Full Disclosure recently detailed how Oakland City Attorney John Russo and housing developer Signature Properties have been trying for months to bury opponents of the controversial Oak to Ninth condo project in legal bills (“Russo Versus the People,” 2/21). Now Signature Properties has a new tactic: Dry up its opponent’s funding.
At least that’s Stuart Flashman’s take on the glossy, obviously expensive mailers that blanketed Oakland last month. Flashman is the attorney for the Oak to Ninth Referendum Committee, which wants Oaklanders to vote on whether Signature should be able to build 3,100 condos along the estuary.
Flashman believes the mailers, titled “The Oak to Ninth Neighborhood Project: Building Something Special for Oakland,” are meant to dissuade potential donors from helping his client with its legal bills. If that happens, the grassroots referendum committee may run out of cash and have to give up its legal fight.
The twelve-page brochure looks as if it were designed for a political campaign. It features rosy testimonials from project backers and community leaders, such as Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church, Unity Council CEO Gilda Gonzales, and Laura Chung of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce.
Signature Properties President Michael Ghielmetti said the mailers were not an effort to bleed his opponents. “They’re meant to set the record straight,” he says. “There are a lot of people out there who like this project for a lot of reasons.”
The deep-pocketed Ghielmetti, however, declined to reveal how much the PR vehicle cost his company or many homes received them.