Tag Archives: Los Angeles City Planning

How José Huizar Was Desperate In 2017 — Gil Cedillo Too — For Anyone — Anyone At All — To Support Demolishing Parker Center Cause Everyone — Like Everyone! — Wanted To Preserve It — So Huizar Flunkies Megan Teramoto And Ari Simon — Who Used A Secret Email Address By The Way — And Cedillo Flunky Gerald Gubatan — Ginned Up Support From A Bunch Of Little Tokyo Business And Property Owners — Coached Them In How To Comment — And The Little Tokyo-Ites Did It To Gain Huizar’s Support For Their Favored Projects — And That Is How Community Buy-In Is Bought And Sold At 200 N. Spring Street


To get some context for the events discussed herein, take a look at this excellent preservation-minded timeline.

In late 2016 the erstwhile LAPD headquarters known as Parker Center was yet again threatened with demolition.1 CD14 repster José Huizar made some pretty noises about preserving it, but really, there’s no money in that for anyone, and by January of 2017, when a crucial series of hearings began, he had thrown the full weight of his councilmanic power behind the wrecking ball.

And even though the decision on Parker Center was strictly up to the City Council, which can unilaterally override every City commission or board, and that means that the decision was strictly up to Huizar alone,2 for whatever reason Huizar apparently was reluctant to tear the building down based on nothing more than his raw desire and power to do so.

It’s hard to say why this was the case. Possibly because the Cultural Heritage Commission had taken the fairly unprecedented step of recommending Historic-Cultural Monument status on their own motion, or maybe because the mostly reliably subservient Los Angeles Times had editorialized against demolition, or possibly because phone calls to his office were disproportionately in favor of not tearing the damn building down.

In fact, according to Kristin Fukushima of the Little Tokyo Community Council quoting an unnamed Huizar staffer, CD14 had “gotten like 20 calls this am telling us to preserve it and none to demo it. Also extremely expecting like 40 ppl tomorrow to show up supporting preservation.” In a city with a functioning representative democracy we might at this point expect Huizar to change his position given that no one seemed to support him.3 But this is Los Angeles, friends, which is why instead of changing his position he did what Councilmembers always do when faced with this dilemma.

That is, he ordered his staff to go out and gin up some supporters to come give favorable comment at some meetings in favor of his already-determined position. Comments from the public in favor of whatever a given CM has already decided to do are pearls of great price at 200 N. Spring Street, the preferred medium of exchange, the Fort Knox gold that backs the currency in which political capital is measured.4 Such comments, along with letters to council files, and similar things, are collectively known as community buy-in. A Los Angeles City Councilmember can generally do whatever they want to do, but with community buy-in they can do it with impunity.5

So Huizar’s aides set out to buy some buy-in. They hit up people from business improvement districts and like-minded nonprofits, e.g. the Little Tokyo BID, the Downtown Center BID, the Little Tokyo Service Center, and the Little Tokyo Community Council. And these paid commenters6 showed up in force and did what they were expected to do. And I’ve obtained dozens of emails showing the coordination,7 the use of Gmail addresses by at least one Huizar staffer, the unexplained participation of Gil Cedillo’s planning deputy Gerald Gubatan, and the expected quid pro quo in the form of Huizar’s anticipated support for various Little-Tokyo-centric pet projects. Turn the page for links to and transcriptions of selections from these emails, arranged into an epistolary narrative!
Continue reading How José Huizar Was Desperate In 2017 — Gil Cedillo Too — For Anyone — Anyone At All — To Support Demolishing Parker Center Cause Everyone — Like Everyone! — Wanted To Preserve It — So Huizar Flunkies Megan Teramoto And Ari Simon — Who Used A Secret Email Address By The Way — And Cedillo Flunky Gerald Gubatan — Ginned Up Support From A Bunch Of Little Tokyo Business And Property Owners — Coached Them In How To Comment — And The Little Tokyo-Ites Did It To Gain Huizar’s Support For Their Favored Projects — And That Is How Community Buy-In Is Bought And Sold At 200 N. Spring Street

