(photo by architectural historian Michael R. Corbett, from SAFER’s appeal)
Update after the hearing: read all about it here.
In November 2018, the FBI raided the City Hall offices of Councilmember Jose Huizar. He has been charged with 34 counts of racketeering, and faces trial in June 2021. Councilmember Mitch Englander made a deal to avoid trial, and will be sentenced on January 25 on Federal corruption charges. His former deputy John Lee (now Councilmember) has been implicated by name in the crimes to which Englander confessed.
John Lee currently sits on the powerful Planning and Land Use Management (PLUM) Committee of Los Angeles City Council. Mitch Englander sat on PLUM until he resigned from Council just before the FBI raids. PLUM’s chair is Marqueece Harris-Dawson, who in December 2018 referred a major land use decision to Jose Huizar, who had been removed from PLUM in the aftermath of the raids.
That major land use decision—partial demolition of the landmarked Los Angeles Times for benefit of Canadian developer Onni Group—comes back before PLUM on Thursday, January 21. The public interest nonprofit SAFER continues to press their appeal, and accuses the City Planning Department of acting in bad faith, deliberately misreading CEQA law and relying on a transit study that “is a Trumpian reassertion… illogical, unsupported and unsupportable… an impartial observer could readily draw the conclusion that the responders seem more interested in preserving the DEIR unchanged than in making the good faith effort to disclose impact that CEQA demands.” (The City Planning Department replies: “No further response is required.”)
The PLUM Committee and its land use decisions is at the center of the Department of Justice investigation into public corruption in City Hall, and its members owe it to citizens to behave in a manner that avoids any appearance of impropriety. But as we said when the Times Mirror Square project was considered by the Planning Department in May 2019, “Frankly, it smells.”
Angelenos don’t know if Times Mirror Square is part of the public corruption investigation that brought down Jose Huizar and Mitch Englander, and that threatens to disgrace others, including John Lee. But we do know that Onni Group and the project’s land use attorney made large contributions to a PAC supporting Jose Huizar’s wife’s council campaign. PAC funding for PLUM votes is a quid-pro-quo activity that the government cites in its RICO charges against Huizar.
If you think the Times Mirror Square project smells, please send an email to PLUM by end of day Wednesday 1/20, or call in during the PLUM hearing at 10am on Thursday 1/21, asking that they approve SAFER’s appeal and direct the Planning Department to produce a new Draft EIR that properly responds to the many concerns raised in SAFER’s latest comment. A sample email / comment is below.
To make written public comment (by 1/20/21): Click here, and enter Council File #20-1080 with your comment.
Meeting call-in information (on 1/21/21 at 10am): The audio for this meeting is broadcast live on the internet at www.lacity.org/government/follow-meetings/council-committee-meetings. The live audio can also be heard at: (213) 621-CITY (Metro), (818) 904-9450 (Valley), (310) 471-CITY (Westside) and (310) 547-CITY (San Pedro Area). Members of the public who would like to offer public comment on the items listed on the agenda should call 1 669 254 5252 and use Meeting ID No. 161 644 6631 and then press #. Press # again when prompted for participant ID. Once admitted into the meeting, press *9 to request to speak. You will be giving comment on items #9 and #10.
Sample email or spoken comment (feel free to copy or adapt this to your own voice): Dear PLUM Committee, My name is [my name] and I’m a resident of [Neighborhood/City]. I am very concerned about the appearance of impropriety surrounding the Times Mirror Square Project, which citizens have reason to believe may be part of the FBI’s investigation into public corruption around land use in former councilmember Jose Huizar’s Downtown district. To avoid the appearance of impropriety, it is essential that you grant SAFER’s appeal and direct City Planning to produce a revised draft environmental impact report (“RDEIR”) and recirculate the RDEIR prior to considering approvals for the Project. SAFER’s thorough challenge to the FEIR is convincing and troubling. Please do the right thing and send this flawed FEIR back to the drawing board. Thank you.”