Ed Jew supported special permit before raid

Supervisor Ed Jew, who is under federal investigation for his involvement in helping business owners obtain permits, publicly threw his support behind the issuance of a special permit for a business owner less than a month before his City Hall office and home were raided by the FBI.

On April 26, the Planning Commission awarded a conditional use permit to allow Wonderful Dessert & Cafe at 2035 Irving St. to legally stay open for business, after Jew had written two letters in support of the permit, including one handed to commissioners on the day of the vote.

The business had apparently been feuding with a nearby competing Quickly tapioca drink franchise shop.

Jew, the District 4 supervisor, is under federal investigation in relation to his alleged acceptance of as much as $40,000 from Quickly owners in the district. Jew said he had referred the business owners to consultant Robert Chan of Bridge Consulting for help obtaining conditional use permits and accepted the payment for Chan’s services on his behalf. Jew has not been charged with any crime.

Norman Tsao, owner of Wonderful Dessert & Cafe, said he never paid Jew any money for the permit and Jew never recommended using Chan as a consultant.

In a March 26 letter to the city planner in charge of the permit application, Tsao wrote, “Supervisor Ed Jew and the Outer Sunset Merchant Professional Association are ready to write a strong letter of support for issuance” of the permit.

According to planning records, the building at 2035 Irving St. is owned by Benny Yee, who has sat on The City’s Redevelopment Agency Commission and owns a real estate company. Yee also founded and is an active member of the Outer Sunset Merchant Professional Association. Prior to the group’s writing a letter of support, a meeting was held to vote on it, which Jew attended.

“I never dealt with the supervisor on anything that had to do about money. He never requested anything from me,” OSMPA President Awadalla Awadalla said. “Norman [Tsao] came to us and said he had a problem getting permits. We decided to help him out.”

When told about the letters, Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin said, “That’s a no-no. At a minimum, it’s bad judgment. Supervisors are regularly advised not to write letters for or against a conditional use authorization.”

Speaking generally, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd said he stays away from weighing in on conditional use permits at the planning level since on appeal the board is supposed to act as a “quasi-judicial” entity. If a conditional use permit is appealed, the issue comes before the Board of Supervisors.

“If I am going to end up being in a position where I am voting on something, I want it to be seen as a fair and open vote and that I haven’t prejudged the issue,” he said.

Jew is also being investigated by the City Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney’s Office for allegedly failing to live in the district he represents, as is required by law. Jew is required to turn over proof of his residency by June 8, after the city attorney granted a deadline extension Thursday at the request of Jew’s staffers. Jew is out of the country, having flown to China on a Wednesday flight for a vacation planned before the FBI raid. He is expected to return on Monday.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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