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The South Park BID Solicited — Or Extorted — Donations Totalling $80,000 From Developers To Pay For Some Studies They Wanted Done — In Return The BID Sent Staffers To City Council Committee Meetings To Give Public Comment In Favor Of The Developers’ Projects — Using Talking Points Supplied By The Developers — Money Well Spent For The Developers I’m Guessing Since Councilmembers Probably Won’t Approve Projects BIDs Oppose — This Is One Way In Which The Illusion Of Community Buy-In Is Created And Maintained In Los Angeles — One Of The Developers Involved Was Lightstone Group — Whose Lobbyists Are Also Being Investigated In Relation To José Huizar — Because Of Course They Are

Here’s the short version. In 2017 the South Park BID wanted to lobby Metro concerning some transportation issues. To do this they needed some reports prepared by professionals who were going to charge them around $80,000. For whatever reason they didn’t want to pay out of the BID budget, so they hit up local developers for $5,000 contributions. In exchange the BID supported the developers’ various projects before City Council committees and commissions using talking points prepped by the developers to inform their public comments.

First, let’s talk about the two issues the BID was, and is, lobbying for. One is to establish an enhanced infrastructure financing district (EIFD)1 to fund transit improvements in the BID, in particular moving Pico Station underground.2 The BID’s “one pager”3 on the benefits to be gained from the EIFD can be read by clicking here and their presentation on “undergrounding” Pico Station is available here. The other issue has to do with improving connections between various presently disconnected-by-public-transit points Downtown. The BID’s presentation on that can be read here.

And of course before one goes a-lobbying one needs reports! Written by experts! And experts don’t come cheap, but they will provide proposals with estimates of the costs, and here are the two the BID obtained:

And based on these estimates, the South Park BID determined that it needed $80,000 to begin the report-making process. And for whatever reason, they also determined that they were only going to pay $5,000 themselves. The rest, saith the BID, they were going to raise from developers and maybe some other BIDs Downtown. And the story of this whole mess, told, as usual, in excruciating detail via transcriptions of emails, can be found after the break!
Continue reading The South Park BID Solicited — Or Extorted — Donations Totalling $80,000 From Developers To Pay For Some Studies They Wanted Done — In Return The BID Sent Staffers To City Council Committee Meetings To Give Public Comment In Favor Of The Developers’ Projects — Using Talking Points Supplied By The Developers — Money Well Spent For The Developers I’m Guessing Since Councilmembers Probably Won’t Approve Projects BIDs Oppose — This Is One Way In Which The Illusion Of Community Buy-In Is Created And Maintained In Los Angeles — One Of The Developers Involved Was Lightstone Group — Whose Lobbyists Are Also Being Investigated In Relation To José Huizar — Because Of Course They Are

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Mike Bonin Instructs City Planning And City Attorney To Study Possibility Of Using Zoning To Protect Local Independent Businesses In Venice With Goal Of Preserving Unique Neighborhood Character — Where Are Gil Cedillo With Highland Park And José Huizar With Boyle Heights In This Conversation? — There’s An Ungodly Amount Of Money At Stake In All Three Neighborhoods But Only In Venice Are Zillionaires Losing Their Community Character

UPDATE: This motion now has a council file number, which is CF 07-0629-S1. Note that this is a supplemental file and the original motion was by Bill Rosendahl (!) in 2007 to accomplish the same thing, but it died on the vine. The original file was CF 07-0629 and Rosendahl’s original motion is here.

Well, for God’s sake. Mike Bonin, councilcrumpet in charge of that formerly holiest of holy neighborhoods, the late lamented Venice, seems to have just noticed that independent businesses as opposed to chain stores can contribute a great deal to the character of the community. With that in mind he introduced this motion in Council this morning instructing the City Planning Department and the City Attorney to study the possibility of preventing chain stores from ruining everything even more than it’s already ruined by copying San Francisco’s anti-chain-store zoning laws.

And as much as I hate Mike Bonin, and as much as I don’t go to Venice any more because I’m not a freaking necrophiliac, I think these kind of laws are a good thing. The City of Los Angeles gives so much power to zillionaires and their BIDological sock puppets to shape the character of the neighborhoods they’ve colonized and almost no power at all to the residents. Super-restrictive zoning laws like the ones proposed here can take some of that power away from the property owners and shift it over to individual non-zillionaire residents who, after all, are the ones that made their neighborhoods desirable and so whose opinions really ought to be heeded.

