A couple months ago I wrote on how a massive development project in CD1 was approved. One of the aspects of the story most surprising to me was the intimate involvement of lobbyists at every stage of the process. Somehow I had thought that their role was more like influencing City officials, suggesting outcomes to them, talking to them, and so on. Something like ordinary public comment even if supercharged by highly enhanced access to official ears.
But it turned out to be far more than that. E.g. lobbyists actually write ordinances, resolutions, and motions which are then submitted to Council by Council District staff. The lobbyists understand City procedures much more clearly than electeds and staff. In some sense the lobbyists are actually running the planning and land use process with civil service staff effectively working for them. In the case I wrote about in March Gil Cedillo’s planning director, Gerald Gubatan, seemed to do little more than serve as a conduit between lobbyists for the developers and City civil service staff.
And I’m sure this is the norm, but given the dedication with which City officials and staff flout the requirements of the California Public Records Act proof is pretty hard to obtain. However, despite such obstacles there are still a few clues available here and there. For instance, let’s take a look at a project, apparently pending at least since 2017, at 2110 and 2130 E. Bay Street in the Arts District in CD14.
This is a massive project with the usual nauseating mix of live/work and creative blah blah blah of the too-familiar type beloved of zombie urbanist flackmonsters like Urbanize LA. Like all such projects, this one requires bunches of spot-zonings, variances, general plan changes, and so on. In particular, in exchange for a mere 12 “restricted affordable units” the City is proposing to rezone the parcels from Heavy Industrial to Commercial Industrial.
Continue reading Zillionaire Developer Albert Taban — Of The Famous Zillionaire Taban Klan — Is Building A Whole Block Mixed Use Monstrosity In CD14 — The Arts District — 2110 Bay Street — Which Needs Any Number Of General Plan Amendments — And Rezoning — And The Usual Load Of One-Off Ad Hoc Bespoke Exponential Property Value Multipliers Poured Out By Our City Council — Like Yummy Slop — Into The Piggy-Trough At Which These Developers Gorge — And So Taban Hired Lobbyists As These Zillionaires Will Do — But For Whatever Reason Jose Huizar Isn’t Pushing This One — So Eric Garcetti Took A Break From His Self-Declared State Of Emergency — And Sent It To The Planning And Land Use Management Committee Last Week — Which Might All Be Business As Usual — Who The Heck Even Knows? — But What’s Not So Usual Is That Stuart Waldman — LA Olympics Booster — LA 2028 Board Member — Supreme Commander Of Rightwing Fash Front Group VICA — Valley Industrial And Commercial Association — Who Is Not One Of The Lobbyists Hired By Taban — In Fact He’s Not A Registered Lobbyist At All — Actually Wrote The Damn Rezoning Resolution — That Got Submitted To Planning Commission Unchanged — Which Is Revealed By The Metadata — Waldman’s Not On Any Other Record As Being Involved In This — In Some Cities The Lunatics Are Running The Asylum — In Los Angeles The Piggies Are Running The Trough — Is It A Surprise Everything’s Falling To Pieces?
On Tuesday, March 17, 2020 the Los Angeles City Council considered an emergency ordinance to halt evictions and give renters 24 months to cover missed payments. Or at least that’s what the original motion, introduced by CD11 rep Mike Bonin, called for. During the debate, though, various other councilmembers, notably Paul Krekorian, Paul Koretz, and Herb Wesson, argued passionately against the harm that such an ordinance would do to the proverbial mom and pop landlords by giving these deadbeat tenants so damn long to settle up.
Two years is far long, they said. Mom and pops can’t afford to wait, they said. Will increase default rate, said they. They said all kinds of impassioned stuff in favor of reducing repayment time by a murderous 75%. But one of the things they didn’t say was that all three of these councilmembers are themselves landlords. It’s impossible to imagine that they weren’t thinking of their own interests while arguing to amend this motion. I wrote a piece on this a few days ago, the research for which also revealed that they weren’t the only three, by the way.
It turned out that Jose Huizar, Nury Martinez, and Curren Price are also landlords and also voted yes on the change to a 6 month grace period. My method of landlord discovery relied solely on Form 700s, which are annual financial disclosure forms required of elected officials in California. And rental income is a specific category which must be identified as such. For instance, consider the relevant section from Paul Krekorian’s most recent filing.
