Amoeba Music on Sunset Boulevard

Amoeba Music Building Owner Is Powerful Los Angeles Developer With Big-Money Ties to City Hall

In Archive by Patrick Range McDonald

Last week, Los Angeles music fans were shocked to learn that development firm GPI Companies may demolish the Amoeba Music building and construct a glass-and-steel skyscraper in its place — effectively ending Amoeba’s existence in Hollywood. But that, in fact, wasn’t the whole story.

What reporters didn’t reveal is the exact name of the developer, its big-money ties to City Hall and its involvement in a controversial mega-project in North Hollywood — which may signal what lies ahead for Amoeba Music and how the politically connected developer will be a difficult adversary if Amoeba devotees try to save the cherished cultural treasure from destruction.

GPI Companies is another name for Goldstein Planting Investments, which is based in Los Angeles. According to its website, Goldstein Planting describes itself as “a real estate investment and development firm that pursues a targeted range of properties where value can be enhanced through repositioning, redevelopment, or increased operational efficiency.”

In other words, the developer doesn’t often buy a property and simply let it sit. Goldstein Planting does something with it — like build the kind of 20-story glass-and-steel skyscraper that may go up at 6400 Sunset Boulevard, where Amoeba Music currently stands. The developer bought the Amoeba Music building, located on a stretch of Sunset Boulevard that developers have been actively seeking to construct tall mega-projects, for $34 million in 2015.

Goldstein Planting would be a powerful, politically connected, deep-pocketed opponent for any grassroots movement trying to save the Amoeba Music building.

Since 2009, and especially within the past few years, the developer has spent at least $258,621 in high-priced lobbyists and campaign contributions to L.A. politicians, according to the city’s Ethics Commission. It’s a longtime method used by many development firms to get special favors from L.A. elected officials and bureaucrats — spread around big cash at City Hall.

The Amoeba Music building stands in the heart of City Council District 13, which is represented by Mitch O’Farrell. Council members have incredible power and influence at City Hall when it comes to planning and land-use policy in their individual districts, and developers know that all too well.

Since 2013, Goldstein Planting Investments and its representatives have given a sizable total of $7,700 to Councilman O’Farrell — a sure-fire way to grab a politician’s attention. O’Farrell received $3,500 in campaign contributions and $4,200 for his “legal defense fund.”

Goldstein Planting Investments and its representatives also contributed $4,700 to Mayor Eric Garcetti’s 2017 re-election campaign.

In total, according to the city’s Ethics Commission, Goldstein Planting Investments forked over an eye-popping $45,700 in campaign contributions to L.A. politicians since 2009 — 17 percent of which went to O’Farrell.

In addition, the developer has spent a total of $212,921 on high-priced, City Hall lobbyists, who then curry favor with L.A. politicians and bureaucrats. It’s the kind of insider access that everyday Angelenos can never afford to buy — and they shouldn’t need to.

But that’s how L.A.’s rigged and broken planning and land-use system works in favor of deep-pocketed developers like Goldstein Planting Investments.

Goldstein Planting Investments is currently teaming up with another wealthy developer, San Francisco-based Merlone Geier Partners, to build a controversial mega-project called NoHo West in a low-slung, middle-class neighborhood in North Hollywood.

Rendering of NoHo West mega-project -- image from EIR

Rendering of NoHo West mega-project — image from EIR

The two developers stand to make a whopping $25.2 million in annual revenue from 642 luxury, rental units at the proposed site — and millions more from retail and office space. Community people have complained that the mega-project will overwhelm their neighborhood with traffic. Although Goldstein Planting and Merlone Geier stand to make hundreds of millions off NoHo West over the years, the developers have not been offered substantive measures to mitigate the traffic.

L.A. Councilman Paul Krekorian, who represents North Hollywood, completely supports the mega-project — and has not used his power and influence to help the NoHo West-adjacent residents.

NoHo West is one of the largest mega-developments in the San Fernando Valley — and Los Angeles County. It signals the kind of gigantic projects Goldstein Planting may continue to build in the future — like replacing the Amoeba Music building, a vital, culturally important independent music and film store, with a corporate 20-story skyscraper.

The Los Angeles Times tried to play down the possible demolition of the Amoeba Music building, but judging from Goldstein Planting Investments’ track record, the developer has the political clout and business inclination to do exactly that.

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