Special Report: Yes on S Uncovers Pay to Play In LA City Government

City records show backroom governing and undue developer influence upon L.A. elected leaders

Yes on Measure S released today a special report of official city information that reveals how L.A. City Hall works behind closed doors, on behalf of developers and usually without the knowledge of the public, to get around the city's zoning rules. Most developers donate to L.A. elected leaders throughout the backroom process.

The special report, "Pay to Play In Los Angeles City Government," contains a comprehensive timeline of private meetings and dinners involving billionaire developers, elected City leaders and their staffs. It reveals that private meetings are rarely granted by elected leaders to L.A. residents who question the developments.

The timeline, entirely made up of official city documents released under the California Public Records Act, or official city campaign finance and lobbyist data published by the L.A. City Ethics Commission, includes:

  • Dates and people present at private backroom meetings between developers and City Council officials and city employees;
  • Donations received by elected officials from these developers during the process;
  • City Council approval of projects achieved by badly bending L.A. zoning rules, often after private meetings and/or donations from the developer.

Nine Los Angeles City Council members were asked by the Coalition to Preserve L.A. to divulge this public information. All nine often failed to release the exact subject of these backroom meetings with developers. They divulged only the fact that the meetings happened, in response to California Public Records Act requests by the Coalition.

The nine L.A. City Council members, of 15 on the City Council, were asked for their official appointment calendars regarding these large-scale developments, because their Council Districts contain a significant number of projects that have been allowed, by vote of the City Council, to ignore city zoning rules.

Some of the nine City Council members responded long after the 10-day deadline under the California Public Records Act (CPRA).

City Councilman Jose Huizar failed for several months to provide his meeting calendar. Councilman Huizar complied with California state law only after attorneys for the Coalition demanded that he divulge this public information.

The official city data provides a direct look at the campaign and lobbying cash spent to influence City Hall leaders as they decide, in a non-transparent and money-influenced system, how and where L.A. and its neighborhoods should absorb large-scale developments.

The official city campaign and lobbying data, and the official calendars released by City Council members, show that collusion between mega-developers and elected officials is endemic. Zoning is for sale at City Hall.

Read about projects in all parts of the city:

1. 333 La Cienega luxury tower, Beverly Grove, developer Rick Caruso;

2. Koreatown skyscraper, Koreatown, deveoper Michael Hakim;

3. Cumulus luxury skyscraper, South L.A., developer Carmel Partners of San Francisco;

4. The Reef, Historic South-Central, developer Kanon Ventures;

5. 8150 Sunset, Sunset Strip below Laurel Canyon, Townscape Partners;

6. Sunset Palladium, Hollywood, Crescent Heights of Miami;

7. Crossroads of the World, Hollywood, developers Morton La Kretz and Harridge;

8. NoHo West, North Hollywood, Merlone Geier of San Francisco and Goldstein Planting Investments;

9. Clarendon luxury complex, Woodland Hills, developer AMCAL Housing;

10. Martin Expo Town Center, West L.A., developer Martin Automotive Group;

11. The Alexan, downtown LA, developer Trammell Crow of Dallas;

12. The Ferrante, near downtown LA, developer Geoff Palmer. 

Four of these projects -- The Reef, NoHo West, Clarendon and The Ferrante -- are freeway-adjacent housing, known as Black Lung Lofts. The LA Times and LA Weekly have published in-depth articles about the serious health risks by living near a freeway.

Despite a much-lauded, recently published LA Times investigation about freeway-adjacent housing, the L.A. City Council still approved the Clarendon project on Friday, March 3. That luxury housing complex sits next to the 101 Freeway.

To read the full report click here.


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