But it turned out that this method was flawed. Not flawed in the sense of producing false positives. The six that I identified are in fact landlords. Flawed, though, in the sense of producing false negatives based, as it is, on the disclosures being honest. And that’s how I missed the fact that CD4 representative David Ryu is also a landlord, although it’s certainly not obvious at all from his most recent Form 700. First, take a look at the relevant section:
He lists an assessor’s parcel number rather than an address. I didn’t previously look up the property, though, because he checked off the box indicating that he’d received no rental income. It turns out, though, that skipping this was a huge mistake on my part. I finally did look into the matter and it turns out that I had previously missed everything! Read on for the whole astonishingly sordid story of David Ryu and this property!
Continue reading David Ryu Certainly Seems To Be Yet Another Landlord On The Los Angeles City Council — And Apparently Perfectly Comfortable Voting On Various Tenants’ Rights Issues Without Recusing Himself Or Even Mentioning It — He And His Sister Esther Bought A Four Unit Apartment Building In 2018 — And Immediately Signed It Over To A Shady Entity Called Daejopia LLC — Controlled By Their Brother Joseph — Ryu Acknowledged On His Form 700 That He Owns The Building — Although He Lists It By Parcel Number Rather Than Address — But Denies Receiving Any Rental Income From It — Which Seems Really Highly Unlikely Given That It Appears To Be Fully Occupied — But Maybe He’ll Explain Himself If For Some Unknown Reason It Is True — Did I Mention That Kenneth Yoon — Who Sold The Building To David And Esther Ryu — Turned Around And Gave Ryu An $800 Contribution A Month After The Deal Closed? — And That The Ryus Only Needed To Borrow $460K On What Was Apparently A $840K Transaction?
On March 11, 2020 Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez sent a letter to her colleagues announcing that in response to the coronavirus emergency Council would meet weekly for the rest of the month. The Los Angeles City Charter at §242 gives the Council the sole power “to organize its business [and] prescribe the rules of its proceedings” subject only to a couple of limitations. But one of these limitations is directly on point and requires Council to meet at least three times a week with no exceptions:
The Council shall hold regular meetings at least three days each week. Meetings may be held in City Hall or elsewhere in the City. By resolution, the Council may establish periods during which the Council or its committees will be in recess.
Three meetings a week are required by the Charter. And the office of Council President is established by the Charter as well, at §243, but the only power granted there is to replace the mayor when necessary. All other powers of the Council president are granted by the Council Rules. And obviously the rules can’t override the Charter.
Note that §242 does give the Council itself the power to go into recess, and probably the Council could choose to go into recess except on Tuesdays, but this power must be exercised by resolution, not by the unilateral decree of the Council President. Resolutions require a vote of the full Council, to be placed on a publicly posted agenda, and public comment accepted.
I’m not sure what penalties there are, if any, for violations of the Charter, but it’s surely a violation of the oath of office, found at §215, which includes the City Charter among the laws that Councilmembers are sworn to support. It’s true that extraordinary times require extraordinary measures, and that elected officials need extraordinary powers during emergencies. But extraordinary powers are extraordinarily dangerous and must be limited by law, which Martinez has exceeded here.
Continue reading In Response To The Coronavirus Emergency Last Week Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez Ordered Council Meetings To Be Held Only Once A Week — But It Sure Looks Like This Is A Violation Of The City Charter — Which Requires The City Council To Meet At Least Three Times Per Week — And Grants The Power To Declare A Recess Only To The Full Council By Ordinance — Not To Council President By Unilateral Decree — And While We’re On The Subject Of Enumerated Powers — It Appears That Herb Wesson Did Not Have The Power To Remove Jose Huizar From All Council Committees
Yesterday the Los Angeles City Council considered and passed a long list of motions intended to alleviate some of the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic on our City. One of the most essential of these was CD11 rep Mike Bonin’s motion to stop evictions and ban late rent fees until the end of the emergency declaration and then give renters 24 months to pay missed rent.
The meeting itself was interminable and the public is excluded from City Hall and had to sit out on the front patio under a tent. But fortunately a number of extremely hard-working reporters were on the case, and it’s due to the incomparable Sahra Sulaiman‘s live-tweeting of this episode that I’m able to tell the story I’m telling here.
Sulaiman reported that Paul Krekorian, our second fashiest councilmember, was all about 24 months to repay being far, far too long:
Can’t tell who (Krekorian?) suggests that we are shifting loss bc if we give tenants too much time to pay back, the grace pd may extend beyond their lease and therefore end up being uncollectable. And that we need to consider more options, like applying security deposit to rent.
