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july 17, 2000

Local angle. Rep. George Miller has asked for a moratorium on federal land swaps, whereby private landowners reel in hefty profits when they exchange their land near parks or wilderness areas for valuable parcels elsewhere. The Martinez Democrat says, "Land deals are being cut behind closed doors with tremendous special-interest pressure and limited public input." He should know. On June 3, 1994, after the House passed the California Desert Protection Act, Human Events reported that Miller had joined his Senate colleague Dianne Feinstein in urging a special arrangement for the Catellus Corporation. Among other things, the company hoped to exchange 30,000 acres in the Mojave for 10,500 acres of what Forbes Magazine called "highly developable land" in Palo Verde. Feinstein had already forged a comfortable relationship with Catellus as mayor in 1984, when she signed a $2.1 billion city contract to develop former Santa Fe Pacific land at Mission Bay. Catellus CEO Nelson Rising told Forbes interviewer Mary Beth Grover the secret of his success, "In California real estate, politics is the most important thing."

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Watch your language. Is anyone else puzzled by the recent lawsuits filed by the Coalition for Better Housing? The landlord group has gone to court to block two tenant-sponsored initiatives on constitutional grounds. When 17,000 people signed the Housing Rights Committee of San Francisco’s petition to prevent passthroughs of capital improvements, and 19,000 signed the San Francisco Tenants Union’s attempt to limit condo conversions, do you think they realized that their modest statements could rock the foundation of the republic? <> Barbara Kaufman is trying in her own way to muzzle free speech. The supervisor has proposed a $1,000 fee to take appeals of Planning Commission EIR decisions to the Supes — to cover the cost of staff time. Meanwhile, Ronald Kaufman, developer and husband to the supervisor, has shown that he too has a way with words. The Bay Guardian reports that Kaufman has persuaded city zoners to classify his 295,000-square-foot project at 17th and Rhode Island — a new home for the Macromedia software company — as "business services" rather than "office space," thereby evading the 950,000-foot annual space cap of Prop M.

Linked events. Chronicle sports writer Glenn Dickey has turned into a social commentator. On Thursday Dickey spelled out the reasons why we should all relax and let the 49ers move down the peninsula. In a nutshell, he said that "most of their fans come from outside the city. Aside from the rent they pay on the stadium, they contribute very little to the city’s economy." With the team gone from Hunters Point, we could plan for some real economic development of the area. And if you’re really starved for local pigskin action, why not continue the fine thinking of Pete Magowan and make PacBell Park truly multifunctional? The stadium already advertises that "space within the park can be rented on non-game days for conferences, meetings, trade shows and private parties. Catering and event planning services are also available." It’s easy to imagine starry-eyed couples lining up to reserve wedding space at home plate. The next step is to figure out a way to add seats — across the portwalk side? — to accommodate the more numerous football fans. After that, there’s no end to the possibilities. Bicycle criteriums? Tennis tournaments? Soccer, anyone?