20
Sat, Jul

100 Percent Clear

ERIC PREVEN'S NOTEBOOK

ERIC PREVEN’S NOTEBOOK - KCAL had a story on Sunday night about a group from among the thousands of Studio City Residents who are vigorously opposed to Harvard-Westlake's so-called River Park Plan.  

"This land is for the people" the group chanted, while holding signs, putting chains around trees, and making what they described as "a last-minute push to save the Studio City Golf and Tennis Club."  

Smart Speaker: It's not a club, and eventually the school will realize that without the hearts and minds of Studio City, their war will never end.  

The very same KCAL telecast showed a harrowing video of a woman being swept through Studio City in a surprisingly fast-moving River.  A dangerous fast water rescue was performed by helicopter.  

Smart Speaker:  Nothing to see here, keep moving  Raging Waters Studio City.  

Dear LA Times Editor Cindy Chang: 

Do you know if anyone attended the National League of Cities Annual Congressional City Conference? Tuesday, March 12, 2024 through Wednesday, March 13, 2024 in Washington, D.C.   

It may have been overlooked with all the boondoggling to Sacramento, Paris and finally, Japan (without the mayor). I'm pretty sure Paul Krekorian called ONE  recess day to git it all done.  

This coming week, the City Council will once again be on recess.   

City Council:

  • Council Recess: Tuesday, March 26, 2024 through Wednesday, March 27, 2024.
  • Good Friday: Friday, March 29, 2024.  

And though April showers certainly bring... May flowers...first let's have a little more recess! 

  • Eid al-Fitr (End of Ramadan): Wednesday, April 10, 2024. 
  • Passover: Tuesday, April 23, 2024 through Wednesday, April 24, 2024. 

 Board of Supes:

This week the Board of Supervisors, who have substantially cut back their meeting schedule, face back-to-back cancellations. ("Ridiculous!"  "Sit down, Mr. Preven.") 

  • Board Meeting Cancelled March 26
  • Board Meeting Cancelled April 2 
  • The next Regular meeting of the Board of Supervisors will be on April 9th! 

The Jewel of Studio City:

"This is not a done deal," said one resident with a megaphone. "This is the jewel of Studio City...  the only place for miles around."  

When an imperious Academy sets out to remove hundreds of trees, it's critical to have a sympathetic frontman or front woman.   

Putting a cheerful spin on a devastating act of selfish greed by a nontaxpaying set of entitled jerks is harder than it looks.  

Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown, a lobbyist who rode the coattails of alum mayor Eric Garcetti and has arguably harmed the school's brand more than anyone save, Paul Krekorian, who has worked tirelessly for the Trustees ever since they put him in the game back in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2018...etc. 

Responding to legitimate questions from the Public about the robust plans to bulldoze the last bit of green space in Studio City, is not a plum assignment.  cc Marqueece. 

We thought it would make sense to ask the big-money Trustees who are backing the School's proposed River Park plan, a few questions.  

I drew up a list and offered it to NPR and Sixty Minutes imagining that substantial gravitas would be required to bring some of these fatcats to the microphone.   In fact, I was quite sure that the outlets mentioned wouldn't go there.  

Nithya Raman, the Councilmember from CD4, folded. 

Lindsey Horvath, of Supervisorial District 3, has faced public comments on the subject but so far remained silent. 

Trusteeship:

The school's motto, Possunt quia posse videntur. Translated typically as "They can because they think they can."   

The HW Trustees is a stately and “civically engaged” group of big money donors and thanks to a $43M donation from Charles Munger, they bought the golf and tennis a few years ago.  

Now, major financial players, many of whom are also linked to UCLA, USC, and Olympics LA28 have mobilized to change the zoning and bulldoze the old trees to put a giant athletic complex with a stadium and two plastic fields that have been described as a giant rubber doormat.   They even want a second Olympic-sized pool, baffling residents.  

Neighbors are mobilized and made a video: Purpose Beyond (video) 1 min 36 seconds from local opposition:

 

Among the trustees, there are several professional sports team owners and Anthony Pritzker (a Hyatt billionaire) who lives over the hill in a 49,300 square foot mansion has committed over 100M to plunk an enormous structure in what was always publicly accessible open space.  

He’s a cousin of Penny Pritzker (former Sec. Of Commerce) and JB Pritzker (Gov. Illinois). 

A list of the HW trustees from the school’s 990 follows; the school does not pay tax as it is a not-for-profit.  

Here’s a list of the latest crop of Trustees... a "who's who" of big-money influential people.  