Krekorian went on to say that:
He acknowledges some folks will never be able to pay it back and that some landlords can absorb that, but others cannot, and that may have other negative consequences.
Got it? Paul Krekorian acknowledges that some landlords can absorb the loss from tenants not paying back rent while other landlords cannot absorb the loss. This is his reason for wanting to cut the repayment period down from 24 months to 6 months.
Hey, did you know that California state law requires public officials like Paul Krekorian to file annual disclosures of their financial interests? Well, it does. They’re called “Form 700s” and here’s Paul Krekorian’s from 2018. And as expected, rental income is income and thus counts as a financial interest to be listed on the form.
Continue reading Yesterday The Los Angeles City Council Eviscerated A Reasonably Good Eviction Moratorium Motion — On The Insistence Of Paul Krekorian And Herb Wesson — Who Kept Talking Up The Needs Of The So-Called Mom And Pop Landlords — Who In Everyone’s Fantasies About Capitalism On A Human Scale Are Not Insatiable Villainous Psychopaths Like Non Mom And Pop Landlords Are — And Somehow Neither Krekorian Nor Wesson Thought It Was Worth Mentioning That They Themselves Are Mom And Pop Landlords — As Is Paul Koretz — And Nury Martinez — And Curren Price — And Jose Huizar — And Mike Bonin’s Husband — Although Bonin Voted Against Krekorian’s Eviscerating Motion — So At Least There’s That
I’m a little late in writing this up, but on December 9, with the able assistance of Abenicio Cisneros and Joseph Wangler I filed yet another petition under the California Public Records Act seeking to compel the City to follow the damn law and hand over a bunch of records I had asked for ever so long ago. And as they often will do, they actually started handing them over immediately, although I haven’t gotten the most interesting ones yet.
The petition covers three major requests, unrelated other than by the fact that they were all made to the City’s Information Technology Agency. These are the folks to file CPRA requests for emails with if you want MBOX format, which ultimately is the best way to get emails. ITA is also the sole source for emails in the accounts of former City employees. Here’s a link to the very interesting petition, worth reading for many reasons and also containing every last detail of the requests at issue, described more briefly below.
First is a request I first made in 2016 for emails having to do with Eric Garcetti when he was repping CD13, his staffers Heather Repenning and Helen Leung, and their conspiracy with Kerry Morrison, then-commander of the Hollywood Entertainment District BID, to illegally exclude homeless people from Selma Park in Hollywood.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The California Public Records Act – This Time Over Emails Concerning Various Matters Of Public Concern – Garcetti/Repenning/Morrison Conspiracy Against Selma Park – Wesson Corruption – Huizar Corruption – Less Than Two Weeks After Filing They Already Conceded Fault And Are Producing Documents – This Is No Way To Run A Damn City
Maybe you recall that about two weeks ago I was forced by the weirdly intransigent refusal of CD14 rep Jose Huizar’s staff to comply with even the most minimal requirements of the California Public Records Act into filing a petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court pleading with a judge to hang these blockheads by their toes in Grand Park until they freaking handed over the goods.
And because egregious, shameless, absolutely appalling noncompliance is a pattern and practice of these jokers over at CD14 well, today I was forced for the same reasons but a different request, to file yet another writ petition. You can get a copy here, written by the dogged and able Doug Ecks, who’s also handling my previous petition against Huizar’s office and who successfully handled a similar matter against Gil Cedillo earlier this summer.
Here I was seeking about three years of emails between Richelle Huizar and CD14 staff including Jose Huizar. Richelle Huizar was long seen as Jose Huizar’s anointed heir to the CD14 dynasty, but in the wake of his fairly super-sized legal problems she made the probably wise decision to withdraw from the race. And she wasn’t likely to be mere bycatch, either. Her position as a fundraiser for JH’s former high school was at the very center of the scandal.
So given her years-long embroilment in the ongoings at City Hall, and given the fact that everyone does everything by email these days, I thought it would be illuminating to take a look at these records. But alas, it was not to be. Jose Huizar staffer Isaiah Calvin eventually handed over a pathetic 51 pages of material, insanely redacted, obviously exceedingly, ludicrously incomplete.