So even though I’m sure that Mike Bonin’s motives are despicable, and even though I’m sure all his reasons are wrong, toxic, and repellent, nevertheless, even as a hundred monkeys with typewriters sometimes produce a coherent blog post,1 so it seems does Mike Bonin occasionally propose an at least superficially laudable motion. The big question though that this raises is where is Gil Cedillo? Where is José Huizar?2

Highland Park, mostly in CD1, and Boyle Heights in CD14, also two of the holiest holy neighborhoods of this grand and holy City, are being raped, killed, and eaten just as Venice was raped, killed, and eaten starting some thirty years ago. But it’s not too late to stop the damage there before it’s irreversible. Cedillo and Huizar have the opportunity to do what e.g. Ruth Galanter, on whose watch Venice started circling the drain down which it’s long since disappeared, was unwilling to do to save these irreplaceable neighborhoods with whose care they’ve been entrusted.

Why aren’t they right up there with Mike Bonin asking staff to study how to save Highland Park, how to save Boyle Heights? Why aren’t they seconding Bonin’s motion instead of Paul Freaking Krekorian? Rhetorical questions, of course. They’re not saving Highland Park or Boyle Heights because it’s worth too much money to destroy them. Because Bonin’s zillionaire Venice constituents will get what they want but the poor, the working class, residents of Highland Park and Boyle Heights have no money and therefore no leverage at all with their Councilmembers. In thirty years, no doubt, their successors will be proposing exactly this same kind of motion, too late to raise the reeking corpses. As usual there’s a transcription of the motion after the break.
Continue reading Mike Bonin Instructs City Planning And City Attorney To Study Possibility Of Using Zoning To Protect Local Independent Businesses In Venice With Goal Of Preserving Unique Neighborhood Character — Where Are Gil Cedillo With Highland Park And José Huizar With Boyle Heights In This Conversation? — There’s An Ungodly Amount Of Money At Stake In All Three Neighborhoods But Only In Venice Are Zillionaires Losing Their Community Character

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More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

Oh dear, CPRA material from various BIDs, fascinating stuff, is pouring in as usual and just piling up on my metaphorical desk while I write post after post after post about the Ethics Commission‘s ongoing effort to revise the Municipal Lobbying Ordinance. Well, it can’t be helped, because the MLO is essential.1 Part of the process is holding a bunch of meetings to seek input, the first of which took place last Thursday.2 I’ve also posted my take on the various proposals. I’ll get to the BID stuff as soon as possible, friends, but meanwhile, here’s yet another MLO post.3

If you’ve been following the conversation you’ll know that the lobbyists opposing the proposed revisions have argued consistently that the City doesn’t need more regulations imposed on lobbyists who, according to them anyway, desperately want to follow the law but instead needs to register the herds of unregistered and unregulated lobbyists swarming around City Hall.4

They’re not wrong that there are far, far too many unregistered lobbyists. Turning these people in to the Ethics Commission is one of the main purposes of this blog and I have, uncharacteristically, to agree with the registered lobbyists that there are an awful lot of unregistered lobbyists haunting 200 N. Spring Street and that the ease with which they can be detected is astonishing.5

Where they are wrong is in their claim that there’s some kind of dichotomy between registering the unregistered and revising the laws. Mostly the people pushing this idea, that somehow revising the law and registering the unregistered are mutually exclusive, seem to be doing it only to distract everyone’s attention from how badly the present law needs revision and, possibly, how badly their subterranean activities might be exposed were the law to be revised.

At least that’s how it sounded in last week’s meeting when John Howland, late of the CCALA but more recently employed by Arnie Berghoff and Associates, broke out with the same old routine, of which I’ll spare you a transcription, because it’s essentially content-free. However, at that same meeting supervillainesque land use attorney Bill Delvac also had quite a lot to say, most of which, in contrast to the self-serving contributions of his fellow flacks in the so-called regulated community, was quite interesting.

On the subject of unregistered lobbyists, for instance, Bill Delvac asserted that not only were there bunches of them, but that many of the lawyers who professionally oppose development projects are engaged in lobbying, and that essentially none of them are registered. He also, surprisingly to me, revealed that many of his clients had reported such lawyers to the Ethics Commission but that no action had been taken. Heather Holt, executive director of the Commission, corrected him, saying “perhaps no public action.”

