JCDecaux truck
JCDecaux cleaning up at the 16th Street BART Plaza. Photo by Lydia Chávez December 7, 2019

Additional allegations charge Nuru’s disdain for ‘Big Belly’ trash cans due to $5.2M trash can contract with Walter Wong-tied company

A resolution introduced Tuesday before the Board of Supervisors calls for the city to nix its longstanding, problematic toilet and kiosk contract with JCDecaux.

Supervisor Aaron Peskin’s resolution cites disgraced ex-Public Works head Mohammed Nuru’s role in formulating the terms of the deal; additionally, it charges, as recently as 2019 Nuru “personally lobbied several members of the Board of Supervisors to ensure” the contract remained with the French multinational JCDecaux.

The resolution also cites Mission Local’s reporting:

… In the wake of voluminous allegations of fraud on behalf of then-Director Nuru over the course of this time period, additional concerns have surfaced regarding the relationship between Nuru and JC Decaux, including concerns set forth in local news outlet Mission Local that Nuru was “wined and dined” at JC Decaux’s “elegant waterfront farmhouse in the bucolic Parisian suburb of Plaisir”…

Mission Local first reported on the troubling elements of this decades-old contract in 2019. While subsequent outdoor advertising contracts have required between 55 and 65 percent of ad revenue to be turned over to the city, JCDecaux only paid San Francisco 5.8 percent of the revenue it generated between 1997 and 2017.

Also, and not insignificantly, its toilets don’t work well; only with the recent implementation of in-person attendants through the Pit Stop program have they arguably become usable.

This month, Mission Local reported that the JCDecaux pact was one of an undisclosed number of city contracts under review by the City Attorney’s office in the wake of Nuru’s Jan. 28 arrest by the FBI on fraud charges.

Both last year and in Mission Local’s Feb. 3 article, we noted JCDecaux’s genius for showering the tangible elements of the good life upon the public officials who granted it contracts. Mayors Willie Brown and Gavin Newsom were treated lavishly by the company on their French jaunts and, Mission Local is told, Nuru was also a guest of the company at its elegant farmhouse.

Within the 75-page complaint unsealed by the US Department of Justice last month, Nuru, on a wiretapped phone call, purportedly boasts about the high-end liquor and wealth gifted to him by a billionaire Chinese developer; in return for this Nuru purportedly pulled strings on the stalled 555 Fulton project.

In light of this, and Nuru’s arrest, troubling details surrounding the JCDecaux contract grow ever more concerning — leading to the City Attorney’s review and Tuesday’s call by Peskin for the pact’s cancelation.

Resolution JC Decaux by Joe Eskenazi on Scribd

When the city in 2015 put its toilet and kiosk contract up for bid, several would-be JCDecaux competitors did put in offers — despite a Request for Proposal making the nigh-impossible demand of any new company that it individually permit and install dozens of free-standing outdoor toilets in just 120 days.

That RFP, however, was rescinded. Its 2016 successor was, somehow, even more favorable to JCDecaux.

It minimized the singular element any competitor could use to unseat the incumbent: offering the city more money. This was reduced from 65 percent of the judgment criteria to only 20 percent. At the same time, the city increased the importance of the “oral interview” with Public Works bosses — who may or may not have visited JCDecaux’s farmhouse — from 5 percent of the judgment criteria to a whopping 40 percent.

Not surprisingly, no competitor submitted a bid to challenge JCDecaux.

Mission Local is informed that Nuru was heavily involved in this process.

During Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, Peskin stated that “as I play this back in my head, I am very disturbed by the level of lobbying that … supervisors received from Mr. Nuru, apparently at the same time he was allegedly involved in illegal conduct.”

In a connected matter, Peskin also noted Nuru’s “adamant” disdain for “Big Belly” trash cans, and tied this to a $5.2 million 2018 Public Works trash can contract with “Alternate Choice, LLC” — a company registered to the address of permit expediter and contractor Walter Wong.

The “agent for service of process” of Alternate Choice is listed as “Washington Wong.”

Walter Wong’s offices at 205 13th St. were last month raided by federal agents. The deeply connected expediter handled permitting on the 555 Fulton St. project. Within the federal complaint he is allegedly referred to as CONTRACTOR 2. The alleged CONTRACTOR 1, Balmore Hernandez — who purportedly bribed Nuru with a John Deere tractor — once had an office for his company Azul Works within Wong’s building on 13th Street well. 

City records indicate Alternate Choice received hundreds of thousands of dollars in payments in each of the last five years.

Supervisor Gordon Mar has scheduled a March 4 hearing before the Government and Audit Oversight Committee regarding the $5.2 million Alternate Choice, LLC contract.

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Managing Editor/Columnist. Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left.

“Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior editor at San Francisco Magazine from 2015 to 2017. You may also have read his work in the Guardian (U.S. and U.K.); San Francisco Public Press; San Francisco Chronicle; San Francisco Examiner; Dallas Morning News; and elsewhere.

He resides in the Excelsior with his wife and three (!) kids, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.

The Northern California branch of the Society of Professional Journalists named Eskenazi the 2019 Journalist of the Year.

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  1. London Breed is not being held accountable for anything. She’s the most corrupt mayor in San Francisco’s history which is saying something.
    Breed already sold us state of the art garbage cans not long ago.

    Any supervisor voting for this is complicit in Breed’s City Hall pay to play corruption scandal

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  2. This stinks of Breed and her lover Mohammed Nuru ubiquitous City Hall pay to play corruption scandal. We just bought state of the art garbage cans not long ago under Mayor Breed

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  3. Yikes, what a mess. Do you know anything of the additional subpoenas being issued by the City Attorney after interviewing Mohammed for several days?

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  4. Here’s hoping Walter Wong is smarter than Nuru and not screwing up any cooperation agreement proffered by the FBI. C’mon Mr. Wong – bring down the mayor, it’ll feel good.

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  5. Does this mean we might actually get more Big Bellys all over the city some time soon??

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