Does “bureaucracy” equal “corruption?”

Pub date April 6, 2009
WriterTim Redmond
SectionPolitics Blog


Players: Michael “Kennedy” Cassidy, Gus Murad and Jean-Paul Samaha (the three men on the right) party together at Murad’s wedding in Morocco. Photo by Luke Thomas, Fog City Journal.

By Tim Redmind

The Chron’s Seth Rosenfeld continues to cover the controversy over the demolition of the Little House on Russian Hill, and he’d advanced the story a few notches. But the headline — “cracks in bureaucracy doomed historic house” — makes it sound as if this whole episode were just a matter of screw-ups and incompetance. As opposed to, for example, systemic corruption in the Department of City Planning and Department of Building Inspection.

Read through Rosenfeld’s article, and our piece, by Rebecca Bowe, and the notion that all of this happened by accident — that somehow, simple bureaucratic messups allowed two very influential players in the local political scene to pull off what should have been an illegal demolition — strains credibility. To say the least.

So far, nobody has come up with a smoking gun that links anyone at City Planning or DBI, or either of the developers, to any violation of law. And that’s probably the way it will stay. Shady stuff happens all the time in the world of San Francisco real-estate development, and some of it’s perfectly legal, and even when it isn’t, nobody ever seems to go to jail.

No — it’s just business as usual at CIty Planning and DBI. As Charles Marsteller, former head of Common Cause, told us:

“It was just a put-on by some insiders in City Hall working the network that they normally work,” Marsteller says. “And it shouldn’t have happened.”