Developers Spend $1.7 Million on LA City Hall Lobbyists to Break Rules

Seeking big favors from L.A. City Hall, a cadre of developers recently threw $1.7 million at high-priced lobbyists, according to a new city Ethics Commission report. Those lobbyists then wooed the City Council and planners to toss out local zoning rules that protect residents and neighborhoods.

This week, the Ethics Commission released its lobbying report for the third quarter of 2016. Once again, developers shelled out huge sums to politically connected lobbyists for insider access to City Council members, who rubber stamp “spot-zoning” that allows luxury mega-projects that threaten neighborhoods and ignore the rules.

On the Ethic Commission’s “Top 10 Highest Paying Clients” list, nine are among the worst rule-breaking developers.

Ordinary Angelenos are left out of the loop as backroom deals overwhelm their neighborhoods with giant buildings and traffic. Community leaders say L.A.’s system is broken, rigged and unfair — so they’re backing Measure S, the March 2017 ballot measure that returns power to citizens.

Between July 1 and September 30, the nine developers on the Top 10 list spent a whopping $1.7 million on powerful lobbyists, who then held backroom meetings with City Council members, the Mayor’s Office, the Department of Building and Safety and the Department of Planning. Residents are never invited to these backroom meetings.

Crossroads Associates led all developers by paying its lobbyist $285,232. Crossroads wants to bend and ignore zoning rules to build a triple-skyscraper, mega-complex at historic Crossroads of the World on already absurdly gridlocked Las Palmas at Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.

Hudson Capital LLC spent $274,777 on lobbyists. Hudson Capital wants to break the zoning rules to build an 18-story office tower at Sunset Boulevard and Bronson. It will add thousands of cars per day to the jammed boulevard and tower over the residential neighbors around Bronson.

Townscape Partners spent $230,046 on lobbyists. Townscape wants to build the illegal and hideous Frank Gehry mega-development at 8150 Sunset that will back up traffic into Laurel Canyon at levels never seen before. Fix the City, a group that fights to force the City Council to fix L.A.’s overburdened infrastructure, is suing the city of L.A. over its dubious handling of 8150 Sunset.

Lowe Enterprises Inc., the global luxury hotel billionaires who are bankrolling a nasty political attack on the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative, spent $154,496 on lobbyists. Lowe Enterprises wants to build a Westside luxury hotel a few blocks south of Hamilton High School on Venice Boulevard in Palms, on one the city’s most congested blocks.

Harridge Development Group spent $114,558 on lobbyists, Essex Property Trust spent $113,359 and developer CH Palladium spent $109,931.

CH Palladium is controlled by the Miami-based billionaire family led by Sonny Kahn. The Kahns, along with Lowe Enterprises and another billionaire developer, are bankrolling the anti-reform campaign to defeat the Neighborhood Integrity Initiative — and to stop residents from shaping the future of their own communities.

Measure S will fix City Hall’s rigged planning and land-use system by empowering citizens, not developers. Developers get backroom deals from City Hall called “spot-zoning” that let them ignore L.A.’s protective zoning, and build far bigger and taller than allowed.

Manipulation of L.A.’s broken system by developers has resulted in gridlock traffic across the city, ruined neighborhoods and displaced longtime residents and mom-and-pop shops.

In the first three quarters of 2016, lobbyists reaped a shocking $44.7 million from developers and many other big businesses to influence City Hall leaders, according to the Ethics Commission.

The lobbyists are also raising campaign cash and “officeholder account” funds — also known as slush funds — for City Hall politicians:

  • Veronica Perez & Associates brought in $69,100 for Friends of Eric Garcetti officeholder account and $4,100 for District 15 Council member Joe Buscaino’s re-election campaign;
  • Englander Knabe and Allen handed over $7,000 to City Council President Herb Wesson’s officeholder account, which pays for meals, travel and other expenses;
  • Strategic Government Affairs gave $7,100 to Friends of Eric Garcetti officeholder account;
  • And Harvey A. Englander raised $6,300 for Wesson’s officeholder account.

That’s how lobbyists gain quick, insider access to L.A. politicians — something that citizens very rarely get.

But Angelenos can fight back.

Vote Yes on S on March 7.

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