Continue reading This Is Not An Instant Replay! — In Fact It Is For Real A Whole New Lawsuit Against The City Of Los Angeles For Failure To Comply With The Public Records Act — And This One’s Against CD14 Just Like The One From Two Weeks Ago — Looking For Emails Between Richelle Huizar And City Staff — More Isaiah Calvin Nonsense — Claims It Is Clearly In The Public Interest To Withhold Her Emails — Maybe A Certain Segment Of The Public I Could Believe — That Segment Consisting Only Of Richelle And Jose Huizar — But The Rest Of Us Need To Read These Damn Emails! — And — You Know — I Am Betting That We Will!
This is just a very quick note to announce that due to CD14’s well-known and weirdly intransigent refusal to comply with even the most minimal mandates of the California Public Records Act I have been forced to file a writ petition against these outlaw City officials seeking to enforce my constitutional right to read their damn emails.
On December 30, 2018 I asked Paul Habib and some other Huizar staffies for “emails between email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and at least one of email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.” Note that the two police there are Marc Reina and Deon Joseph respectively. They hummed, hemmed, hawed, and noped and eventually produced 62 pages of ludicrously incomplete emails. For instance, they produced the first page of a 14 page thread about Night on Broadway but not the other 13 pages. And crazy stuff like that.
And they claimed, possibly due to the inclusion of Deputy City Attorneys Gita O’Neill and Kurt Knecht in my request, that they had withheld some material under the attorney/client privilege. But you know, and this is good CPRA practice, when possible I like to hit up as many agencies as possible for the same or overlapping material. It’s the best way not only to get complete sets of stuff but also to check whether responses are honest. And, sadly, often they are not.
Continue reading City Of Los Angeles Sued Yet Again To Enforce Compliance With The Public Records Act — This Time It’s Over CD14’s Obstinate Refusal To Produce Emails Between Staffer Joella Hopkins And Various City Officials — Mostly Having To Do With Homeless Issues — CD14 Commo Deputy Isaiah Calvin Risibly Claimed That Dozens If Not Hundreds Of Emails Were Exempt As Attorney Client Privileged — But I Obtained Some Of These From Other Sources And — He’s Lying — Or Confused — Or Both — But That Doesn’t Matter Under The Law — Hence This Petition
With yesterday’s revelations that Betsy De Vos and seven other members of the Trump administration are being investigated by the House Oversight Committee for their illegal, unethical, appalling, and hypocritical use of private email addresses to conduct public business I thought it was a good time to catch you all up on the state of my investigation into private email use by our own local City Council folks, precisely none of whom are being investigated by anyone for this specific transgression.
Previously I discovered and revealed that Mitch O’Farrell, David Ryu, and Gil Cedillo all have privately controlled email accounts through which they conduct City business. Jose Huizar also does this, but I didn’t break that story, the FBI did. And today, thanks to a huge set of emails I recently received from the ever-courtly Colin Sweeney, director of communications over at CD12, I can, for the first time of which I am aware, break the news that the name of Sweeney’s current boss, the infamous Greig Smith, belongs right smack on that list as well.
The email address in question is email@example.com. The set linked to above only contained a few examples of Smith’s use of this email address to conduct City business, but then I only picked them up by accident. Thanks, as we know, to the monumental 2017 opinion in City of San Jose v. Superior Court, these emails are public records in themselves. Of course I have a request in already for the rest of them, but I imagine it could be a long process. Or maybe not, we’ll certainly see! Read on for links to the emails along with some commentary.
Continue reading Interim Councilmember Greig Smith Has A Private Email Address — Conducts City Business Through It — firstname.lastname@example.org — For Instance — Among Other Pretty Sleazy Things — Uses It To Communicate With Lobbyists At Englander Knabe & Allen — Founded By Harvey Englander — Uncle Of Smith’s Predecessor And Protege Mitch Englander — Like A Whole Trump Family Incestuous Secret Email Vibe Going On Out There In The Damn Valley Innit?!
OK, remember that former council aide Mayra Alvarez is suing all-round creepy councilbro Jose Huizar for workplace creepism and at the same time the FBI is raiding dude’s house and making him and, more generally, pretty much everyone on the fourth floor of 200 N Spring Street really freaking nervous? And so Huizar filed a motion recently asking the court to put a hold on Alvarez’s civil lawsuit against him because he wouldn’t be able to defend himself without compromising his defense in the FBI stuff. And yesterday Alvarez filed an absolutely smashing opposition to Huizar’s motion. Just hammered the dude, hammered him.
