Who the Hell is Carl Berg Anyway?

He appeared at City Hall the other day. He came like an avenging developmental angel, spewing bile and insults in his wake. He referenced a Broadway play, “Wicked,” and said “no good deed goes unpunished.” He rocked ‘em and he socked ‘em in a singularly awesome performance. All in the room were transfixed.

Meet Carl Berg.

Although you may not have heard of him, he is one of the wealthiest men in our valley and America. He once owned a soccer team, often appears on the Forbes richest list and, now, he frequently turns up at City Hall.  Unlike many other successful developers and entrepreneurs—the Sobratos leap to mind—he is becoming a major annoyance in our city. The Sobratos know how to give back; Berg just seems to want to take.  He now lectures the San Jose City Council on their lapses in judgment and common development sense while he contributes liberally to the cottage industry of lobbyists and their fellow travelers in that community of shills and wannabes.  Couldn’t he fund a library somewhere, or a theatre?  Or just buy another sports team or purchase an island in the South Pacific and annoy the natives instead?

Berg keeps his own counsel.

At a Rules Committee meeting the other day, he blustered that over $10 million had been spent on a study to convert industrial land to homes—another sea of single story neighborhoods—and that he was now disgusted enough with the break in faith to want to reverse course and reconsider the options.  How several thousand homes would help the cul de sac of Evergreen he did not speak to. He was shocked—shocked (!) at the bad faith.

Just who is Carl Berg?

More importantly, just who does he think he is?

His land in Evergreen was purchased as industrial to add to our tax base. Now he wants to add more homes and pay less taxes to city coffers—such a deal for a clueless council, he presumes.  I guess the fact that our police response time is getting longer and longer, and that our pools can’t be opened in the summer doesn’t bother him much. 

Wake up, Carl.  You do not own the city and can’t buy it like the lobbyists whose services and laughter are so easily purchased.  There is a new wind blowing now and the city is heading in the direction of common sense and good planning.  It does not include the purchasing of favors, as Berg attempted to do in the mayor’s election with large donations to the Democratic Party—money that violated the spirit, if not the letter, of our campaign rules. For the record, Berg probably never voted for a Democrat in his life and probably feels that the party is akin to Lenin’s cohorts in their assault on Western capitalism; yet, they are able to be purchased like Hessians of old, to fight the battle for bad planning in the city—so, here’s a pile of money from Mr. Berg. 

What a disgrace. What a shame. Oh, and by the way, who is Carl Berg anyway?


  1. Great piece today, Tom. For too long Berg has bullied his way through City Hall, and in most cases has gotten away with it. His attempts to brow beat anyone who he thinks stands in his way are legendary. His abusiveness of people—from the Planning Commission to city staff—shows his contempt for the process and lack of respect of people. It is far past time for him to clean up his act or to take a hike.

  2. Best part….“Just who does he think he is.”  Thanks for the expose.  Hopefully this council will never permit outsiders flashing money influence the development of our city.  The bottom line of profit is what makes such developers tick, not our welfare.  Shall we form a posse to escort this guy out of town?

  3. Oh, No. 1, or Carl, or whoever, if you are a real person, anytime you want to have a real debate, I’ll get the hall – you can bring some “seconds” if you choose – they’re easy to buy in this town and many are unemployed now.    TMcE

  4. Tom—The Democratic Party you refer to in this most interesting piece is the one that Zoe runs locally? The one that had a Barbara Boxer hug for Cindy, smiles from Diane, and cheers from Bill? These Demos not into money that fits the letter but not the spirit of campaign finance minuets? Demos that know nothing about having their way with lobbyists, planners and developers? Anyway, I thought you liked Arnie because he’s neither a Demo or a Repub, and actually is beyond feathering his own feathered nest, having feathers for just folks. Why is voting Democratic a good thing, or better than voting Repub, especially when Independent is a growing possibility?  How come the Murky doesn’t out this Carl Berg guy? More that’s strange. Does this guy actually live here? How long has he been operating? What are his past projects? Tell us more. George Green

  5. Who is Tom McEnery?  He is a man who loves the city of his family and where he grew up.  He is a man who is outspoken to anyone rich or poor who is doing something to hurt his city.  It is a terrible shame we don’t have more Tom McEnery’s in San Jose. He has the courage of his convictions and will stand up for them.

  6. I doubt that #1 was Carl Berg and don’t even know if he reads this blog.  If he does, I hope he would respond.  I would like to know how he contributes back to our community.  I don’t know the man and would like to hear his side of the story.  In these tough economic times San Jose needs all the philanthropists it can get.

  7. #1 could not have been Berg. If Berg had actually posted it would have been a screaming tirade filled with nasty attacks on all who dare disagree him. He probably won’t post because he couldn’t scream and shout and attempt to intimidate—he does that much better in person.

