Businesses spend millions to lobby San Francisco City Hall officials every year, and 2021 was no exception. A look at the top 10 spenders can provide a picture of the high-stakes issues and projects being considered by the mayor, supervisors and city staff. Land use is guaranteed to be part of that mix, but this past year saw a significant focus on new consumer technologies and companies working hard to get back in the Board of Supervisors’ good graces.
See a full table below on the top 10 businesses lobbying San Francisco officials, as well as breakdowns on each company’s 2021 spending.
1. Recology - $460,000
Recology has been working hard to maintain its virtual monopoly over garbage service in the city despite tripping all over itself and trampling goodwill through a colossal overbilling scandal. Noyola Piccini Group earned almost half a million dollars to lobby city officials and keep the refuse company’s head above water. A moderate reform initiative over trash-collection pricing will likely make its way to the ballot this June, but a nuclear option is still on the table—it would allow for competitive bidding for future contracts, something Recology definitely wants to avoid. Incidentally, Noyola Piccini partner David Noyola is a former chief of staff to Supervisor Aaron Peskin, Recology’s main antagonist on the board.
2. Veritas Investments - $369,735
Veritas is the city's largest residential landlord. The company has been under pressure from the Board of Supervisors to provide relief for tenants short on rent due to the economic impacts of Covid. Veritas enlisted veteran lobbyist Sam Lauter of Barnes Mosher Whitehurst Lauter and Partners in what appeared to be a pivot in strategy. Veritas suggested amendments to supervisors’ legislation on evictions and rent relief and instituted a “rent-relief backstop” of their own for qualified tenants. The San Francisco Apartment Association and land use law firm Reuben, Junius & Rose, LLP also represented Veritas last year.
3. Brookfield Properties - $262,500
Brookfield contracted with two lobbying firms—LaPointe Group and HMS Associates—to clear the regulatory path for The George, an apartment building that is part of the 5M Project in SoMa. The building faced some neighborhood opposition, including a lawsuit. Forty percent of the units will be affordable, and it will include low-income senior housing.
4. Hines Interests - $251,310
Hines engaged Lighthouse Public Affairs and Reuben, Junius & Rose to represent its project at Transbay Parcel F, an 800-foot hotel/office/condominium tower near the Transbay Transit Center and Salesforce Tower.
5. Crown Castle - $222,000
The largest independent small-cell site operator in the United States worked with Platinum Advisors to keep the air clear for 5G installations in San Francisco. (DISCLOSURE: Standard reporter Mike Ege previously worked for Platinum Advisors in 2020 and 2021 and performed legislative monitoring work on behalf of Crown Castle in San Francisco and other counties.)
6. 181 Fremont LLC - $216,000
This office/condo tower near Salesforce Tower is the tallest on the West Coast. LaPointe Group lobbied directors at Platinum Advisors regarding transit access issues. This is the second entry on this list for solo lobbyist Denise LaPointe and her firm, LaPointe Group.
7. Prologis - $196,494
Prologis is a real estate investment trust based in the city and the region’s largest owner of industrial and warehouse space. Lighthouse Public Affairs lobbied members of the Board of Supervisors on behalf of Prologis properties, including at 4th and King streets.
8. DECA Companies - $182,793
DECA, a real estate investment group, contracted Reuben, Junius & Rose over preservation issues related to permits on a Brannan Street property, as well as Noyola Piccini Group, who contacted members of the Board of Supervisors over Industrial Protection Zone legislation.
9. Salesforce - $180,417
The cloud-based software company led by Marc Benioff hired Lighthouse Public Affairs to coordinate street closure permits with Mayor London Breed’s office for Dreamforce 2021, which was scaled down to just 1,000 visitors due to the pandemic.
10. Cruise - $180,000
Noyola Piccini Group also worked with Cruise, the autonomous vehicle unit of General Motors, to engage city agencies like Muni and the county transportation authority about concerns over traffic congestion and the danger self-driving cars may pose.
Additional research by Shelley Fargo.