The argument is essentially that Huizar never established that there is even a criminal case against him. He never said what this putative criminal case might be about. His best evidence that there is a criminal case seems to come from the LA Times. So unless he’s either charged or coughs up some evidence that he’s likely to be charged, says Alvarez, the court should let the case go on.
The argument cites, clearly, Alvarez’s interest in having the case go forward so that she’s not denied justice through delay, but, interestingly, also invokes the interest of other City employees and the public at large in having Huizar’s workplace misdeeds exposed. There’s a transcription of selections below, but if you only read one part, read this:
So, Huizar’s desire to stay this matter pending a vaguely described “criminal investigation”—one with an unnamed target and undescribed purpose—is simply a stall tactic so that the Councilmember can ride out the rest of his term while continuing to shield his misdeeds from the citizens of this City and continuing to collect a taxpayer-funded paycheck.
But, “the fact that a man is indicted cannot give him a blank check to block all civil litigation on the same or related underlying subject matter. Justice is meted out in both civil and criminal litigation.” And, here, Huizar has not even been indicted. The bottom line is: Huizar has not been charged with a crime; his motion does not affirmatively state that he himself is the target of the FBI’s investigation (as opposed to a peripheral witness or subject); nor does Huizar’s motion come even remotely close to describing what the FBI is actually investigating such that he can reasonably represent to the Court that criminal charges against him are even possible. Thus, at this point, Huizar’s motion appears to be based purely on conjecture, and he is merely using seductive—albeit empty—rhetoric to goad this Court into granting him a reprieve from further public scrutiny and embarrassment. The Court should decline such invitation and deny Defendant’s motion unless and until Huizar is either charged with a crime or proffers affirmative evidence that he is the target of the FBI’s investigation.
Continue reading Mayra Alvarez Files Absolutely Smashing Opposition To Jose Huizar’s Motion To Stay Proceedings — “[Huizar] is merely using seductive—albeit empty—rhetoric to goad this Court into granting him a reprieve from further public scrutiny and embarrassment — The Court should decline such invitation and deny Defendant’s motion” — Hearing Scheduled For June 24, 2019 at 8:30 AM — Stanley Mosk Courthouse Dept 17
The quick background is this: Soon-to-be-former Councilbro Jose Huizar is being sued by two former employees for generally egregious workplace creepiness. One suit was filed by Mayra Alvarez and the other by Pauline Medina. Of course, he’s also being investigated by the FBI for general criminal kingpinitude. And, according to Huizar, he can’t defend himself against Alvarez and Medina without revealing information that will harm his defense in the not-yet-filed criminal case against him.
Thus did he announce recently that he will be filing motions to stay both civil cases until after the criminal case is over with. However, according to Huizar, he can’t even adequately explain why the civil cases ought to be stayed without revealing the same secrets, so recently he filed motions asking the two civil case judges to allow him to file his motions to stay under seal. The Medina judge denied his request outright but the Alvarez judge scheduled a hearing to allow Huizar to present his case.
And so on April 19 Huizar filed his motion asking the court to allow him to file his motion to stay under seal, and you can read the motion here. Interestingly Huizar also requests that, if the court won’t let him file the whole motion in secret, that he be allowed to file only parts in secret, and the parts are listed line by line by line. Interestingly, he also refuses to actually admit that there’s a criminal case being built against him, referring in the motion to a “purported criminal investigation initiated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation”
Huizar also somewhat disingenuously argues that he’s not seeking to keep all the paper filed in the case secret, but only this one single motion. He doesn’t mention that the motion he’s seeking to conceal would have the effect of stopping the case, so there won’t be any more papers filed to keep secret.
There is also a transcription of selections after the break. I’m not sure when the opposition to this motion is due, but I’ll post a copy when it shows up. Also, according to the Los Angeles Times, their lawyers plan to intervene and ask the judge not to allow the motion to be sealed. If and when they file any pleadings I’ll post copies of those as well.
Continue reading Jose Huizar Files Actual Motion Asking For Permission To File His Motion To Stay The Proceedings In Mayra Alvarez’s Workplace Creepiness Suit Against Him Till After The Criminal Case Is Done — He Lays Out Line By Line Which Parts Of The Motion To Stay Reveal Secrets — Hearing On This Is May 16 At 8:30 AM — Stanley Mosk Courthouse Department 17