Op-Ed: Solyndra Scandal Has Ties to DMB/Cargill Development

Former Menlo Park Mayor Jack Morris notes that Solyndra investor Madrone formed a business partnership in 2009 with DMB, the developers of the proposed Cargill Saltworks.

Editor’s Note: Jack Morris is a former Mayor of Menlo Park and has worked in the technology industry for 50 years.

He began following the Solyndra debacle and discovered the Madrone connection to DMB.

Morris is personally opposed to the Cargill/DMB Saltworks proposal and signed Save the Bay’s petition against the project.

He first came to the area in 1958 when Foster City was being built, and groups of people organized to prevent any more in-filling of the Bay.

“The EIR [environmental impact report] is a waste of money and investigation of a project that shouldn’t be built in the first place,” he said.

“But I’d never be elected to the Redwood City city council with that sentiment,” he said. “Most of the councilmembers are generally pro-building.”


By Jack Morris

Republicans in Washington are calling the bankruptcy of solar manufacturer Solyndra . After the Department of Energy made their $535 million loan guarantee, Argonaut Private Equity and Madrone Capital Partners loaned Solyndra $69.3 million under an arrangement in which they will recover funds before the federal government does. Yes, before U.S. taxpayers are repaid!

Both Argonaut and Madrone are savvy investors who line up by political party with Argonaut favoring Democratic interests and Madrone favoring Republican interests. So, the “scandal” is neither Democratic nor Republican. However the source of funding from Madrone has a local angle right here in Silicon Valley.

has a Sand Hill Road address with managing partners living here on the Peninsula. They are affiliated with the Walton family, which founded Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Internet research shows Madrone’s enthusiasm for green investments. But this is a “green” investment firm that may have another story. In 2009 Madrone formed an LLC (Limited Liability Company) in Arizona with DMB Associates.

Where have we heard the name, DMB? Think Redwood City. Think salt ponds. DMB Associates is the Arizona development company in the middle of on the Peninsula as it wages war for a 12,000-unit housing development on the salt ponds owned by Cargill. DMB has a robust history of constructing large luxury housing developments in Arizona, Hawaii and California (Tahoe’s Martis Camp and Kern County’s Tejon Mountain Village.

Cargill is a powerful entity that has an and reputation. It is a secretive, privately held, global giant that is cutting down rainforests and allowing contaminated turkey into supermarkets.  Now they want to build a new city on the bay shoreline parcel that has long been a priority for the National Wildlife Refuge to protect and restore to crucial wetlands.

Opposition to the Cargill/DMB plan to pave over a salt pond on the San Francisco Bay has grown. More than 150 Bay Area elected officials, environmental and community organizations like Sierra Club, business and labor unions are opposing DMB’s project. Peninsula residents, passionate about the future of our communities and of San Francisco Bay, need to know the truth and follow the money behind the “green development” claims.

We should not be distracted by Solyndra’s demise or by the fact that a local capital investment firm was clever enough to secure a priority position over the federal government for repayment. The focus needs to center on these powerful out of state companies that are posing a real threat to the future of our local communities and the health of San Francisco Bay. 

We need to ask the smart questions. Is there a Sand Hill Road investor with ties to Walmart that has joined Cargill and DMB in their scheme to make billions by filling San Francisco Bay? Why else would Menlo Park’s Madrone Capital Partners form an LLC with developer DMB in 2009? We live in a global economy. Walmart has far reaching tendrils that may have arrived in our community, thanks to Cargill’s greed.


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Lou Covey, The Local Motive October 13, 2011 at 02:50 PM
Jack Morris is a former mayor of Menlo Park and has worked in the technology industry for more than 50 years. One of the industry's leading companies is Facebook that recently received a sweetheart deal from Menlo Park to relocate the headquarters from Palo Alto into the now defunct Sun Microsystems facility near the Dumbarton Bridge. Facebook has been the center of several privacy scandals. Is it a stretch to make the connection between Morris and the loss of privacy from internet hackers? Only time will tell.
Strucy October 13, 2011 at 06:32 PM
The Madrone/DMB LLC has nothing to do with the Cargill project. Here: http://www.martiscamp.com/?navid=15 . (See the Madrone reference at the bottom.) Developers form these LLCs with investors for tax purposes for SPECIFIC developments; the chance that this will ever get near the Cargill development is zero. I suppose there might be another DMB/Madrone LLC somewhere, but I couldn't find and the piece only mentions a single LLC. What the piece boils down to is a lie. It draws a false connection between a company that people in this area are presumed not to like (Walmart) and a local development , in the hopes that those negative opinions will transfer. If I wrote a piece that said “DMB might have gotten a loan from Bank of America!”, would that have any more merit that what Jack Morris has done here? What if I said, “DMB employees drive in cars that might be powered by Exxon gasoline!”? Or “DMB’s offices are in a building that might be powered by coal-generated electricity!” Ask yourself: a year ago, when Solyndra was riding high, would you have argued against the company because it had investment from “a Sand Hill Road investor with ties to Walmart”? No. Of course not. Because that would have been silly. The only thing more embarrassing here is that Save the Bay saw fit to link to this piece from their website. The enemy of your enemy is not always your friend. Sometimes he’s a crazy old man who doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
Laura Whittaker October 14, 2011 at 07:32 AM
Is this story a joke? Connect the dots and Kevin will be there - and I guess so will Cargill. Shouldn't Mr. Morris be more concerned about the ethics violations that have been reviled on the MP council? Stay in your own backyard and get out of ours!
Lynne October 16, 2011 at 03:35 PM
Ignoring the slight "stretch" behind funding connections and corporate activities is what the developers (and the incumbant politicians) hope citizens will do. This is the Countrywide, Lehman Brothers sense of omnipotence. This is what is driving ordinary citizens to the streets to protest. The Cargill/DMB plan is supported by the greed of realtors, the greed of politicians, and the greed of those who are drinking the koolaid of a new tax base and the "need" for housing. That new tax base will barely (if at all) pay for the new services a project of this magnitude will require. The "need" for housing has so many better solutions than building on a site that will obliterate open space, create massive traffic congestion and overburden the public services that are stretched to the maximum today. In-fill building throughout the Peninsula -spread the wealth around to all the cities - is the only practical solution.
Chris Manton October 17, 2011 at 02:28 AM
There is already an effort to provide in-fill building throughout the Peninsula, at least along El Camino, called the Grand Boulevard Initiative. http://www.grandboulevard.net/ However, it seems to me that coordinating agreement between the 19 or so cities, various transportation agencies, the existing property owners, financial lenders, environmental policies and, of course, the legal aspects is a logistical nightmare. Now I do believe in the Grand Boulevard effort, but I think it will be a very gradual transformation over the course of many years to achieve the initial goal, which includes additional housing. I don't think in-fill building and the Saltworks project (or for that matter any other new housing projects) is a mutually exclusive proposition.


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