Gold, Chapter Twelve

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“Mr. Mayor, your 3 p.m. is here.  John Crocket and Specialty Development Group.”

Nash stood, hands clasped at his waist, in front of William Wong’s large desk.  The mayor didn’t look up from the document he was reading, but lifted his chin upwards slightly.

Over the months he’d worked for the politician, Nash had learned his many signals and preferences.  The mayor expected Nash to knock with a quick, sharp, rap, walk into the room quietly, and stand in front of his desk when announcing an appointment.  A chin nod meant send them in; a head tilt indicated the mayor was no longer available.  Once, Wong had scratched his cheek, which Nash had mistaken for a request for more information about the visitors, which it wasn’t, as the mayor’s bark to send them in after Nash started talking made clear.

As Nash backed away from the desk he glanced at the Bayview Bombers’ hoodie.  He’d stuck the dot into one of its pockets.

“Mr. Mayor, good to see you,” said John, walking into the office.  He was dressed in a worn blue sports coat, with a 1990s-era tie draped over his large belly.  The addition of oversized shoes and a red rubber nose would have completed the unintentional clown look.  “Let me introduce you to Laurie Katz and Dan Cohen, of Specialty Development Group.”

“Pleasure to see you, John,” the mayor said with a grimace.  He stood up to shake the developers’ hands, indicating that they should take the seats arrayed in front of his desk.

Not a good sign, John thought to himself, aware that Wong ushered preferred visitors to the more casual seating at the back of the office.

“I like the hats,” Laurie said.  “It’s quite the collection.”

The mayor smiled; the worm-shaped blood vessel on his forehead pulsed.  “What can I do for you?”

“Well,” said John, “Laurie and Dan want to brief you on a proposed project of theirs on Potrero Hill…”

“I’m familiar with the site from our previous conversations, John,” interrupted the mayor.   “You haven’t actually secured the property, correct?” he looked at Dan.

“No, Mr. Mayor, we haven’t,” Dan replied.  “The amount of money we can pay is based on how the City might respond to a proposed change in zoning.  It’s presently PDR; we’d like to make it housing.”

“Housing?” said the mayor, leaning back into his chair and settling his figures into a triangle.”  “Meaning affordable housing?”

“Not exactly,” Dan said, “But, we’d be prepared to make a significant contribution to the City’s affordable housing fund.”

“What do you want to build there?” Wong asked.

“A rather sizeable, umhuh,” Dan cleared his throat, “a large private home.”

The mayor bounced forward on his chair.  “You want to build a mansion on property that’s designated for small manufacturing?” he asked, with a fierce smile.  He turned to John.  “What are we doing here?”

“Mr. Mayor, I know this is a bit, shall we say, unorthodox.  But the ultimate owner of the home is a quite prominent tech investor, who currently lives in New York, but would be an asset to San Francisco.  He’s quite active in supporting good political causes…”

“Why does he need to be in that location?” the mayor responded.  “Tell him that people of means are generally more comfortable in Pacific Heights.”

“His wife likes Potrero Hill’s weather,” said Laurie.  “Apparently she’s done some research, and determined that it’s the sunniest neighborhood in the City.  Outside Bayview.”

“Plus, the client wants good freeway access, and a Downtown view,” added Dan.  “And they’re keen on designing and constructing their own home, which requires a significant amount of land.  As you know, that’s hard to find, in San Francisco.”

“Well,” said the mayor, his lips curling into a toothless smile.  “There are other parties interested in that property.  Why don’t you come back to me when you own it?”

“But,’ said Laurie, “If we do acquire it will you support a rezoning?”

John grabbed her arm, and heaved himself out of his chair, “Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  We’ll be in touch.”

“That was a waste of time,” said Laurie, as John ushered her and Dan down City Hall’s grand interior staircase, past an Asian couple in their finery being photographed.

“We got as much as he was going to give us,” John replied.

“What do you mean,” asked Dan.

They’d made their way outside the building, standing on the steps facing the misshapen trees that dotted Civic Center Plaza.  “He’ll support the project,” said John, “if we get the property.”

“Are you sure?” asked Laurie.  “I didn’t hear that at all.”

“I don’t know what to tell our client,” echoed Dan.  “He’ll need to pay a premium for the land, plus all the emoluments.  And there’s no guarantee that he’ll be able to build what he wants.”

“Tell him to buy it,” said John.  “And to keep me on retainer.  I can make it happen.”

Each month the View publishes a chapter from Gold, a serialized tale of politics, capitalism, and corruption in San Francisco.  Previous chapters can be found on the paper’s website,