LA WATCHDOG-In January of 2013, the Superior Court ruled that the Los Angeles City Council “abused its discretion” when it overruled the Central Los Angeles Area Planning Commission’s denial of a zoning variance for a third residential unit on a 7,200 square foot corner lot at 1102 Stearns Drive in the mid-Wilshire area of the City.
In January of 2008, the Housing Department cited the owners for their illegal third dwelling unit. A year and a half later, in June of 2009, the owners applied for a variance from the City’s Planning Department. However, in May of 2011, almost two years later, the Zoning Administrator denied the variance. The owners’ appeal to the Area Planning Commission (“APC”) was also denied in late August, 2011.
Nevertheless, on September 9, 2011, City Councilman Paul Koretz filed a motion to assert jurisdiction over the APC’s decision. And in no time at all, on October 4, the City Council voted unanimously to approve the variance.
But why did Koretz take an interest in this minor zoning dispute? Very simple! According to several sources, the owners’ lawyer is a buddy of Richard Llewellyn, Koretz’ then chief of staff and now legal counsel to Mayor Eric Garcetti.
But using the powers of the City to assist his cronies seems to be standard operating procedure for Koretz.
For example, Koretz asserted jurisdiction (pursuant to Section 245 of the City Charter) over rulings by the West Los Angeles Area Planning Commission involving two monster mansions in Bel Air that are being developed by the Gabay brothers who are very generous contributors to the campaign coffers of numerous members of our City Council.
Ironically, Koretz, a vocal critic of the richest 1%, is coming to the rescue of stinking rich Beverly Hills developers who are building palaces for the top one-hundredth of 1% in one of the nation’s priciest neighborhoods.
Koretz also asserted jurisdiction over the South Valley Area Planning Commission involving an over height wall at 3951 Deervale Drive in Sherman Oaks that was built without the necessary permit and the appropriate setbacks. Of course, this action supports the practice that it is easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, especially when you know the right people at City Hall.
Koretz has also allowed real estate deals to proceed in his Council District fiefdom that are contrary to the zoning regulations, resulting in an adverse impact on our quality of life.
For example, Koretz has supported JMB Realty’s 37 floor, 731,000 square foot office building in Century City that will burden the already clogged streets of the surrounding neighborhoods with even more traffic. But this monstrosity that is three times the legal limit appears to have been green lighted as cash from Chicago based JMB has flowed to the downtown political establishment as well as to numerous neighborhood organizations and homeowner associations.
Given the opposition of the surrounding neighborhoods, JMB had to cancel a fund raiser for Koretz because it did not pass the smell test. But not to worry since Koretz is not up for reelection until 2017.
Koretz has been notably silent on the development of the $162 million, 250 room Luskin Hotel and Conference Center on the UCLA campus, especially as it relates to the unfair competition with Westwood’s tax paying hotels. He has also been unwilling to stand up for the City’s right to collect its 14% Transit Occupancy Tax (aka the hotel tax) that would provide our cash strapped City with over $2 million a year.
Koretz also supported a back room deal between a Texas land use speculator and the Planning Department where an over height development on Strathmore would be an illegal “warehouse” for UCLA students. However, this “ram and jam” deal was derailed when a community group filed a lawsuit that resulted in an open, transparent, and enforceable settlement.
Koretz was also instrumental in the $1 a year lease of Fire House 83, a politically inspired giveaway fueled by campaign cash that was outlined in an August 26, 2014 CityWatch column, Encino’s Fire Station 83, a $1 a Year Fire Sale.
Not wanting to put our Fire Department to shame, Koretz is a supporter of nepotism as his wife works for Mayor Garcetti while his daughter was previously employed by his Council office.
Needless to say, this is probably only the tip of the iceberg, not only for Koretz, but the other members of our City Council who have placed their self-interest ahead of those of the City and all of its residents who are not dependent on favors from City Hall.
Until Koretz and his cohorts on the Herb Wesson led City Council and their campaign funding cronies clean up their act and put the interests of the residents at the front of the line, the voters will continue to question the motives of City Hall and reject any attempts to pick their pockets.
(Jack Humphreville writes LA Watchdog for CityWatch. He is the President of the DWP Advocacy Committee, The Ratepayer Advocate for the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, and a Neighborhood Council Budget Advocate. Humphreville is the publisher of the Recycler Classifieds -- www.recycler.com. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Vol 12 Issue 79
Pub: Sep 30, 2014