CFAH

Walter Wong, the permit expediter for the 555 Fulton Street project and head of the W. Wong Construction Company, has agreed to repay the City for $1.45 million in no-bid contracts and grants awarded to Wong and his companies by San Francisco’s Department of Public Works, the SFPUC, and a grant administered by the City Administrator’s Office in exchange for gifts he provided to then-Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru and the then-General Manager of the SFPUC, Harlan Kelly.

In addition, Wong will pay $317,650 in penalties and late fees for failing to disclose campaign contributions and contacts as a permit expediter and will be barred from doing business with the City or acting as a permit expediter for a period of five years.

At the same time, Wong is awaiting sentencing on federal charges of conspiring to defraud the public, “through a scheme involving bribery, kickbacks, and the concealment of material information,” as well as having conspired with Nuru and others, “to engage in money laundering, to disguise and conceal the proceeds of fraud,” charges to which he pled guilty last year and the sentencing for which is conditioned upon his agreement to provide “information, documents, and testimony to the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in San Francisco city government.”

Comments from Plugged-In Readers

  1. Posted by soccermom

    Maybe we should just outlaw permit expediting? I mean why doesn’t everyone face the same process?

    • Posted by Bayview_Rising

      Seriously. And maybe have closed permits be a signal that the permitted work actually meets code. Which, to me, seems like the entire point of a permit to begin with. Currently, it simply means the work “appears to be consistent with code” which is completely meaningless.

      • Posted by SFRealist

        This would be a fine solution. Everyone should have to follow the law. If the law is broken, fix the law, don’t let rich and connected people create exceptions.

      • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

        Inspectors usually don’t do a complete check of everything built. They tend to spot check and create punch lists when those spot checks find sub-par work. So it is hard to claim with 100% confidence that the work meets code.

        I’ve found all sorts of code violations left behind by contractors who’s work passed inspection. One of the most egregious cases was a live wire I found snipped off inside of a wall. No accessible J-box as required by code. No wire nut. Not even taped off. Just snipped and forgotten.

  2. Posted by Jimmy the Kid

    Wow that is a sweet deal for Walter.

    • Posted by SocketSite

      The agreement above is to settle a civil suit brought by the City Attorney.

      Wong pled guilty to federal charges of conspiring to defraud the public, “through a scheme involving bribery, kickbacks, and the concealment of material information,” as well as having conspired with Nuru and others “to engage in money laundering, to disguise and conceal the proceeds of fraud,” last year and is awaiting sentencing, which is conditioned upon his agreement “to provide information, documents, and testimony to the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in San Francisco city government,” as since added above.

  3. Posted by www

    Why wasn’t this a criminal case?

    • Posted by SocketSite

      Wong pled guilty to federal criminal charges of conspiring to defraud the public, “through a scheme involving bribery, kickbacks, and the concealment of material information,” as well as having conspired with Nuru and others “to engage in money laundering, to disguise and conceal the proceeds of fraud,” last year and is awaiting sentencing, which is conditioned upon his agreement “to provide information, documents, and testimony to the ongoing federal investigation into corruption in San Francisco city government.”

      The agreement above is to settle a civil suit brought by the City Attorney.

  4. Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

    It will be interesting to see whether Nuru, Kelly, or Hui are implicated in this racket.

    • Posted by Unlivable_City

      OK so everybody knows this is the teensy weensy tip of the iceberg, right? When you have over a billion $$ a month sloshing around 49 sq miles (multiples more, for instance, than Riverside County and its cities at 7000-ish square miles!) there is going to be hundreds of millions of that per year going to dubious purposes and squiggly people. We have these non-profits for instance that have metastasized into conglomerations (esp in the Bayview and the Mission) with these kinds of Tzars at the top, raking in tens of millions or more for a bewildering array of “services” with no serious review or performance metrics. And with the feds dumping millions (likely billions) more for everything from COVID to stimulus to sea level rise abatement, its a helluva party these days over at City Hall. And since the number one employer of former news reporters is as spokespersons for the very interests they are supposed to be covering, don’t expect any exposes anytime soon.

    • Posted by Kyle S.

      Nuru’s already well implicated in this one, isn’t he?

    • Posted by The Milkshake of Despair

      … and then things took a turn towards weird: Embattled former S.F. official arrested in knife incident.

  5. Posted by redseca2

    Meanwhile, I was enjoying the link from the Construction Physics website. It is very easy to find San Francisco on all of the various charts looking at construction costs around the world. Their final take:

    The US does particularly well at building homes, apartments, and other projects that have low administrative overhead or government involvement.

    The US does particularly poorly at projects with a high degree of administrative burden, government oversight, or where the government is a major stakeholder. European countries do far better by comparison. Hello San Francisco!

  6. Posted by Matt Allenford

    Why do we need expediters? Because the building department is one big ball of molasses. I’ve offered to pay for permits, revisions, etc. It takes months for them to even take my money. Have one small change and need to resubmit… months of waiting for an appointment. SF DBI and Planning are a total mess.

    • Posted by SFRealist

      Which is obviously by design. DBI employees have no interest in moving things along. They all know they will retire to a fat gig as an expeditor. They don’t want to simplify the process.

  7. Posted by Pablito

    As someone who gets a lot of projects through the City process – abet minor projects 🙂 – I’ve seen graft dozens of times over the past 20 years. Hopefully it gets better – it really needs to if we are going to build a better city.

    The plethora of meaningless rules to enforce, the overly elaborate review processes with no oversight or timelines for completion, leads to a system ripe for corruption. That nonsense just seems to increase every year.

  8. Posted by Bob calzone

    I have just applied for the expeditors job
    Since the vacancy opened up
    I will only charge builders 10% of the job cost
    No permit no pay

    95% success rate guaranteed

    • Posted by sparky-b

      “A” expeditor job opened up, not “the” expeditor job.

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