Alan Wilson, Chair  Wendy Wachtell  William Barnum  John Weissenbach  Mark Attanasio  Robert Beyer  Peter Bing  Jae Min Chang  Jean-Marc Chapus  Diana Chen  Bradford Edgerton  Jane Eisner  Javier Ferreira  David Fisher  Eric Garen  Joni Hamilton  Jeffrey Harleston  Philip Holthouse  James Feldman Horn (left 6/22)  Jean Kaplan   Stephen Keck  Robert Kotick  Jaime Lee  Alan Levy  Robert Malone  Charles Munger  Alfred Osborne  Anthony Pritzker  Spencer Rascoff  Deborah Reed  Alison Ressler   Michael Segal  Melanie Staggs  The RT REV John Taylor  Charles Thornton  Shirley Wang    

Famous alumni include Tony winner Ben Platt, Pulitzer Prize-winning LA Times reporter, Julia Wick, Eric Garcetti, The Ambassador to India and former mayor, …many more.  Jeff Millman! Jamie Lee! 

The management of the school, from the 990 is: 

Richard Commons, President $830,000  David Weil, CFO. $361,000  Edward Hiu, CAO. $332,000  James De Matte, $302,000  Laura Davidson Ross, $283,000  David Ruben, $260,000  Jonathan Wimbish, $254,000    

The guy they got to step up and defend the plan is Terry Barnum a likeable shlub who comes across like your beloved gym teacher.  Not personally up on whether Terry is related to the Brentwood Associates William Barnum, a prodigious donor on the board of trustees for the school.  It doesn't matter. 

Terry Barnum: "We understand that there are those that have fond memories and feel nostalgiac about playing golf and tennis at Weddington... the river park plan includes a gym, two fields, tennis courts, a pool, and park space all of which will be made available to the public." ... "additionally, river park will use less water, have more trees and be more sustainable than the current property."  

The KCAL reporter didn't talk to the Trustees or give them a chance to…. respond to the Legal action from residents against the school and the city.   

Many feisty residents are convinced that the project is not happening as quickly as Harvard Westlake would like the community to believe. 

Smart Speaker:  Will the school come to its senses?  As the lady said, ”It’s too large for this site. It's inappropriate for this site."    Who will stand up for the trees? 

Another very interesting dimension has emerged, as an elite bunch of private equity investors, defile our community, apparently, precious tee times at L.A. city golf courses have been bought up by brokers who are marking up the time slots.  

Naturally, golfers are desperate and outraged.   

Smart Speaker:  Excellent!    

Next Item, Sir: 

Paul Krekorian, Council President (CD2):  Mr. Katz, I think Chair Yaroslavsky covered most of the points I wanted to talk about, but just very briefly, clearly the department (LADWP) has been shaken in recent years by a series of scandals.  

Smart Speaker:  Sir, Matt Hale, your best boy went there,  and you are constantly acting as if you are on your way over to join him as an important climate leader.  

Paul Krekorian, Council President (CD2):  There's a clear need for fundamental cultural and ethical reform. And I'd just like to hear your thoughts about how as a leader of the commission, you'll be able to help direct that move towards reform.   

Richard Katz:  I appreciate that, Councilman. And my commitment is to be open and transparent. I think that's part of the way you inoculate yourself against bad things happening. And I think the department, which is made up of primarily great people. There's always a couple that screw everything up, as we all know. 

Karo Torossian with Edgar Khalatian of Mayer Brown ... looming in the background.

 

Richard Katz:   But my commitment is to being transparent and open, acknowledging the problems and working hard to make sure that that's all in the rearview and the future is going to be bright. 

Paul Krekorian, Council President (CD2):  Well, thank you. And you will be the voice of the citizens. And it's important that the commission continue to work hard to penetrate through the barriers of bureaucracy within the DWP to really make sure that that culture is transformed. 

Just a brief comment. You mentioned LA 100. So did Chair Yaroslavsky. I want to make sure that everyone is 100 percent clear that LA 100 is not a goal of the DWP.  It's the policy of the City of Los Angeles. This is not something we hope to achieve. This is something that the council and the mayor have determined will be achieved.  And so the commission and the department must understand that this is not something that we're, you know, crossing our fingers and wishing for. 

Smart Speaker:  Edgar Khalatian will be available very soon by some calculations and Dave Rand is also very good when it comes to Englander-style public benefit operations.  Unfortunately, the multi-millionaire who worked on smart homes and now, has been cooperating with FBI against Ray Chan… not available.  

As you recall,  Mr. Chan and Jose Huizar, who is already been sentenced to 13 years, enriched themselves in exchange for facilitating massive downtown construction projects.  Ray Chan's attorney fell ill, causing a mistrial, and now the second trial is underway.   