  8. Evergreen as proposed will be a future city budget,  envirnomental, open space and traffic disaster and needs to be cut back to less houses with future homes linked to 2 jobs for every 1 home triggers and traffic, streets, parks, community centers etc installed first

    We did not know what developer should be turned down for industrial to residential conversion – we now have know by Berg’s self nomination

    Berg’s bullying, nasty attacks, poor personal behavior and lack of community contribution should be rewarded by not rezoning his industrial property to residential so he gets his just reward for his poor behavior and do not profit from unneeded residential development in Evergreen

  9. If you don’t respect or contribute to San Jose community we should not give you development approvals worth hundreds of millions rewarding bad behavior and giving you city tax development subsidies ( no developer pays full cost of development in San Jose – taxpayers always pay millions in development costs )  to bad behaving developers

    Time to change the Development Rules in San Jose from “Give politicians campaign contributions and other favors” 

    to ” Why should San Jose give you development approvals worth tens millions if you are not contributing fairly to San Jose community improvements “

    Reward good community contributing developers and do not grant development approvals worth millions to Berg and jerks like him

  10. Billionaire Berg need San Jose to approve Evergreen development permits worth millions to him, We do not need Berg

    San Jose meets Jobs / Housing Balance goals unlike all other Silicon Valley cities that restrict housing development and heavily promote jobs and retail stores which brings in tax revenues

    San Jose provides tens of thousands homes for workers in other Silicon Valley cities which costs up more in costs than homes provide in taxes reducing our city services and quality of life for developer profits

    City Council should tell Berg he deserves to Go to

    ” Developer He** – where developer owns land, spends millions and can’t get profitable development permits ”

  11. Carl Berg was, at one time, the owner of the old NASL San Jose Earthquakes. 

    One of his unique ways of giving back to the San Jose community was to change the franchise name to “Golden Bay Earthquakes,” thus abandoning the San Jose identity that the franchise had maintained for its previous eight years of existence.

    It’s a surprise to me that Carl Berg isn’t frog-marched out of City Hall once he sets foot inside.

    Then again, if he wants more housing in Evergreen Valley, perhaps he’ll be willing to foot the bill in perpetuity for a police substation, more fire stations, and perhaps even a closer freeway access to the area than the 101/Yerba Buena interchange.

    Okay, y’all can stop laughing now…

  12. Unfortunatly, denying permits, i.e. ‘developers’ hell” would be a “taking” under the U.S. Constitution and would force the RDA to purchase the land. Isn’t that what CB wants?

  13. Billionaire Cupertino real estate developer Carl Berg should go back to Cupertino and try to bully and attack Cupertino City Council to grant development permits to build more Cupertino homes and see where it gets him    

    Real estate investors reading signs that valley rebound near – 2006-02-20


    When billionaire commercial real estate developer Carl Berg of Silicon Valley speaks, his industry peers listen.

    To justify their prices, Mr. Berg told Wall Street analysts recently, Silicon Valley buyers today will have to see “substantial” increases in rents in the next several years. If they don’t, “you have a whole bunch of idiots who are really going to lose a lot of money.”

    Only time will tell if today’s buyers are in fact “idiots,” or perhaps simply have different risk-reward expectations than Mr. Berg.”

    San Jose should tell him go home since he is an iidiot and we should increase San Jose’s rewards for approving housing developments and increase risks for bad behaving developers

  14. Just another man with too much money seeking t buy his way at the expense of the taxpayers.

    We have one of those in San Benito County.  Ignacio Velazquez ran for an assembly seat spending over $500,000 of his own funds in an effort to gain name recognition.  He appears to have always had his hand out for RDA money in devloping his businesses in downtown Hollister. 

    C. Peters

  15. I know who Carl Berg is. My husband spent several years working at a start-up at which Mr. Berg was a primary financier. When it became apparent that there would be financial challenges, Mr. Berg and the Leadership Team created a new class of stock that isolated the intellectual property of the company within the control of the Leadership Team. As a result there was nothing left of any value for any of the Employees who were holding common stock. When the company closed their doors with one day notice, the Employees did not even receive the full balance of their accrued vacation time from the company. It is interesting to hear that Mr. Berg can make significant contributions and hire lobbyists; it is too bad that the Employees of this failed company could not have received at least the vacation pay they had earned for their efforts on his behalf.

  16. I still thinl Sobrato is a good developer and does give back to the community.

    Berg is annoying, but Vidovich is the king of sleave.

    John Vidovich, like a browser on ebay, just goes around the county, plunks down 10 grand for support from people like Kevin Moore, and buys their votes.

    Every old person living in a mobile home should go to the Santa Clara City Council and watch their rent money at work, Kevin Moore on display.

  17. Carl Berg could be like John Vidovich and give Kevin Moore 10 grand for a college board race, and then get services rendered afterwards like the Tanning Salon patron Kevin tried to get on the Planning Commission to do Vidovich’s bidding.

  18. Now everyone go out and read the patty-cake piece on Mr. Berg in the current issue of San Jose Magazine.  You’d never guess it’s the same guy so many of y’all are reviling here.  I don’t have the mag in front of me here, but I seem to recall the mention made of his foray into home-building in Evergreen was positive.  They made him sound like a direct descendant of Mother Theresa.  Perhaps the piece was written by his publicist.

