In this video, at the 1:32 mark, Trisha Tahmasbi pledged not to take money from developers during her run for City Council last year. And technically, she didn’t.
But on Oct. 31 — four days before the Nov. 4 election — she accepted at least $9,500 from members the Patterson family, which own much of the land slated for Fremont’s biggest development project: More than 800 homes, two churches, parks, a school — all adjacent to Coyote Hills Regional Park. She also got $500 from Richard Frisbie, the private planner and former city employee, who is shepherding the project through the entitlement process.
The development proposal is heading to the City Council this year. The Pattersons have a big stake in it. They spent about $600,000 in 2006 fighting Measure K, which would have rezoned the land for agriculture and killed the project. After they get their entitlements and the housing market rebounds, they plan to sell the land to firms that will do the building.
So did Tahmasbi break her pledge, or at least the spirit of it?
She says no. She wrote this text message to me today:
Frisbie is a planner and the Pattersons are landowners. Neither are developers. My pledge was no money from developers.
Here’s what she said last year in that YouTube video:
I would like you to know that I made a campaign pledge not to accept developers contributions. I have done so in order to preserve the integrity of the planning process and to remove even the slightest appearance of undo influence of developers who have business before the city. I am proud of this pledge, and I invite all of the other candidates to join me.
The pledge appeared to be good politics at the time. It distinguished Tahmasbi from her top rival, Sue Chan, whose campaign was largely run and funded by the former Assemblyman John Dutra — one of Fremont’s biggest developers. And it blurred the differences between her and Vinnie Bacon, who had already made the same pledge and had the backing of Fremont’s environmental left.
Bacon was shocked to hear about the contributions and said the Pattersons were in essence developers. You can read his quotes in tomorrow’s paper.
Councilmember Bill Harrison, who had endorsed Tahmasbi said the Pattersons aren’t developers, although he acknowledged they do have business coming up before the city. Councilmember Anu Natarajan, who also backed Tahmasbi, didn’t want to comment about the Pattersons.
Tahmasbi, 28, is deputy chief of staff for Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico. Despite the support a majority of the city council, most unions and the Chamber of Commerce, she finished fourth in last year’s city council election, behind both Chan and Bacon. Late campaign contributions for all 2008 Fremont candidates were released yesterday and are available at City Hall.