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Catellus Still a Player in Alameda

Dear Editor,

Anyone who has been duped by Helen Sause and her developer friends and the local politicians and city planners who are actively trying to turn Alameda over to the developers by supporting the repeal of Measure A for Alameda Point (and ultimately for all of the Island) ought to read the excellent article in today’s Chronicle about the SF Redevelopment Agency’s disastrous destruction of the Fillmore district. This was first great triumph of the Justin Herman redevelopment machine back in the 1960s.  Justin Herman was Helen Sause’s mentor — she received an award in his name upon retirement from the SF Redevelopment agency where she spent most of her career.  Sause has been a zealous true-believing advocate of redevelopment who regards Measure A as the last great impediment to the transformation of this lovely island into a kind of Manhattan in the Bay with high-rise condominiums and tall office buildings — anything the developers want and the politicians who receive their contributions from them and the city staff can deliver to their friends.


 
Of course, Sause talks about “affordable housing” but that’s just spin, something her Master teacher, Justin Herman, did brilliantly, as he promised the residents of the Fillmore the moon to get them to agree to their own removal. In exchange he gave them worthless documents entitling them to affordable housing he never intended to deliver. Sause went on to play a major role in SF redevelopment. 
 
One of these days soon I plan to show a brillliant documentary on the destruction of the Fillmore and I’ll invite two of my good friends, Harry Brill and Mike Miller, both of whom were actively involved in opposing what Helen Sause and the big money boys achieved  by way of  transforming San Francisco, to comment.  Want to see Alameda homes — big and small — knocked down on the Fillmore/SF model? and millions of dollars poured into the pockets of the developers and an entire community destroyed?  Then vote to repeal Measure A and it will certainly happen to Alameda. (Mike Miller has written a book about his career as a community organizer in SF which will soon be published and Harry Brill has written a book as well, “Why Organizers Fail”) The film reveals the kind of manipulation of community groups that Sause’s teacher,Herman,  was a master of — just the way Sause manipulated the League of Women Voters in Alameda to support her machinations against Measure A.  She was a good student and definitely deserves her Justin Herman award.  Read the Chron article — it’s excellent. Add a good book by Chester Hartman: “City for Sale: the Transformation of San Francisco — UC Press 2002.  It suggests a title for a book someone may have to write in 25 years about Alameda if Sause succeeds: “The Theft of an Island”.  I hope not.  See the film and you’ll understand better what Sause’s real agenda for Alameda is.  I’ll send out an announcement when we have a date and a place to show it.  (May I suggest one more book about another true-believing Master Planner, Robert Moses?  He led the transformation of New York City.  By Robert Caro, the biographer of Lyndon Johnson.  A classic.  I’ve always suspected Justin Herman modelled himself on Robert Moses. Did they know each other?  Probably.  Anyone know?)
 
Meanwhile (not in the Chron) redevelopment  of Bay View-Hunters Point proceeds apace. This largely African American community is slated for dismantlement — carbon copy of the Fillmore,  so the pattern described in the Chronicle article continues to this day.  The developer is Lennar — politically well connected and at one time in the running for the development of Alameda Point. Catellus/ProLogis has developed Mission Bay in collaboration with the University of California. Catellus proposed over ten years ago to build a new bridge to Alameda from Mission Bay thus linking the entire development to the development of Alameda. I’m sure that this idea hasn’t been forgotten — just stored away for future use. Catellus is still a player in Alameda and when the dust settles I would bet on it being selected by the City Council to develop Alameda Point.  It probably won’t happen right away given the economic situation but instead Alameda Point will be “land-banked”  with Catellus holding the entitlement to turning Alameda Point into whatever is economically profitable at the time — perhaps as long as ten years from now. Repeal of Measure A would make the land even more valuable — whatever the cost to Alameda.
 
These  corporate developers have a long time perspective — 25 years is the blink of an eye to them. (A recent article in the San Jose Mercury News tells about the San Jose Redevelopment agency buying up land and keeping it vacant for a long time.  Why not? It’s not their money!)  I learned about the long perspective of developers fifty years ago when I went to work for the SF Labor Council as a UC graduate student to assist the Council in understanding the urban renewal plan for SF — what eventually turned into the South of Market/ Yerba Buena plan that Helen Sause played a key role in developing when she worked for the SF Redevelopment agency.
 
The plan — you can look across the Bay today and see it in the skyline of SF — was to transform SF into a corporate headquarters city and it all started at the end of World War II (in 1945) when Bechtel began to push for the building of BART to bring the workers into SF from the suburbs which the developers were then looking forward to building. You can read about all of this in Chester Hartman’s book. I wish Helen, who is very intelligent, would write a book based on her experiences about SF redevelopment. Tell her side of the story. I am sure it would be immensely valuable. If I were still teaching I would volunteer to supervise her as a Ph.D. student to write a dissertation on this important subject.  In any case when we show a documentary about the Fillmore, Mike Miller and Harry Brill can tell the story of SF redevelopment from the opposition’s point of view.

– Arthur Lipow, Alameda

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