    I don’t know the man or much about him, but lots of SJInsiders seem to, and the verdict isn’t good. Bashing developers is even more prevalent than bashing lawyers these days.

  19. I don’t recall San Jose Magazine writing negative articles, to me the magazine has appeared to be one that gives access if the price or connections are right.

  20. Berg isn’t being bashed because he is a developer. It’s because he’s a boorish bully who treats people badly. He also happens to be a developer.
    As for San Jose Magazine, it’s not surprising they have a puff piece on Berg. That rag is just a step above the Inquirer and like tabloids. They don’t practice journalism, they simply do puff pieces on their select group of “society” folks and they don’t dig for a story. You are right, it probably was written by a publicist.

  21. WW #23:  Yes, SJ mag is a pay to play publication.  All the top lawyers, top docs listed are the ones who advertise.  I am not saying that the ones listed are not top lawyers or top docs; but they leave out lots of names who would be there if entry onto the list were truly based upon a vote of peers, as they claim.

  22. San Jose Magazine is a joke.  Take a look at the ads….get a bigger home…golf…granite countertops….upgrade your wife’s boobs….get your new car…..and the the content is a joke too….lets talk to 4 out of touch guys or gals and say “whats it like to date?”  when they have not dated in 40 years.  “what would you have on your desk?”

  23. #27 you hit it right on the head and everybody knows when {carl gaurdino} is on the cover you just know that it’s TRASH!
    (name spelled wrong on purpose)

  24. The New-n-Natural San Jose
    Carl Berg meet Hana Homeless

    Montecito Vista Park, AKA No Baño Park; a park with no bathrooms; no place to relieve ones self; no place to wash your hands; no place to enjoy the out of doors with the basic “civilized” amenities.  And they call this part of the Stronger Neighborhood Initiative?  Maybe it should be called S.B.I., the Strong Bladder Initiative. 

    Is this a trend that is sweeping San Jose? 

    Just off Taylor near the Guadalupe Creek Trail the City built a nearly $300,000 restroom. However, for months now it has been barred, locked and unavailable for those hiking and biking the nearby trial.

    Is this a trend soon to be city-wide?  Is this part of the S.B.I.?  Maybe not.  Maybe it’s part of a much broader and far reaching city-wide initiative… one intended to bring us all closer together; breakdown socioeconomic and ethnic differences; a plan to bridge that Great Divide and bring people together.

    By planting more trees, protecting indigenous shrubs and flora, and closing public restrooms, people everywhere who want to enjoy the out of doors will have to use trees and shrubs, much like our ancestors and others throughout the world.  Call it Back-to-Nature; call it conservation, fiscal responsibility, the great social equalizer, whatever you wish; this plan has promise. 

    Carl Berg, meet Hana Homeless.  “You first.”  “No, you first.”  “No, I’ll use the other tree.”  You get the idea.

    A Cyclist standing astride his bike just off the trail looking off into the distance… a woman squatting behind a bush as if looking at a wildflower… why not? 

    Robots build our smart cars.  Satellite radio, polished granite counter tops, energy efficient can lighting, genetically engineered medical wonders, laptop computers and the internet fill our lives with comfort and convenience.  Yet here in Silicon Valley the world of trees-n-bushes… B.Y.O.T.P. (earth tone / biodegradable) is well on its way.  Isn’t life wonderful? 

    This could bring a whole new meaning to the term, “The sweet smell of summer.”

    But what the heck, at least we’re all friends now; friends with a whole new respect for protecting those trees.  Right?

    Just think how this could expand the mindless cocktail chatter. 

    “Hi.  I know you, didn’t we meet just off the trail near yada-yada bridge last Wednesday?  You know; behind that elderberry bush?” 

    “That reminds me, I know this guy who harvests those things.” 

    “Really?  I’ve never tasted elderberries” 

    … and so it goes.  Life in the New-n-Natural San Jose.

  25. I can only ask myself…….where would sun micro , integrated devices, valence tech….battery powered cars and buses……and of course the valley would be if C.BERG wasnt ever around.  SNORT

  26. I ran into carl, he was told me how saddened he was by all the hurtful words on this blog that he was going to divide his billions into 33 portions so you could all donate it to how you see fit.

  27. Wrong on all accounts I have personally witnessed Carl berg give literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to multiple charities on a yearly base . Do any business with him and your guaranteed to get paid . Evergreen – What a joke no one I mean no one will ever construct a successful Industrial project there . It would be an absolute disaster. The project by the way was going to give the city millions of dollars..I bet you if you took all the jobs he has created .All the buildings he has built and all the companies he has started people would be amazed at the HUGE contribution he has made . to realize the mayor is really a novice in his planning is an understatement . I wish Carl could be heard as he is a self madebillionaire who has asked for little =especially from those who so easily bash him

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