes other than environmental protection, such as coercing Project Labor Agreements, Neutrality Agreements, etc.

They’ve been coasting for 40 years on the Friends of Mammoth v. Board of Supervisors of Mono County decision of the California Supreme Court in 1972, which stunned many by applying CEQA to private projects and activities. One day soon the political pendulum will swing to the Right in this state (probably after the state tries to file for bankruptcy), and then AB 598 will become law.

In the meantime, enjoy the CEQA paperwork! For example, here’s what the Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division has been dealing with as unions object to proposed solar energy power plants:

The Fresno County Planning and Land Use Division responds on August 7, 2012 to a request for records concerning submissions of the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo on behalf of California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) concerning proposed solar energy generation projects.

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

The United Port of San Diego gave the public a deadline of June 29, 2012 to submit comments regarding the draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR) required under the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA (California Public Resources Code Section 21000 et seq.) for the proposed San Diego Convention Center Phase III Expansion Project and an expansion of the adjacent Hilton San Diego Bayfront Hotel.

The San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Diego Daily Transcript then reported on the parties that submitted comments regarding the environmental impact of this high-profile $520 million proposed project. Here are links to the articles, along with the parties identified in each article that submitted the comments:

Convention Center EIR Cites Numerous Impacts – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 3, 2012 and Concerns Expressed on Center Expansion: Report Brings Up Aesthetics, Noise, Air Quality, Traffic – San Diego Union-Tribune – July 6, 2012

18 individuals and organizations, including the city of Coronado, the San Diego Padres and the San Diego County Archaeological Society

Port Preparing Final Convention Center Environmental Impact Report – San Diego Daily Transcript – July 3, 2012

Organizations to comment on the 61-megabyte report included CalTrans, the Department of Toxic Substances Control, the Native American Heritage Commission, the city of Coronado, the city of San Diego, the Alliance for a Cleaner Tomorrow, the San Diego Padres, Ballpark Village, the San Diego Archaeological Society and San Diego Association of Governments.

So when I looked at the United Port of San Diego’s PDF file containing the comments submitted for the draft EIR, I was stunned to see that 436 of the 536 pages of submissions came from an organization not mentioned in either of these articles: “The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center.”

The San Diego Coalition for A Better Convention Center is “an unincorporated association of individuals and labor unions” identified as including the San Diego County Building and Construction Trades Council, the UNITE HERE Local 30 union, and their local union affiliates. It is represented by the South San Francisco law firm of Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo.

The union CEQA objection letter itself to the San Diego Convention Center Expansion Phase III is 62 pages, and then there are 374 pages of exhibits. To see the letter AND the exhibits, go to the full set of Convention Center CEQA comments here. (The union submission starts at page 101 of the PDF document and ends at page 536.)

I have to admit I’m flabbergasted that the public in San Diego remains unaware that construction unions and hotel employee unions submitted the bulk of environmental objections to this project. How were the unions and their lawyers able to sneak this by without attracting attention to it?

Adams, Broadwell, Joseph & Cardozo has an extensive history of submitting burdensome environmental comments about proposed San Diego projects on behalf of unions, while at the same time top officials running these unions pressure the project developer to sign a Project Labor Agreement for construction and/or some sort of agreement with UNITE HERE for hotel employees. Some of the most prominent examples include Petco Park, Ballpark Village, and Lane Field. The list below is an excerpt from my June 1, 2012 post entitled Is the City of San Diego’s Proposition A (on the June 5, 2012 Ballot) Meaningful and Necessary? Absolutely! Here’s the Documented Proof.

Unions Routinely Block Private Projects in the San Diego Region with Environmental Objections Until Developers Surrender and Agree to Sign Project Labor Agreements with Unions and Require Their Contractors to Do the Same

It’s hard to track and document the numerous threats and legal actions in the San Diego area by construction unions (and other unions such as UNITE-HERE) to exploit the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and other environmental laws to block and delay approval of private development projects until a labor agreement is signed. The negotiations and extortion goes on behind closed doors, and often the victimized developer is compelled to succumb in secret while claiming publicly that signing a Project Labor Agreement with unions is a wonderful business practice.

Two companies that exposed the union extortion to the public were Seaworld and Gaylord Entertainment.

1. Seaworld expansion – threatened in 2002, but resisted, and a PLA was not implemented.

2. Gaylord Entertainment hotel and convention center at the Chula Vista Bayfront – threatened in 2007 and 2008, but resisted. Gaylord ultimately abandoned the project and commenced construction instead of a resort complex in Arizona.

Other companies gave in without much of a public fight:

1. San Diego Padres Petco Park – IBEW Local 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 1999, developer agreed to a PLA in 2000, project magically became OK for the environment.

2. Ballpark Village – there was a Ballpark Village draft PLA circulating in 2005, after a law firm representing IBEW Local No. 569 identified environmental problems with the project. Four years later, the same law firm identified environmental problems with the project on behalf of UNITE-HERE. Do you still wonder why California is struggling economically?

3. Poseidon Desalination Plant in Carlsbad – developer avoided union interference by agreeing to a PLA in 2005.

4. Downtown San Diego hotel projects, including Lane Field (Intercontinental Hotel and Aviana Suites), Sunroad Harbor Island Hotel, and San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina facilities expansion projects – although the law firm of Adams Broadwell Joseph & Cardozo has identified alleged environmental problems with these proposed projects on behalf of UNITE-HERE Local No. 30 in at least some of these cases, that same law firm has also represented the IBEW Local No. 569 using the same strategy of exploiting the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).

5. Palomar Power Plant in Escondido – Sempra Energy signed a PLA and avoided licensing delays at the California Energy Commission instigated by intervenor California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE). There is also a 30-year Maintenance Labor Agreement for this power plant.

6. Otay Mesa Generating Station – see here how CURE extracted this PLA from Calpine.

7. Sunrise Powerlink transmission line – PLA implemented in 2010.

8. Pio Pico Energy Center in East Otay Mesa – The State Building and Construction Trades Council of California proudly announced on November 3, 2011 that it had extracted a PLA for the construction of this power plant. You will not be stunned to hear that California Unions for Reliable Energy (CURE) did NOT intervene in the licensing process at the California Energy Commission on this 300 MW project. It’s odd how CURE sees devastating environmental problems with solar energy generation but passed this one by…

Other projects of uncertain status:

1. 655 Broadway – no PLA, union-only though.

2. Sapphire Tower at 1262 Kettner Boulevard (Santa Fe Parcel 6) – IBEW Local No. 569 identified alleged environmental problems in 2004.

3. Chula Vista Bayfront project – Pacifica Companies – news media indicated that PLA seemed likely.

4. Carlsbad Energy Center – threat or already agreed to PLA.