Development firm Frost/Chaddock has long been a player at L.A. City Hall — shelling out a sizable $504,919 in campaign contributions and lobbyist fees over the years to win profitable favors from local politicians and bureaucrats. It’s a way of doing business in L.A. that Frost/Chaddock hopes will work again as it seeks city approvals for a controversial high-density project at beloved Sunset Junction in Silver Lake amid growing community opposition.
Founded by Sherman Oaks-based developers James Frost and Guy Chaddock, Frost/Chaddock has spent $490,209 on high-priced, politically connected City Hall lobbyists since 2003, according to the city’s Ethics Commission. Those lobbyists then schmooze City Council members and the mayor, looking for building approvals. It’s the kind of insider access that everyday Angelenos never get.
Out of that $490,209, Frost/Chaddock has shelled out at least $147,000 on a big-time lobbyist to woo the City Council, planning department and building and safety department for the Sunset Junction project.
In addition, since 2000, Frost/Chaddock representatives have doled out $14,710 in campaign contributions to L.A. politicians, according to the city’s Ethics Commission — including a $500 donation in 2014 to City Councilman Mitch O’Farrell’s officeholder account, a kind of slush fund that council members use to pay for meals and travel. O’Farrell represents the 13th district, where the Sunset Junction project is located.
These days, Frost/Chaddock needs to pull out all the stops at City Hall.
The firm wants to build three large, mixed-use buildings with density bonuses on three different sites on Sunset Boulevard in Silver Lake, adding up to 297 residential units — nearly all of which would be market-rate housing. Community activists aren’t pleased — they’re concerned that the cumulative impact of the projects will bring even more gridlock traffic to Sunset Boulevard.
But the biggest controversy is the proposed building at 4000 Sunset Boulevard.
Frost/Chaddock wants to plop down a five-story, mixed-use complex with 79,064 square feet of floor area that features 84 residential units, office space, retail space and restaurant space in the middle of Sunset Junction, widely considered to be one of Silver Lake’s — and Los Angeles’, for that matter — most historic and culturally important community gathering spots. For many people, the building is wildly out of character with the rest of Sunset Junction.
Neighborhood activists have formed the group Save Sunset Junction, which is lead in part by Christine Kantner. She and her husband, Gareth Kantner, own the popular Cafe Stella in Silver Lake.
Christine Kantner says about the project, “In its current state, this project is literally destroying the environment it’s attempting to capitalize on. This mega-development must be scaled back into something that will fit within the character of the neighborhood.”
Diego Velasco, an award-winning film director and another member of Save Sunset Junction, notes: “It is important to take into account our corner’s rich history when deciding what kind of building will be there forever.”
In the meantime, Frost/Chaddock keeps working L.A.’s broken and rigged planing and land-use system as its over-sized plans for Silver Lake move through City Hall.
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