Tag Archive for United Port of San Diego

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:


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:



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.

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

This morning’s edition of www.FlashReport.org published my article about what REALLY happened at the September 19, 2012 meeting of the Board of Port Commissioners for the United Port of San Diego. Read it here:

UNION OFFICIALS INTIMIDATE SAN DIEGO CIVIC LEADERS: Threaten to Use the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) to Block the San Diego Convention Center Expansionwww.FlashReport.org – September 20, 2012

My message to San Diego’s business and political leaders: someone has to be a courageous leader in your town and organize a broad coalition to fight back publicly against this relentless exploitation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) by your local labor union officials and their lawyers. I didn’t see ONE true hero at that meeting of the Port Commissioners yesterday – ironic considering how the room was full of congratulatory adulation. Even your local news media dances around the real issue, leaving taxpayers confused about what’s going on at their government. How can you give recognition and respect to these union officials as “community leaders” even as they threaten to hold up your convention center expansion in order to extract labor agreements? Expose the union greenmail and fight it!

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. Unions are demanding that construction contractors sign a Project Labor Agreement as a condition of working on the project. That’s the California Environmental Quality Act in action!

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.”


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.