Tony Bennett may have left his heart in San Francisco, but Home Depot left its wallet. For several years now Home Depot has been pushing to open stores in San Francisco, with very strong neighborhood and community opposition. But according to today’s San Francisco Chronicle, Home Depot has been spending some big bucks to try and soften the heart of Mayor Willie Brown. The paper reported that one of Hizzoner’s senior campaign advisors, Jack Davis, has received at least $330,000 in lobbying fees from the Atlanta based building supply chain. Davis was Brown’s campaign manager in 1995, and is now an “unpaid advisor” in the current Mayoral race in San Francisco. Davis is certainly not “unpaid” by Home Depot. The company has paid Davis the forklift amount of $10,000 a month since October of 1996. Home Depot is trying to put up a store on the southern boundary of the city in Visitacion Valley, but Mayor Brown told the Chronicle that he doesn’t recall talking to Davis about the Home Depot project, and that “when people chat with me, it goes in one ear and out the other”. Davis has been doing some pretty expensive chatting on Home Depot’s tab, so far with little community support. Neighborhood activists, working through the Visitacion Valley Alliance, have proposed at least two alternative plans to counter the Home Depot project — plans that produce more jobs and present a more compatible variety of mixed uses for the area. “The Home Depot plan without any change would destroy our hope for a revitalization of our neighborhood,” said one activist. Home Depot continues its mantra-like pitch that their store means jobs, sales taxes and other benefits” for the city. Home Depot also claims that area merchant’s fears about being driven out of business by the store that now controls 15% of the entire building supply market in the nation, are groundless. “What we have found is when Home Depot opens a store, local retailers are scared they will lose business and then a year after the store opened that didn’t happen,” says Depot spokesperson Amy Friend, “and in fact the whole issue goes away”. Yeah, that’s what happened to companies like Grossman’s and Hechingers. Hundreds of stores and tens of thousands of workers who just “went away”. Home Depot is currently working on an environmental impact report required by the California Environmental Quality Review Act (CEQRA). That study will be done within the next two months. That gives Jack Davis another $20,000 in the meantime. At that rate, Davis’s lobbying of the Mayor for Home Depot could easily reach three quarters of a million dollars. That buys a lot of sheetrock, Jack!
Mayor Brown has been criticized during the campaign by his opponent for selling out the “character of the city”. Brown, for his part, says that if a Home Depot reaches his office, “I hope it is with the blessing of the community”. Given the latest relevations about lobbying by Home Depot, and the strong tradition of community opposition, the Mayor is going to have to wait a long time before he hears any blessing of Home Depot. Davis did not agree to talk to the Chronicle, but referred all questions to Home Depot. As their slogan goes, “good things happen when Home Depot comes to town”. That’s especially true for lobbyists.