Condos, Lies, and Automobiles 

Port Commissioner Tony Batarse is supposed to live in Oakland, but he has a habit of not telling the truth and may reside in a tony Peninsula suburb.

First there was Ed Jew, the San Francisco supervisor who claimed to reside in the city while living in Burlingame. Then came Chris Kavanagh, the Berkeley rent board member arrested by authorities near his Oakland cottage. And now there appears to be a third Bay Area public official who doesn't live where he's supposed to — Oakland Port Commission President Anthony "Tony" Batarse Jr.

Batarse is a politically connected multimillionaire who wears immaculate suits, drives a baby-blue-colored Bentley, and made a fortune selling new and used cars. He owns several North Bay and East Bay dealerships, including the Lloyd A. Wise dealership headquartered in Oakland. He also is close friends with Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and a faithful campaign contributor to state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata.

As a member of the board overseeing the fourth-largest container port in the nation, Batarse is required by the Oakland City Charter to reside within city limits. He claims that his official residence is in the farthest reaches of East Oakland in one of the toughest neighborhoods in the city. But his real home seems to be in the ultra-expensive Peninsula suburb of Hillsborough, where he owns a six-bedroom, five-bath house occupied by his wife and son.

In two face-to-face interviews last week, Batarse admitted that he spends some of his time in Hillsborough with his family, but maintained that Oakland is his true home. "In my heart, I live in Oakland," he said. "I feel I'm a citizen of Oakland."

But interviews and a review of public records show that Batarse has a long history of lying about where he lives. At the very least, he is a scofflaw who appears to have committed perjury, voter fraud, and possibly, tax fraud. For example:

San Mateo County records show that even though Batarse says he lives in East Oakland, he has been taking the homeowner's exemption on his property taxes for his Hillsborough home since at least 1985, including last year. Under state law, it is illegal for a property owner to take the exemption — which lowers one's tax burden — on a home other than the one he lives in.

Since January 2002, Batarse has listed the headquarters of Lloyd A. Wise auto dealership at 10550 International Boulevard, Oakland, as his official place of residence with the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Under state elections law, it's illegal to use a business address when registering to vote, and voter registration affidavits are signed under penalty of perjury. In last week's interviews, Batarse admitted that he has never lived at the dealership.

Although he doesn't reside at the dealership, he installed a bedroom, shower, and full kitchen there — and proudly showed them off. However, according to city records, he never obtained permits for the shower, dishwasher, stove, and oven he had put in — even though he also served for three years on the Oakland Planning Commission, which enforces the city's permitting laws.

Batarse maintained that he has nothing to gain financially from claiming Oakland as his home because port commissioners are unpaid. But as president of the commission, he wields considerable influence over the city's waterfront, seaport, and airport.

For instance, one of his first major votes after then-Mayor Jerry Brown appointed him to the commission in June 2003 was to approve the sale of more than sixty-plus acres of public waterfront land, known as Oak-to-Ninth, to a major Perata campaign contributor. In fact, Batarse has been a reliable supporter of projects and deals that benefit friends and donors of De La Fuente, Perata, and Brown since joining the commission.

Records and interviews also show that the 74-year-old Batarse has engaged in a pattern of lies and deception from the moment he said he first "moved" to Oakland nearly ten years ago. He said he originally relocated because he once fell asleep on the San Mateo Bridge while driving home to Hillsborough and because he felt a debt of gratitude to the city where he made his fortune.

But Batarse's real motive may have been to quickly establish residency after then-Mayor Elihu Harris appointed him to the Oakland Planning Commission. In fact, county and city records show that Batarse first registered to vote in Oakland on January 29, 1998 — three weeks after he began serving on the commission.

Batarse also repeatedly claimed that his first Oakland "home" was a condo at 555 Tenth Street, near downtown. But county property records reveal that he did not buy that condo until February 1999 — more than a year after he supposedly moved to Oakland.

When he originally registered to vote in Oakland in January 1998, he listed his official residence as 1446 104th Avenue — a small house around the corner from the dealership. But Batarse admitted that he never lived at the 104th Avenue home, and only stayed there on occasion. Nonetheless, he continued to list that address as his official residence with the registrar of voters until January 2002 when he switched it to his workplace — which is now a Honda-Kawasaki motorcycle dealership.

Batarse said he moved that year from his 10th Street condo to his new "home," a three-bedroom condo, around the corner from the dealership. However, when asked the address of this condo that he claims to have lived in for more than five years, he had to look it up in his personal address book (it's 1473 Tucker Street).

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