And turn the page for some comments on the more technical parts of what Bill Delvac had to say, including the only colorable argument I’ve ever heard against a compensation-based definition as the main criterion for registration as a lobbyist.6 There is also, as usual, a transcription of all relevant remarks.
Continue reading More Scenes From The First Interested Persons’ Meeting — Über-Lobbyist Bill Delvac Reveals That His Clients Tactically Report Their Opponents In The Land Use Wars To The Ethics Commission As Unregistered Lobbyists But No Action Is Ever Taken — Heather Holt Corrects Him With Provocative Obliquity: “Perhaps No Public Action,” Quoth She

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United Downtown LA Paid Liner LLP More Than $45,000 To Lobby Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council In Q2 2017. Payments From First Quarter Are Still Undisclosed

Background: You can read my previous stories on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and also see Jason McGahan’s article in the Weekly and Gale Holland’s article in the Times for more mainstream perspectives.

You may recall that shady downtown municipal lobbying firm Liner LLP was hired by the even shadier anonymous Delaware incorporated United Downtown LA to lobby against the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and that I turned them in to the City Ethics Commission for failing to amend their disclosure forms to disclose United Downtown as a client as required by LAMC §48.07.

Well, yesterday was the filing deadline for Second Quarter disclosures, and Liner filed theirs on time. It’s required by law for lobbying firms like Liner to disclose their clients and also how much money they got paid by each client. This time they actually did list United DTLA1 and it turns out that they were paid a stunning total of $45,010.40 to lobby against the SRNC. And this is just for Q2.2 It’s likely, or at least possible, that when the Ethics Commission gets around to investigating my complaint they’ll find that Liner was paid even more in Q1.

Oh, and check out the address that they put on the form for United Downtown. That’s Liner’s address. Full-service anonymization going on. That this much money was spent to stop a neighborhood council suggests that the NC system is really badly broken somehow.
Continue reading United Downtown LA Paid Liner LLP More Than $45,000 To Lobby Against Skid Row Neighborhood Council In Q2 2017. Payments From First Quarter Are Still Undisclosed

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On November 21, 2016 Blair Besten Told The City Of Los Angeles That Her Zillionaire Developer Bosses Were Ready To Gentrify And Build Out Skid Row And Listed The Kinds Of Zillion Dollar Handouts, Tax Breaks, And Zoning Giveaways They Wanted. Seven Weeks Later She Was Lobbying José Huizar In Opposition To Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation. This Is Not A Coincidence

Background: You can read my previous stories on the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort and also see Gale Holland’s article in the Times for a more mainstream perspective.

Scott Gray of major Skid Row property owner Capital Foresight, likely behind-the-curtain string-puller for the covert anti-SRNC lobbying campaign, was famously quoted in the Downtown News in March 2017 with respect to the Skid Row Neighborhood Council formation effort to the effect that:

…the pending proposal to divide Downtown Los Angeles into separate geographic districts will have significant fiscal and far-reaching economic impact on the entire city

Anyone who attends to the shady world of Los Angeles real estate development can easily imagine in the abstract the kinds of things Scott Gray means, but there has hitherto been very little specific information about what he was talking about.

It turns out that in November 2016 Blair Besten’s megadeveloper bosses at the Historic Core BID had their heavy artillery aimed at Skid Row and had begun soliciting the usual array of sleazy under-table giveaways, such as tax abatements, relaxed zoning, and so on. It’s no surprise at all, then, that when the Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation Committee’s proposal was approved by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment in January 2017 they flipped out to the astonishing degree that they did. As always, documentation and highly detailed description after the break.
Continue reading On November 21, 2016 Blair Besten Told The City Of Los Angeles That Her Zillionaire Developer Bosses Were Ready To Gentrify And Build Out Skid Row And Listed The Kinds Of Zillion Dollar Handouts, Tax Breaks, And Zoning Giveaways They Wanted. Seven Weeks Later She Was Lobbying José Huizar In Opposition To Skid Row Neighborhood Council Formation. This Is Not A Coincidence

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