Smart Speaker:  Like the graffiti tower. 

Yes.  Coverage seems to be active here ... esoteric.substack.com 

I read in their article about a meeting I remember from December 13, 2016 

 

This was way back when, Englander was still mad with power and Paul Krekorian was the facilitator, and fixer in chief for Herb J. Wesson, who ruled the city with an iron fist inside a velvet glove.  

The wind blows from the west to the east, as Wesson used to say as he puffed minty ones with Mitch Englander on the forecourt.  Wesson, the master trickster, who would misplace speaker cards, and then sick LAPD officers on anyone who would object.   

On the December 2016 date, Mitch Englander talks about a glitch on his auto-vote button, before popping up to say he really liked, “Mr. Krekorian’s amendment.” 

It was a period when the council was sneaking around about Judgement Obligation Bonds to cover egregious liability costs.  I predict this will happen again, so public beware.  Mr. City Controller!   

If you could break down the city lawsuits and make them a bit more accessible. The recent document you produced reads like a 73-volume set of the Babylonian Talmud. 

The Mayor and Buscaino:

I’m pretty sure Joe Buscaino has not violated any Ethics rules by jumping in with a professional lobbying outfit that operates in Washington DC as well as around the country in selected cities and counties. Florida seems to be something of a home base for Ballard but the whole point is to invest in the person, not the parish.  

Buscaino is a past president of the National League of Cities.   

This year’s Annual Congressional City Conference, for which the City of Los Angeles took a week-long recess, was attended by zero members of the council.  

If I got that wrong, please correct me.  A cursory review of the official X account showed plenty of bigwigs, like Senator Alex Padilla, Pete Buttigieg and POTUS who gave a speech to the longtime group, but not the LA contingent. 

Former Mayor Eric Garcetti and Former City Councilmember Joe Buscaino

Buscaino was spotted with no sleeves in India at a “Knucklehead” reunion with the US Ambassador to India. 

Joe Buscaino, who served two terms on the council before losing a bid for mayor last year, joined Ballard Partners, a governmental and public affairs lobbying firm with offices in Washington D.C., Florida, Boston, Tel Aviv, Istanbul, and Los Angeles.   

He was happy to join the LA’s World Trade Center’s trade mission to India to get a better understanding of the U.S. Government’s work and priorities in India where the strategic priorities lie in our national relationship and the role Los Angeles plays within it.  Cha-ching!  

More than 100,000 Indian Americans live in our metropolitan area, strengthening the rich multicultural fabric of our community.  

Buscaino said, “Many thanks to my fratello, Ambassador Garcetti, and his entire staff for welcoming me and my fellow delegates. This trade mission was a proud LA moment for us to see our former colleague blossom in his role as US Ambassador to India.”  

#JustSaying 🌈🇮🇳💁‍♀️ #CulturalClash #HappyHoli   

"Special thanks and gratitude to Stephen Cheung, President & CEO, World Trade Center Los Angeles and his amazing team who facilitated our mission." 

Councilmember Buscaino served as the Chair of the City’s Trade, Travel and Tourism Committee from 2017-2022. He helped secure the 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games for the City of Los Angeles as a member of the Ad Hoc Committee on the 2028 Olympics and Paralympic Games.  

His committee oversaw the Port of Los Angeles – the busiest container port in the United States; LAX – the second busiest airport in the United States; and the LA Tourism and Convention Board.  

Knucklehead, seems fair, but Ballard has some big dogs who can rope in the Governor of California for a you know…influence check, chit-chat.  

t video]

 

A Lottery with No Ticket:

Judge Carter follows the people with lived experience on Twitter or X.    

Yes ___

No  ___

Do u know LA STEP fund?  It’s microloans/grants for people who have been served eviction notices. You apply I have a link to it in my but haven’t tried it myself. Like a payday loan but I think u really only repay what/when u can (not sure how hard they try to collect) & if you’re going to credibly study a pilot of The Call, you need to track a control group for which assistance is withheld, & I have ethical issues with that (as well as the hard disqualifying of all people who have already lost their housing).   

I think The Call model is an easy thing for scammers to copy & prey on ppl & it takes the agency out of recipients if the best assistance that exists is that which you can only simply wait around for it to happen to you…& you hope it’s you & not your neighbor w the same issues.   

