CARL KEMP

Carl Kemp is the man behind the impressive public-relations campaign for the proposed Second+PCH project, and he’s very up-front about his strategy—even the parts that strike some people as a little surreptitious.

Consider, for example, the ready-made letter of support that Second+PCH is sending to people—and offering on its Web site—with a request that it be forwarded to Mayor Bob Foster and members of the city council and planning commission … before the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) on the project is even published.

Kemp says he doesn’t understand the criticism of that tactic, which environmentalist Heather Altman enunciated on this site Monday. Or, more to the point, he wonders whether critics truly understand Second+PCH’s position.

“The fact that the EIR hasn’t come out doesn’t really determine whether we are going to continue to ask for support,” Kemp says. “If people who support us now don’t like what’s in the EIR when it comes out, they can decide then if they want to continue to be friends.

Kemp maintains that a letter-writing campaign has been part of the general push for approval of Second+PCH’s mixed-use (hotel, residential, retail) proposal for the site of the Seaport Marina Hotel from the get-go.

“We’ve been engaged in community outreach for about two years,” he says. “Along the way we have asked people to be friends of Second+PCH, provided updates on what is going on and solicited them to be supporters—whether that is by writing letters to councilmembers or the editors of newspapers or just being open with their opinions. We’ve done this all along the way. This request to have them engage is no different than that.”

The Second+PCH website, featuring video, music and effects so beautifully executed that it’s practically a virtual vacation, also presents some pretty attractive numbers—including 1,340 full-time equivalent jobs during construction and $2.2 million a year in property tax, sales tax and hotel tax. However, developers David Malmuth and Cliff Ratkovich have acknowledged that these figures are not etched in stone and may change during negotiations with the city.

Combined with the call for support in advance of the EIR, some critics have charged that Second+PCH’s public-relations effort is a campaign of misinformation. Further, many suspect that it is an effort to assemble supportive numbers that will provide a protective rationale for Councilmember Gary DeLong to vote in favor of the project. DeLong, in whose Third District the Second+PCH  intersection is located, has so far insisted he is taking a wait-and-see position.

“I think misinformation is a funny word—depending on who is saying it, they have an opinion,” Kemp says. “We are not out there lying to people. I don’t believe we are engaging in a misinformation campaign.

“I think Delong is doing exactly the right thing. He wants the process to run its course, and at the appropriate time he will render his decision behind the rail. It doesn’t do him, the project or even the project’s opponents any good for him to weigh in in advance of the process.”

Meanwhile, Kemp will continue to asking the public to do so.

“It wouldn’t be wise for us, after sharing all this information with people for all this time, to wait until the back end of the process to allow them to weigh in,” he says. “Anyway, it’s a voluntary process. If people don’t want to send a letter, they don’t have to.”