I know it’s helpful for people it helps but it’s basically a lottery u can’t enter & don’t know u have a ticket in & when I’m going thru hard times my phone number is changing & I’m not picking up from unknown callers. & definitely wouldn’t believe someone who wanted to give me $ Is it something they can reasonably access or request in their time of need or is it heavy systems surveillance & data sharing with philanthropy-backed saviorism that calls people who trigger the magic combination of payday loans, 5150s/ER visits, parking tickets & overdrafts?  

Fair enough about RRH but i dont think its well known that a homelessness nonprofit with major contracts at both city and county levels is pushing people back to the street. We saw LAFH do this to an entire motel of people and at one house of 4 people.   

I hope it comes out how many evictions organizations like @LAFamilyHousing  is assisting with because they’re shamelessly being intermediaries for landlords and sheriffs, kicking their own clients out of interim motels and permanent housing. They’re called “removals” or “terminations” when not carried out by LASD & very difficult to track bc they don’t go thru the court system. They are cyclical and a MAJOR PROBLEM.   

I dont think its been publicized that they do this on behalf of landlords though and that needs to be known.  

RRH is a designed-to-fail program model any way you slice it. Doesn't need much help. 

Caveat Emptor:  

The principle that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods before a purchase is made. 

Well, it has become text on both coasts but you probably need to conflate the stories for a full picture of the robust type of greed that we are talking about.   

As was reported in the LA Times, the neighborhood west of USC is changing with new apartment buildings next to older bungalows. Investors are buying up old homes and putting in apartment buildings.  There are plenty of new USC students coming and they need someplace to live.  

Of course, Councilmember Maqueece Harris-Dawson (CD8) is upset. He's  "most concerned that new housing is being created for temporary residents at the expense of housing for permanent residents, multi-generational residents, people who are committed to the neighborhood.”  

In Denver, Patrick Nelson, an early player in off-campus student housing and head of a troubled student housing firm is in big trouble.  

Mr. Nelson is on the hook for at least $115 million, which he has not paid despite escalating fines and interest and twice being held in civil contempt by judges over the alleged misuse of company money.   

He built his property management company by raising money from big lenders and hundreds of wealthy individuals.  Now, his defiance has frustrated them and irritated some of the judges hearing those disputes. 

Since 2021, there have been more than two dozen lawsuits against Nelson; about half remain active. Tens of millions in claims are still pending. He owes $57 million to Fortress, $50 million to investors, and smaller amounts to other lenders and vendors.  

One of Mr. Nelson’s biggest disputes is with Fortress, the New York investment firm. For more than two years, Fortress, which acquired a $52 million loan made to a Nelson Partners company that owns the Auraria Student Lofts in downtown Denver, has been trying to foreclose on the building.  

Mr. Nelson has called Fortress a “vulture” investor that acquired the loan on Auraria during the pandemic and is now “trying to essentially run me out of business.” 

Mr. Nelson and Fortress seem perfectly suited for each other and to be milked often by all the attorneys involved. 

Another example of the plague of private equity (Fortress) and a corrupt real estate system (tax gaming, opacity, avoidance of responsibility through anonymous LLCs, and all the rest). 

Fortress gobbled up all the county golf courses some years ago and -- 

Your time has expired!  

Trojans up in there:

An LA Times analysis of L.A. County Assessor records shows that 24 properties were purchased by limited liability corporations that year in the area bounded by Vermont and Western avenues and Jefferson and Exposition boulevards. Purchases by LLCs, a precursor to development, steadily increased in subsequent years, totaling 274 parcels through 2022.  Times analysis of company mailing addresses identified dozens of small operators and 10 firms that owned five or more properties in the neighborhood.

The largest, Tripalink, has projects either completed or in progress on 23 parcels in the 43-block area and owns another 20 parcels. The company runs a shuttle bus service through the neighborhood to take students to campus. 

Formed in 2016 by USC graduate Donghao Li, Tripalink now boasts 10,000 unit under management including luxury apartments in downtown L.A., Koreatown, Philadelphia, Chicago and Seattle. The company’s website says it specializes in co-living apartments for four-story buildings.  Harris-Dawson said his office receives complaints about noisy construction that starts early in the morning and blocks streets and sidewalks.

There are also complaints that developers, including Tripalink, have bought and demolished houses without obtaining city permits, thus avoiding review of rules that seek to preserve neighborhood character. It turns out that the student model of individual bedrooms with private bathrooms sharing common living areas is also a good match for formerly homeless people, according to Kris Freed, whose consulting firm is working to sign up master leases for LAHSA.  Rooms means no families.  

Sigh. 

 

(Eric Preven is a longtime community activist and is a contributor to CityWatch. The opinions are of Mr. Preven and not necessarily those of CityWatchLA.com.)